The research methodology on which the book is based is explained in this chapter. Participatory study through activist research is described along with credits for those who took part in the process (including those interviewed).
In this chapter an artistic practice involving a performative interpretation of an everyday mundane object, a chair (designed by the modernist architect G. Rietveld), is analyzed as indicative of the power to potentialize space which is hidden in the production and use of everyday objects. Objects may become mediators of sharing, and carriers of an open community of commoners in the making. The project “Sitting is a Verb” seems to hint towards such a possibility. This project took place at IMPA, a recuperated factory in Buenos Aires (2010–2011. A visual artist, Aimée Zito Lema, and a social anthropologist, Nahuel Blaton, conceived this project as an artistic contribution to a larger project: the creation of a University of Workers inside the IMPA building complex. This project tried to orient the means through which its contribution to the emerging University of Workers (to be hosted inside IMPA) was realized towards a commoning ethos. Beyond the distinction between a useful object and an art object (considered as an object of no use), the Rietveld-IMPA chairs were art-works by being useful (as functional) but also by being emblems of cooperation, symbolic condensations of an emerging autonomous education spirit. Excerpts from an interview with the artist are included in the chapter.
In this chapter a re-appraisal of the squares movement (2011–2013) is developed by focusing on characteristic forms of public space appropriation that may be considered to constitute examples of a new kind of space-sharing, as well as a promising set of ways of sharing through space. What constitutes the core of the proposed argument is that we can establish an interpretative analogy between actual changes (collectively imagined or projected ones) in occupied spaces and changes in the subjects of action (stemming from experienced identity crisis). For this, three terms are proposed in order to analyze the process of collective identity formation through commoning practices: transposition (visiting otherness), translation (creating passages to existing or potential identities), and transformation (becoming other). This chapter includes an interview with an important activist of the Gezi Park occupation (Istanbul).
This chapter opens to the possibility of human emancipation through a rethinking of space: space considered both as a concrete social reality (city, house, public space, territory) and as a form, a pattern, which is employed, along with other forms, to reproduce the contested meanings of social reality. What makes space a means to control both the shared experiences and their representations, is what gives space the power to shape possible experiences. The capacity to produce spaces and to think through spaces is a human ability which, as language, is never reducible to concrete social realities. This capacity corresponds to a potentiality that transcends any actual social reality. Central to this chapter is an approach to the potentialization of space as a way to develop commoning practices with an emancipatory power and prefigurative characteristics
Territorial struggles are not simply struggles for space. They are struggles for and through the emergence of new territorialities. In the context of Zapatistas movement (insurgent indigenous people and activists in Chiapas, Mexico), shared spaces acquire a very important role. It is in those spaces that the reclaiming of new territorialities actually takes shape. In shared spaces, Zapatistas do not simply practice commoning as a form of regulating and producing egalitarian social relations. They produce in those spaces new collective subjects capable of mobilizing both ancestral traditions and new critical knowledges. This chapter focuses especially on a specific project (a school for educating the teachers of Zapatista alternative education), which was designed by architect-activists in Greece and was realized in a Zapatista autonomous municipality through cooperation based on solidarity.
The availability of big data as well as life in an urban age has created expectations about the prediction and control of diseases. And yet, at the same time, cultural and gender nuances have made it necessary to reconceptualise wellbeing. In this chapter we bring together arguments presented throughout this volume about expectations and limitations when addressing health in the city. What has been demonstrated throughout this volume is that public health is a common good as much as it is an individual choice. The balance between ‘my body, my rules’ and the shared space that connects everything and everyone is one that demands constant negotiation. The trade offs and instability between the individual and communities are also a discussion of the availability of resources such as individually tailored treatments and the epidemics of city life. In this complex system of connected individuals living across different urban realities, we have contributed by concluding that medical knowledges demand a new urban imaginary: thinking experimentally about optimising public health interventions in global processes of urban transformation.
Transnational reflections from Brazilians in London and Maré, Rio de Janeiro
Cathy McIlwaine, Miriam Krenzinger, Yara Evans, and Eliana Sousa Silva
This chapter examines the ways in which violence against women and girls (VAWG) affects women’s health and wellbeing in cities. In a context whereby one in three women globally experience such violence, with arguably higher incidence in cities, it explores these processes in relation to wider debates on the gender-blindness of right to the city discourse and the importance of considering gender justice in cities from a relational perspective. The chapter draws empirically on the transnational nature of urban VAWG among Brazilian migrant women in London and those residing in the marginalised slums of one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas, Complexo da Maré. It shows how VAWG is diverse across multiple spaces of the city and how it fundamentally undermines women’s wellbeing and health outcomes. However, it also illustrates that although the roots of VAWG lie in unequal gendered power relations, the challenges of living in cities can both exacerbate and ameliorate such violence.
Analysing the linkages and exploring possibilities for improving health and wellbeing
The ‘food environment’ of a city can be defined as the location and type of food sources found in an urban area, as well as the broader environmental factors that affect the production, retail and consumption of food in the city. The food environment of cities has an enormous impact on food security and on the health and wellbeing of residents, but this relationship has been under-recognised and under-studied, particularly in the global south. Drawing on work undertaken as part of an ESRC-funded project, Consuming Urban Poverty, on governing food systems to alleviate poverty in secondary cities in Africa, as well as other work undertaken by the African Centre for Cities, this chapter explores the multi-faceted ways in which the food environment of cities can impact on human health and wellbeing. First, the chapter examines the food environments of African cities, with a focus on the built environment, highlighting the diverse range of food outlets and complex patterns of food access. Second, it explores the multi-faceted ways in which the food environment of cities can affect human health and wellbeing. Finally, the chapter discusses possibilities for how food environments that are more conducive to health and wellbeing can be created and sustained.
Urban transformation and public health in future cities
Michael Keith and Andreza Aruska de Souza Santos
Social scientists, data scientists, epidemiologists, zoologists and other scholars have delved into the co-variables of class, transport patterns, housing conditions, age, migration, nutrition, climate change and sanitation as well as access to health centres to determine the probability, duration and extent of disease outbreaks. Such studies have shown that the separation of the body from what surrounds it, ‘the flesh’ from ‘the stone’, is of little help if one shapes the other. With most of the world’s population now living in cities, this chapter discusses healthy living in changing metropolises. We consider in this chapter how cities may circumscribe access to health centres, the factors that determine housing choices and how these in turn may determine health outcomes. We also consider how individuals and communities may reshape cities recursively, all too often meaning that urban health is not only a study that intertwines people and space, but also does so under a temporal matrix. Historical legacies and path dependencies, migration, adaptation and change are thus conceptualised and discussed when the ethics, the access, the definitions and the transformations of public health initiatives and the demands of the twenty-first century are examined.
Epidemiological research has repeatedly pointed to the increased prevalence of both ‘common’ and ‘severe’ mental disorders in cities, and proposed a range of competing hypotheses to account for this relationship. Recent research on the social determinants of mental ill health has identified correlations between social disadvantage and mental disorder, but attempts to identify the pertinent dimensions of adversity have proved inconclusive. Many contemporary researchers suggest that the disadvantages experienced and the adversities undergone must in some way be instantiated neurologically, and returned to an old idea that ‘stress’ is the mediating mechanism. Recently, in the face of arguments about the prevalence of mental ill health in their own cities, urban policy makers have attempted to make their city a place where individuals and communities can ‘thrive’. This chapter brings together research on urban mental health and emerging programmes for healthy cities, and examines the extent to which we are seeing ‘evidence-based’ programmes and policies for mental health in urban settings.