Online talk at the STIS, Edinburgh > Presenting the ‘An Uncommon City’ book project (April 12, 2021)

Next Monday 12th April 15:00-16:00 (GMT) I will be presenting my book project ‘An Uncommon City: Bodily Diversity and the Activation of Possible Urbanisms’ at the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS) online seminar of the University of Edinburgh.


Abstract: In this presentation I would like to discuss with you a book project on what I am calling ‘an uncommon city.’ The book is an anthropological exploration of bodily diversity and its impact in the material and knowledge politics of city-making. Drawing on field and archival work of independent-living and disability rights movements, paying attention in particular to their urban accessibility struggles as well as their pedagogic interventions in the training of architects, city planners, and designers (with materials mostly from Barcelona, but also from Munich), I trace a wealth of activist initiatives caring for an epistemic, material and political activation of urban design. These initiatives have or had at their core the production of singular situations—made out of policy documents and building codes, infrastructures and standards, collaborative design processes and prototypes, and manifold sensitising devices and documentation interfaces—through which designing technologies, urban landscapes or institutions and political spaces is to be attempted from the appreciation and articulation of bodily diversity: from the demographic identification of bodily patterns to the invention of inclusive and universal design, also connecting with the contested history of urban accessibility struggles, or the perpetual emergence of many access issues in contemporary forms of city-making where bodily diversity appears as the main concern to address by different actors. In particular, the book wishes to unfold three ways – (i) activating prototypes, (ii) activating public infrastructures, and (iii) activating design studio projects – in which a concern with bodily diversity mobilises the uncommon prospects of the city, opening up other possible urbanisms.

Join on your computer or mobile app: Click here to join the meeting (Teams link)

Aprender a afectarse: la accesibilidad como reto pedagógico e institucional del diseño urbano

El próximo 25 de noviembre de 6 a 7:30 pm 30 de noviembre de 4 a 5:30pm [pospuesto por enfermedad] (CET) estaré impartiendo una sesión en el curso online de ANTIARQ (plataforma que busca crear espacios de complementariedad universitaria orientados a la producción de conocimiento interdisciplinar entre la Antropología y la Arquitectura) titulado EL URBANISMO COMO DISCURSO. ENFOQUES ALTERNATIVOS PARA RESIGNIFICAR LA PRAXIS

Del 16 al 26 de noviembre 2020

El curso consta de seis sesiones en donde analizaremos varias categorías empleadas de manera recurrente por los discursos promotores de las trasformaciones urbanísticas en la actualidad -tales como participación ciudadana, innovación tecnológica, sostenibilidad, accesibilidad universal, escala humana, etc.-, con la intención de analizarlas desde enfoques alternativos para evidenciar sus contradicciones, pero también como oportunidad para repensar los fundamentos de la práctica urbanística.  Además, el contenido del curso rema a contra corriente de la proliferación de fórmulas urbanísticas que han surgido a raíz de la pandemia generada por la COVID-19, y que se difunden especulativamente como “mano de santo” para resolver problemáticas ligadas a la afectación entre el entorno urbano y las formas de sociabilidad que alberga, obviando e rol instrumental del urbanismo para el fortalecimiento de las políticas neoliberales, que son en última instancia, las que han dado innumerables pruebas de atentar sin reparos contra la reproducción de la vida –urbana-.

