Street-corner politics. Urban everyday life and the art of living together

Convenors: Sebastiano Citroni (Università degli studi di Milano-Bicocca) & Carole Gayet-Viaud (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales)

 In this session, we invite presentations based on ethnographic studies of urban public life as an entry into the analysis of citizenship. We welcome studies of both everyday fleeting interactions and of more specific events that all irrigate urban public life and contribute to define, at different scales of our urban environments, what a good life (lived in common) can be. These urban ethnographic studies should therefore help understand how we build our common world, through seemingly trivial forms of togetherness and practices that define our expectations and other normative issues about living and getting along together (encapsulated by the French expression vivre ensemble).

Such a perspective allows to address politics in a particularly broad way: no longer through the prism of our relationship with the state or with political decision-making, but rather through the lens of what shall be defined here as streetcorner politics, civility and ordinary citizen experience. We are interested in the forms of coexistence between strangers as involving typical (situated) elements of commitments and interventions: disputes, mutual aid, tensions, emotions and discussions on fair or relevant ways of acting, of behaving with others or of judging one another.

How do public settings and relations in public perform (or not) the political dimension of the publicity principle? Urban coexistence gives place to situations where “public spirited interactions” are put into play, both in informal settings and in more formal ones, such as pre-organized events and civic initiatives aimed at ‘bettering’ the city, promoting citizenship and the quality of life in a neighbourhood, or many other ways and contents through which the urban common good and the urban good life are searched for. By analysing these situations and actions, we encourage to examine the ways in which people see their place in a wider community, gauge their commitments and explore their own responsibility within it,– that is to say, what they are permitted or able to do with and among others.

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