IXth International Conference on Urban History

August 27-30, 2008

Lyon France
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 Session description

Urban diversity: Planning and defining vs. living and experiencing

Urban communities are always characterized by a smaller or greater degree of diversity. Urban planners, political decision-makers and other who have power to modify the physical city, may attempt – and usually do attempt – to define what the city is like, how people should perceive it and live in it. Yet, the city is not simply what a planner has designed even though his plans were physically realized; a monument does not carry the same meaning to all as its constructors intended; an exposition does not simply represent the message and world view which those who had the power to define and produce it, aimed to show.

This session seeks to study the diversity of living in a city. An important starting point is Michel de Certeau’s view on everyday practices, such as reading, talking and walking, as “another production”. He emphasized that “users – commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules – operate”. A crucial part of daily living is appropriation and creativity, not simple adoption or consumption of what others have planned and produced. This does not mean a chaotic individualism in which all persons would haphazardly differ from others, but instead it presupposes a complex cultural framework which enables certain actions and ideas. In this respect, the notion of heterogeneity of culture is crucial: culture is anything but homogeneous and cultural conceptions include incoherent and contradictory elements. People who are united by some aspects of a prevailing culture can also contemporaneously be divided by it.

The session will concentrate on diversity in everyday urban life in the modern and contemporary era. The aim is not to seek a categorisation of townsmen in permanent, exclusive groups. Instead the purpose is to ponder over the characteristics of everyday urban experience and practice. Papers may focus on specific cases or be more general and theoretically oriented, but in any case it is preferable to include in the paper some considerations on sources and methods.

Session conveners:

  • Taina Syrjämaa

Session type: Specialist Session

Classification: M - Modern


A Town Space of One’s Own: Dwellers Searching for Alternatives to Official Development

Author(s): Pohjamo, Ulla 

Nature, gender and sensuousness in the lived suburban spaces from 1950s to the 1970s

Author(s): Saarikangas, Kirsi 

Spatial subversion for home-based work

Author(s): Holliss, Frances 

The markets of Montpellier : national identity, food culture, and everyday city spaces

Author(s): TCHOUKALEYSKA, Roza 

The structures of everyday city. Space and urban practices in inter-war popular Barcelona, 1914-1936

Author(s): JOSE-LUIS, OYON