En la primera sesión se analiza la retórica proyectual del espacio público, ofertado como símbolo ligado a la democratización de la ciudad para ocultar la privatización de la gestión urbana y las políticas de control social.   En la segunda sesión, se analiza el sentido de la participación ciudadana en el urbanismo neoliberal, evidenciando lo que opera tras su fachada de fácil consenso y sus efectos en la vida de los ciudadanos.  En la tercera sesión, se presenta una mirada crítica de las ciudades inteligentes, poniendo de relieve la crucial implicación de las empresas de tecnología en las operaciones privatizadoras del espacio urbano, mostrando cómo los algoritmos suelen normalizar sus efectos de exclusión social para rehusar las contradicciones o conflictos, justificándolos como errores del sistema.  En la cuarta sesión, se profundiza en el tema de la sostenibilidad y su conversión en un discurso vacío, al ser uno de los eslóganes necesarios para dar valor al producto ciudad como mercancía en el mercado global y nos invita a preguntarnos si urbanismo sostenible no es un oxímoron.  La quinta sesión está enfocada en los retos pedagógicos e institucionales del diseño urbano en materia de accesibilidad universal, lo que supone no solo la democratización técnica de los procesos de diseño urbano, sino también la desestigmatización cultural de unos cuerpos considerados impropios.  Finalmente, la sexta sesión pon en el centro del debate, la noción de ´escala humana´ empleada como coartada para el montaje de ciudades humanizadas, en donde ciertos usuarios o usuarias serán excluidos sistemáticamente del usufructo de las zonas reformadas por actuaciones urbanísticas.

Mi sesión: “Aprender a afectarse: la accesibilidad como reto pedagógico e institucional del Diseño Urbano”

Desde su eclosión en los ciclos de protestas civiles de los años 1970 en adelante, los activistas por los derechos de las ‘personas con discapacidad’ – actualmente ‘diversas funcionales’ – llevan luchando para que nuestras ciudades sean hospitalarias con la diversidad corporal. Esto no sólo ha supuesto articular procesos de desestigmatización cultural, buscando sostener la autonomía de unos cuerpos hasta ese momento considerados impropios. También, ha promovido el debate de la democratización técnica de los procesos de diseño urbano e infraestructural. En consecuencia, varias ciudades del Norte Global han desarrollado acciones para sensibilizar a arquitectos, ingenieros y funcionarios públicos, para que tales entornos pudieran existir, creando condiciones favorables para un diseño inclusivo de las infraestructuras urbanas. En no pocas ocasiones, este proceso de sensibilización requiere una profunda transformación pedagógica de las personas implicadas en el diseño y en el rediseño urbanístico. Este reto institucional y pedagógico que se analiza en esta sesión, implica un ‘aprender a afectarse’ por la diversidad corporal y visibilizar lo que ello supone desde la implementación de políticas de ‘supresión de barreras’ y estándares arquitectónicos, hasta problematizaciones en torno a enfoques ‘culturales’ y ‘multisensoriales’.  Se expondrán ejemplos recabados desde un trabajo antropológico acerca de la transformación accesible de la ciudad de Barcelona, mostrando su constructo institucional en un intento de sensibilización de los técnicos municipales.  Pero, también, se compartirá el impacto de este trabajo antropológico aplicado desde la docencia, como pedagogía experimental orientada a impartir otras metodologías de diseño desde la formación de arquitectos en la Universidad Politécnica de Múnich.

**

Este es un argumento en corto de un proyecto de libro en que ando trabajando, titulado “An uncommon city: Bodily diversity and the activation of possible urbanisms” (Una ciudad poco común: La diversidad corporal y la activación de urbanismos posibles).

Lo aprendido en En torno a la silla, así como siguiendo a técnicos del Instituto Municipal de Personas con Discapacidad y formando arquitectos en Múnich me lleva a sugerir que esto supone una democratización técnica de los procesos de diseño urbano, así como la desestigmatización cultural de cuerpos considerados impropios.

Una democratización del diseño que antes que proveer soluciones para otros implica “aprender a afectarse” por los derechos, necesidades y aspiraciones de cuerpos diversos, experimentando con otras formas de hacer ciudades más hospitalarias.

Lo que contaré, por tanto, son tres modos de activar urbanismos posibles: prototipos, infraestructura pública y cursos de proyectos. En todos ellos late esa aspiración por fabricar, sensibilizar o convocar una ciudad poco común (la de los cuerpos impropios y los encuentros extraordinarios con la posibilidad de una otra manera de hacer ciudad)

Mi sueño sería que esto sirviera para poder trabajar en paralelo en una copia en castellano del libro en inglés, para poder abrirlo a discusión densa y profunda, pero las fuerzas son las que son y por eso me hace especial ilusión poder contar el argumento en forma seminario.

