The case of community initiatives promoting cycling and walking in São Paulo and London
Tim Schwanen and Denver V. Nixon
Recent years have seen extensive interest in the relationships between urbanisation and city living and wellbeing as a subjectively experienced state. This chapter proposes firstly that for cities characterised by trenchant socio-spatial inequalities, wellbeing is best conceptualised in terms of capabilities, and secondly that capabilities need to be understood in a more dynamic and process-oriented manner and with greater consideration for experience than is common in most research on capabilities. The arguments are first elaborated in conceptual terms for the case of people’s everyday mobility in the city and then illustrated empirically, using a study about how community-led initiatives to support walking and cycling contribute to the wellbeing of marginalised social groups in São Paulo and London. The findings show the importance of focusing attention on the ongoing and dynamic interweaving of capabilities, practices and experiences in research that seeks to understand the relationships between wellbeing and mobility in highly unequal cities.
Reinventing depression among Rio de Janeiro urban dwellers
Leandro David Wenceslau and Francisco Ortega
Recent epidemiological surveys have shown an important prevalence of depressive and anxious symptoms in the Brazilian population, especially in its urban metropolises. In the past two decades, primary health care in Brazil has increased its coverage, becoming the main reference in public mental health care. Social determinants of mental suffering represent a challenge for patients and professionals in search of more comprehensive approaches to mental health. This chapter presents an ethnographic study conducted in the city of Rio de Janeiro with twenty-two patients who presented depressive symptoms and were treated in primary health care. Primary care physicians used the native categories of ‘hill’ and ‘asphalt’ to typify the patients´ depressive presentations. This categorisation has important consequences for the diagnosis and treatment of these symptoms. ‘Hill’ and ‘asphalt’ are analysed as ‘moral economies’ (Didier Fassin), and their meanings are contrasted with the individual therapeutic experiences of two patients. The singularities of these experiences evince that even approaches based on a broader understanding of these problems may hinder a comprehensive approach to the patients' suffering experiences in those expanding therapeutic scenarios.
A Toilet Revolution and its socio-eco-technical entanglements
This chapter examines the role of sanitation in China’s urban transformation and how the recently announced Toilet Revolution is linked with largely unsustainable ideas of progress. The Toilet Revolution is designed as a new driver for economic growth and linked with strategies for the development of the country’s tourism industry. China is now well on the way to complete the transition from largely closed-loop, service-based sanitation to resource-intensive sewage-based sanitation across urban and rural settings. However, the implications of rapid sanitation transitions for human health, social relations and environmental sustainability are largely unclear. Research is urgently needed to inform policy and praxis across all levels of governance, planning and implementation. The theoretical and practical assumptions embedded in the study, design, planning, implementation and use of ‘sanitation’ must be challenged from the ground up in order to develop a rich understanding of sanitation needs, challenges and the possibility for future alternatives to standard sanitation interventions. A systems approach drawing on complexity theory and practice theory is a plausible starting point for the unravelling of sanitation and its socio-eco-technical entanglements.
Urban transformations and public health in the emergent city examines how urban health and wellbeing are shaped by migration, mobility, racism, sanitation and gender. Adopting a global focus, spanning Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, the essays in this volume bring together a wide selection of voices that explore the interface between social, medical and natural sciences. This interdisciplinary approach, moving beyond traditional approaches to urban research, offers a unique perspective on today’s cities and the challenges they face. Edited by Professor Michael Keith and Dr Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos, this volume also features contributions from leading thinkers on cities in Brazil, China, South Africa and the United Kingdom. This geographic diversity is matched by the breadth of their different fields, from mental health and gendered violence to sanitation and food systems. Together, they present a complex yet connected vision of a ‘new biopolitics’ in today’s metropolis, one that requires an innovative approach to urban scholarship regardless of geography or discipline. This volume, featuring chapters from a number of renowned authors including the former deputy mayor of Rio de Janeiro Luiz Eduardo Soares, is an important resource for anyone seeking to better understand the dynamics of urban change. With its focus on the everyday realities of urban living, from health services to public transport, it contains valuable lessons for academics, policy makers and practitioners alike.
