Conference paper

Radical urban movements and the participatory city

This paper is based on an interdisciplinary study – mixing sociology, anthropology, urban planning and architecture - of 40 years of urban struggles in a small neighborhood of Geneva called Les Grottes. In the 70’s, Les Grottes was the place of birth of Geneva’s squatter’s movement which was initiated in opposition to a modernist rehabilitation project implying its almost complete destruction. Over the years the neighborhood has been the place of many local conflicts around the use of public spaces and/or buildings along many institutional innovations. The urban movements it fostered (squatters and neighborhood’s associations) have contributed to the spatial and institutional transformation not only of the neighborhood but of the entire city. They were part of the larger shift toward the ideology of the “sustainable urban development” and its ambiguous articulation with the “new spirit of capitalism”. We focus our analysis on the shift from an anti-capitalist contestation framed in a social class discourse (urban movements of the 70’s and 80’s) to a participatory and contractual handling of local conflicts (participation around a « contrat de quartier » initiated in 2010). This shift can be seen as a form of depolitization process in two ways. First, the « contrat de quartier » implies a strict spatial delimitation along a managerial approach of the « urban problems » publicly addressed. This narrow frame reduces the possibility of expanding the critic to larger entities and processes (as implied for example in the more radical anti-capitalist critics inspired by Marxism) (Boltanski, On critique, 2011). Secondly, the participatory management and renovation of the neighborhood implies a systematic recourse to the various technical and juridical normative frames. This lead to a certain form of « governement through the norms » (Thévenot) wich reduces specific forms of enacted critic of capitalism expressed through alternative spatial settings and « auto-organization » of everyday life. Nevetheless, autonoums actors and associations still play the game at the margin, participating at the same time to the institutionalized frame while developing projects and critics which open new alternatives.


    • EPFL-CONF-196401

    Record created on 2014-02-03, modified on 2016-08-09


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