Referencias bibliográficas

Blok, A., & Farías, I. (Eds.). (2016). Urban Cosmopolitics: Agencements,
Assemblies, Atmospheres. London: Routledge.
Callon, M., & Rabeharisoa, V. (2008). The growing engagement of emergent
concerned groups in political and economic life: lessons from the French association of neuromuscular disease patients. Science, Technology & Human Values, 33(2), 230–261.
Callon, M., Lascoumes, P., & Barthe, Y. (2011). Acting in an Uncertain World: An Essay on Technical Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hamraie, A. (2017). Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability.Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.
Latour, B. (2004a). Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, B. (2004b). How to talk about the body? The normative dimension of Science Studies. Body & Society, 10(2–3), 205–229.
Marres, N., & Lezaun, J. (2011). Materials and devices of the public: an introduction. Economy and Society, 40(4), 489–509.
Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative Ethics for a More Than Human World. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.
Stengers, I. (2019). Civiliser la modernité ? Whitehead et les ruminations du sens commun. Paris: Les presses du réel.
Vilà, A. (Ed.). (1994). Crónica de una lucha por la igualdad: apuntes para la historia del movimiento asociativo de las personas con discapacidad física y sensorial en Catalunya. Barcelona: Fundació Institut Guttmann.

Lecturas para la sesión

Forthcoming. Anthropology as a careful design practice? (manuscript)Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (special issue on ‘Envisioning anthropological futures’ – Hansjörg Dilger, Kristina Mashimi, Dominik Mattes, Anita von Poser, Birgitt Röttger-Rössler und Thomas Stodulka , Eds.)
2019. Technologies of Friendship: Accessibility politics in the ‘how to’ modeSociological Review, 67(2): 408–427 (‘Intimate Entanglements’ monograph, edited by Joanna Latimer & Daniel López).
2016. Urban accessibility issues: Technoscientific democratizations at the documentation interfaceCITY, 20(4)pp. 619-636 (article co-written with Marcos Cereceda for the special issue on ‘Technical democracy as a challenge for urban studies‘, edited by I. Farías & A. Blok)

Vídeo de la presentación

Aquí

Ethnographic invention: Caring for the Modes of Inquiry of Anthropology > Talk at NUS Sociology Webinar Series

Thanks to an invitation by Kiven Strohm, Adolfo Estalella and I will have the pleasure to give a talk at the National University of Singapore‘s Sociology Webinar Series on ethnographic invention (poster and abstract below).

The event will take place on Zoom next October 15, 2020 at 3pm (Singapore time) / 9am (CET).

To register for the webinar (free, all welcome), please follow this link or visit NUS Sociology’s Facebook page

Ethnographic invention: Caring for the Modes of Inquiry of Anthropology

Adolfo Estalella (Complutense University of Madrid) & Tomás Criado (Humboldt-University of Berlin).

Abstract

What if rather than conceptualizing it as a ‘method’ ethnography was to be appreciated as an act of anthropological invention? Already decades ago Roy Wagner proposed that more than discovering the cultures they were studying anthropologists ‘invent’ them. In his usage, the anthropological invention happens at a conceptual level: in the process of analysis, when anthropologists are relating their ethnographic experience in textual form. Our fieldwork experiences might allow us to probe into another version of invention: one that happens in the empirical encounter, when anthropologists are engaged in relating with others and devising the conditions for their inquiry to be possible. Ethnography, we would like to advance, is a twofold act of invention that happens when constructing relations: in the field and out of the field.

Any anthropologist undertaking fieldwork must have surely faced the challenging circumstance of having to forge relations with complete strangers. Resorting to forms of sociality already known as well as guides and norms of learnt methods is never enough, since social life tends to overflow its own scripts and anthropologist have always to resort to their own creativity and invention in the field. Rarely though is the figure of invention acknowledged as integral to the ethnographic practice, and fieldwork is never conceptualized in those terms. And yet, alongside the traditional techniques (interview, field diary, observation, etc.) ethnography is always full of grand and minor gestures that make it possible to inquire with others. We thus propose to consider ethnography not as a method but as an act of invention of the very possibility of anthropological inquiries in the field.