More than three centuries of slavery have left a painful and visible scar on Brazilian society, and racism continues to shape the deep social and economic inequalities that Brazilians experience to this day. Even after the institution of slavery was abolished, by the end of the nineteenth century class exploitation and rapid urbanisation meant that racism was a structural and permanent feature of Brazil’s cities. Every dimension of society reveals this fracture. Ongoing lethal police brutality and the process of mass incarceration have to be understood within this historic frame.
Dewey’s pragmatism and its implications for the spatialisation of social science
Pragmatism as a philosophy has emphasised the significance of process, temporality and historicity in human organisms’ transactions with their environment. This chapter explores the significance of spatiality for human–environment transactions. This is closely associated with John Dewey’s idea of ‘situation’ as capturing both immediate experience and more enduring and extensive spatial/temporal resources. Through a pragmatist idea of spatiality, as well as temporality, we might start to bring together the more vitalist pragmatism concerned with an active environment of humans, non-human organisms and objects in assemblages, and the more rationalist pragmatism that emphasises the distinctiveness of human practices (especially in language use). The chapter concludes with some illustrations from Chicago ethnography and Hull House social activism to suggest the significance of this idea of time, space and situation in problem solving, including problem solving in social science.
This chapter makes a pragmatic argument for a kind of humanism that is able to respond to the ecological crisis of our age. Rather than having to choose between a humanist or post-humanist approach to addressing global ecological crises, the chapter argues for a pragmatic ‘third way’. Drawing on the thought of Hannah Arendt, John Dewey, William James and Richard Rorty, the chapter identifies six pragmatic propositions to guide social scientists in the pursuit of solutions to the ecological and other crises facing us now.
A pragmatist responds to epistemic and other kinds of frictions in the academy
This chapter draws on writings by race theorists and pragmatists to inquire into the internal politics of our academic communities. The argument is built around the epistemic injustice articulated by students of colour in my own doctoral programme. The chapter starts with this situation and develops the concept of ‘embodied ignorance’ and its embeddedness in positions of power in order to explain such epistemological injustice and find ways to overcome it. Embodied ignorance arises at the individual level from the limits and particularity of being just one person in space and time; and it arises at the social level from the mobilisation of categories of bodies that mark some as more authoritatively, legally and normatively entitled and powerful than others. Greater epistemological justice within the academy cannot easily remedy practical harms, requiring, instead, engagement with the broader society. The chapter examines the history and current practice of affirmative action to better understand the political and economic dimensions of academic exclusion/inclusion. It then turns to pragmatist thought to understand how to go beyond the current limitations imposed on racial and other forms of inclusion in the creation of new knowledge aimed at more democratic ways of knowing and living.
Development studies and related practice have been structured by a duality that can be characterised as ‘big D’ and ‘little d’ development (or the dominant discourse and counter-discourses of development). Neither side has adopted pragmatism in any significant way despite the extent to which it can bring important insights to bear, and in this chapter we highlight the value of pragmatism’s (1) non-relativist anti-foundationalism, (2) dynamic and process-oriented approach to social reality, (3) experimentationalism for progress, and (4) deep, creative and radical democracy. We explore the relevance of these principles in providing new directions for development studies. Building on participatory, popular and indigenous ideas about development, we advocate a pragmatic approach to development, considering spaces of transaction, emergence and learning, and an orientation towards practice, deep democracy and social hope. We draw on a number of Iranian examples to illustrate our argument about the epistemological, ontological, practical and political relevance of the philosophy of pragmatism for development studies and practice.
Social scientists have begun to re-evaluate and incorporate some of pragmatist John Dewey’s insights into their work. This chapter explores the role of habit in John Dewey’s understanding of human psychology and culture, opening up connections to his associated ideas of embodiment, imagination, inquiry and community, all of which are central to his concept of democracy. The formation, implementation and modification of habits – whether viewed as individual-level, community-level or cultural-level – are central to the problem of adept democratic activity and social functioning. After explaining Dewey’s meaning of, and emphasis on, habit and its correlates, I suggest how time, culture, place and criticism are important considerations within Dewey’s vision of democracy and inquiry. In the closing section of the chapter, I turn to the more applied side of the matter and sketch out some potential implications of these ideas for doing social research and for social science as part of the university that engages in community life.