This has an important corollary, affecting how we might approach its teaching and learning. Rather than manuals or handbooks of methods––where the invention integral to the field practices of anthropologists tends to be systematically obviated–perhaps ethnography requires a different mode of compiling its inventive condition. This is something that we belief the present moment demands from anthropologists, a situation requiring from us a different care of knowledge: one that looks after the inventiveness of our modes of inquiry because they open the possibility for future inquiries.

Democratising Urban Infrastructures: The technicaldemocracy of accessibility urbanism > Power to Co-Produce Webinar

I have been invited to take part in the super-intersting webinar POWER TO CO-PRODUCE: Careful power distribution in collaborative city-making, hosted on September 14th 2020 by Burcu Ateş, Predrag Milić, Laura Sobral and Sabine Knierbein at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKUOR), Technische Universität Wien.

As part of a session on ‘co-production practices’, I will be sharing 15′ of my research on Democratising Urban Infrastructures: The technical democracy of accessibility urbanism

Text of the webinar

Whether you are a student or an urban scholar, an activist or a local community leader, a decision-maker or a policy designer, please register and take part in this collective attempt to widen up the debate on collaborative city-making by exploring its multiple interrelated dimensions.

This open webinar is an attempt to establish a dialogical relationship between different perspectives on the interplay of power relations and collaborative city-making processes focusing on local processes of co-production and civic engagement, particularly of the marginalised communities. By recognising (1) practices, (2) pedagogies and (3) policies, and interrelations among the involved actors and institutions, it is expected to broaden debates on participatory collaboration in city-making processes.

Call (Download)

Programme (Download)

14th September 2020 (08:45 – 16:00 CET)

Session 1 – co-production practices (09:30 – 11:00 CET)

  • Burcu Yiğit Turan, Ass. Prof. Dr., Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Turkey-Sweden
  • Jelena Joksimović, MA, Skograd Collective Belgrade, Montenegro-Serbia
  • Tomás Criado, Dr., Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Spain-Germany

Session 2 – co-production pedagogies (11:30 – 13:00 CET)

  • Sonja Petrus Spamer, BArch, University of Cape Town, Cape Town
  • Daniela Brasil, Dr., König Brasil, Brazil-Austria 
  • Yelta Köm and Merve Gül Özokcu, Architecture for All Association, Turkey-Germany/Turkey

Session 3 – co-production policies (14:00 – 15:30 CET)

  • Renato Cymbalista, Prof Dr., Lab OUTROS, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
  • Paula Marques, Councilor for Local Development and Housing in the Municipality of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Gabriella Gomez Mont, Director of The Urban Task Force, Mexico City, Mexico-USA

For taking part in the webinar, please register until 10th September via email to webinar2020@skuor.tuwien.ac.at

This event is realized in the course of the KTH + TU Wien Visiting Professorship Program in Urban Studies 2019-2021 and will be featured by the AESOP Thematic Group for Public Spaces and Urban Cultures.

The Method of Telegrammatic Correspondence: A Digital Mode of Inquiry during ‘Lockdown’

Logo. CC BY 2020 Cor on Collaboration

Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded into a major health and social crisis in Spain Adolfo Estalella and I have been taking part in a peculiar Telegram-based messaging group. ‘Cor on Collaboration’, as the space was named, turned into our main source of news, links, experiences, appreciations, reflections and collective debates. It was originally set up by some of our ethnographic acquaintances in the last years, a loose group of architects, designers and cultural workers with the goal of developing a version of a podcast radio show based in Madrid, devoted to exploring manifold forms of urban collaboration. From 20 people by mid-March to the actual 84, the group soon became a frantic and lively space where all participants have been sharing personal experiences, commenting media articles, discussing specialized papers and pre-prints or analysing collectively anything relevant to understand the unfolding of the COVID crisis. From its onset the convening team encouraged us to send audio messages to compile and edit them, together with other material, as podcasts that could reach out to a wider public beyond the group. Here we reflect on the methodological inspiration we could draw from this peculiar use of a regular off-the-shelf collaborative digital platform for our work as social scientists. Shocked and perplexed by the present situation, we (as the rest of our companions) have found in ‘Cor on collaboration’ a resource to navigate uncertain times: Not just a place for solidarity, debate and contact, but a place driven by the shared effort to problematize the present situation. Contributing to the rising debate on how to undertake ethnographic work in times of lockdown we would like to intimate the affordances of this particular ‘telegrammatic’ correspondence that has allowed us (and our counterparts in this conversation) to inquire into the uncertainty of these strange times.

We have written a small piece, published as part of the Sociological Review’s Solidarity and Care series reflecting on the experience:

[EN] The Method of Telegrammatic Correspondence: A Digital Mode of Inquiry during ‘Lockdown’

[ES] El método de la correspondencia telegramática: Un modo de indagación digital para tiempos de confinamiento

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[Update 26.10.2020] Now reblogged in the UniSiegen’s Interface blog: “The method of telegrammatic correspondence

How to care for the opening of care infrastructures?

[EN] How to care for the opening of care infrastructures?

(Versión en castellano más abajo)

The mess we’re in has accentuated two recurring concerns, perhaps with newer nuances: (1) the importance of tinkering and opening up care infrastructures and equipment; (2) the relevance of experimenting with their documentation (precisely in the distance of a remote confinement)

(1) Here we are again in an austerity crisis, again care as the main mode of response, and yet again in need of proprietary equipment, closed down by patents and strict rules of circulation (where the health expertocracy & free market meet). But there are also mismatches…

The previous crisis brought out a wealth of forms of tinkering and inventiveness, DIY hacks and 3D printed contraptions in all kinds of initiatives. That crisis deeply impacted architecture and design, but health systems protected themselves from what was though to be a dangerous experiment …

Health struggles revolved around supporting public infrastructures, but beyond a discussion around generic drugs, the ‘question concerning technology’ did not seem to pop up much, even though its importance was highlighted (e.g. open orthopedics and technical aids)

The urban experimentation of many DIY urbanism, collective architecture and handmade urbanism… made emerge a context to explore other ways of opening up the city’s infrastructures and their rights. All of this has been sadly crumbling: too much personal – and too little institutional – an effort

Now a new techno-political field seems to emerge, even more closed than the previous one: Will this situation of health infrastructural collapse allow for an experimentation with seizing the means of care, opening up an inquiry on how this might be supported by public infrastructures? Time will tell

(2) Now, as it happened, those findings and practical solutions need to be traced and circulated, knowledge of an expert and experiential kind sprout and turn ideas that come and go. We document to share, but also not to forget…

And, also, a great variety of digital platforms erupt, wishing to centralise the archiving of such experiences, their tagging and categorization: websites, telegram channels, but also Twitter as an archive of a tinkering society in need of auto-inscribing to endure, when not just to be…

With a big difference: ten years ago, online presence was treated as a mere support, an aid, main-staging embodied togetherness. However, in the distance of a remote confinement digital documentation takes on a different – and greater – relevance

Many of the insurgent archives documenting the critical experiences of years ago have now disappeared: we didn’t have the time, the will, the conditions to work to maintain and care for all of them – some have survived, many thanks to the use of commercial platforms whose servers are still intact

Will we forget and obliterate what we have learned, the traces of the new that emerge, the timeless solutions that always reemerge, the dramas of the moment? Sure, we need to forget in order to go on, but digital records are deeply fragile. Will we let the same thing happen to us again? What to do?

P.S. This thread is a testimony of many conversations in the last years with @entornoalasilla @adolfoestalella @acorsin @cboserman @jararocha @blancallen @birrabel @dlopezgom @ CareNet_IN3 @zuloark @Makeatuvida @Alephvoid @autofabricantes @ alafuente @ janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno

P.S.2. But also a reflection after witnessing what @frenalacurva @ItaliaCovid19 @CovidAidUK @nwspk are making emerge, together with the great number of health practitioners and makers documenting their inventiveness – here on Twitter, for instance – around the globe

**

Slightly amended version of a thread published on Twitter

[ES] ¿Cómo cuidar de la apertura de las infraestructuras del cuidado?

Este momento delirante ha acentuado dos preocupaciones recurrentes, con nuevos matices: (1) la importancia del cacharreo o la apertura de infraestructuras y equipamientos del cuidado; (2) la experimentación con su documentación (en la distancia de un confinamiento a distancia)

(1) De nuevo una crisis por austeridad, de nuevo la centralidad del cuidado como respuesta, de nuevo la necesidad de equipamientos cerrados por patentes y reglas estrictas de circulación (donde cruzan la expertocracia sanitaria y el libre mercado). Pero con algunas diferencias…

La anterior crisis sacó la inventiva cacharrera, un despliegue de ñapas, makeos, impresión 3D e iniciativas do-it-yourself para todo tipo de actividades. Esa crisis afectó de lleno a arquitectura y diseño, pero el mundo de la salud se protegió: era una experimentación peligrosa…

La lucha de la salud se centró en torno a su sostenimiento público, pero más allá de la discusión sobre los medicamentos genéricos, la pregunta por la tecnología no parecía abrirse, aun cuando se planteó su importancia con fuerza (e.g. ortopedias y ayudas técnicas abiertas)

La experimentación urbana de lugares como Can Batlló o el Campo de Cebada, el handmade urbanism… generaron un contexto para explorar otros modos de hacer ciudad con infraestructuras abiertas. Todo eso ha ido cayendo tristemente en desgracia: mucho esfuerzo y poca institución

Ahora se abre un nuevo campo tecno-político, todavía más clausurado que el anterior: ¿Permitirá esta situación de colapso sanitario abrir a indagación y sostenimiento con infraestructuras públicas la experimentación con la reapropiación de los medios del cuidado? El tiempo dirá

(2) Ahora, como entonces, eso hallazgos y soluciones prácticas necesitan abrirse y circular, saberes y conocimientos experienciales que brotan y se convierten en ideas que vienen y van. Se documenta para compartir, pero también para no olvidar

Y, de nuevo, comienza la panoplia de plataformas digitales para su archivado centralizado, su etiquetado y categorización: webs, canales de telegram, pero también Twitter como archivo de una sociedad cacharrera que busca auto-inscribirse para subsistir, cuando no existir…

Con una gran diferencia: hace diez años, lo online era un apoyo o soporte, quedando el vínculo corpóreo en una centralidad; en la distancia de un confinamiento a distancia, sin embargo, esa documentación digital cobra una importancia nuclear

Desaparecieron muchos de esos archivos insurgentes de la experiencia crítica de hace años: no les pudimos meter ganas, esfuerzo, manutención y cuidado a todos ellos – algunos han subsistido, muchos gracias al uso de plataformas blog cuyos servidores siguen en activo

¿Olvidaremos y haremos caer en el olvido todo lo aprendido, los trazos de lo nuevo que emerge, las soluciones atemporales, los dramas del momento? Cierto, necesitamos olvidar para vivir, pero el registro digital es frágil ¿Dejaremos que nos pase lo mismo otra vez? ¿Qué hacer?

PD. Aquí acordándome mucho de cientos de conversaciones con @entornoalasilla @adolfoestalella @acorsin @cboserman @jararocha @blancallen @birrabel @dlopezgom @CareNet_IN3 @zuloark @Makeatuvida @Alephvoid @autofabricantes @alafuente@janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno

PD2. Pero también pensando en todo lo que están abriendo @frenalacurva @ItaliaCovid19 @CovidAidUK @nwspk y la cantidad de profesionales del mundo sanitario documentando su inventiva

PD3. Y también muchas de las conversaciones recientes con @janinakehr @SaraLF @crinamoreno – fuente de tantas reflexiones interesantes

Adaptación de un hilo publicado originalmente en Twitter

Picture credits: Patent spec of Le Prieur regulator (1946-47) (Wikimedia Commons)

DIY Anthropology: Disciplinary knowledge in crisis

Adolfo Estalella and I take part in a thematic section of the ANUAC. Journal of the Italian Society of Cultural Anthropology, titled Changing margins and relations within European anthropology. In it we shift from a discussion around the geo-political identity of anthropology to its status as a scholarly discipline.

Ours is a situated account of how a particular setting and moment in time affected our anthropological practice: The beginning of the 2010s was a period of political unrest in Spain. Like many other countries, it suffered the harsh effects of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. However, despite the crisis (or maybe because of it) cities experienced a moment of political creativity and urban inventiveness: People occupied empty buildings and unused plots of vacant land to create all kind of projects, refurnishing the city with an impulse to reanimate collective forms of life. All kind of knowledges blossomed in these initiatives. Our several-years-long ethnographic investigations were carried out in this period in Spain’s main two cities (Madrid and Barcelona)

Thrown into an urban landscape left behind by a policy of financial austerity, we worked intimately with architects, activist designers, and bodily diverse people. Singularly and unexpectedly for us, we found in them the companions we lacked in our local institutional academic contexts. They turned into epistemic partners: companions in the shared endeavour of producing anthropological problematisations. Under these circumstances, the knowledge we produced at the time emerged out of a moment of crisis: knowledge in crisis

We do not intend to argue on the European condition of our anthropological practice, neither we are interested in tracing geo-political frontiers of disciplinary imaginations. Instead, drawing on our ethnographic experience – and the collaborations we established with our epistemic partners in the field – we feel urged to problematize the disciplinary boundaries anthropology conventionally tends to assume

Hence, in the article we offer an account of the interstitial spaces that we both inhabited “in the vacuum of tradition” in the recent Spanish crisis, and how that enabled us to articulate singular relations with variegated epistemic partners with whom we set up distinct ambiances of care. In our ethnographic description we pay attention to the blurring of institutional and scholarly infrastructures and modes of togetherness. In describing the particular transformations – or “intraventions” – that these joint spaces enacted, we would like to intimate a different figuration anthropology took in our practice: Not a disciplinary field but a field of experimental collaborations.

As we show, treating our ethnographic counterparts as epistemic partners has the potential to retrofit our institutionalized settings and disciplinary practices. The anthropology we describe, hence, is one assembled from scratch, caring for the mundane issues that very often are forgotten and rendered invisible: an anthropology done with others, a DIY anthropology?

El Campo de Cebada CC BY 2014 Manuel Domínguez Fernández

Abstract

This is an account of the transformations in our anthropological practice derived from working in the many interstitial spaces that opened up in the wake of the recent Spanish economic crisis. Ambulating in void spaces of Madrid and Barcelona, our anthropological practice was there re-built in ways that blurred our disciplinary boundaries. What there emerged was anthropology not as a disciplinary field, but as a field of experimental collaborations. A practice that re-learnt its ways treating counterparts as true epistemic partners, and setting up distinct ambiances of care with them: not only to care for one another in situations of great difficulty, but mostly to care for our different forms of inquiry, addressing the very situations we were under. An anthropology done together with others, assembling from scratch a conceptual body, caring for the mundane issues that are very often forgotten and rendered invisible by disciplinary fields: A DIY anthropology?

Published in Anuac. Journal of the Italian Society of Cultural Anthropology, 8(2): 143-165 (co-written with Adolfo Estalella) | PDF

Diseño y Diáspora #79: Diseñando para la diversidad funcional

Estando en Helsinki para el NORDES tuve el placer de charlar con Mariana Salgado en Diseño y Diáspora sobre el cuidado como una activación de otros diseños posibles: aquellos que aparecen pensando desde la diversidad funcional en En torno a la silla o desde el re-aprender a diseñar para todxs.

Diseño y Diáspora: El podcast de diseño social en español y portuñol. Conversaciones entre una diseñadora y Otros: a veces amigos, a veces investigadores en diseño, la mayoría de las veces diseñadores trabajando en innovación social o en practicas de diseño emergentes. Desde Helsinki, con ganas por Mariana Salgado.

#79: Diseñando para la diversidad funcional

En esta charla Tomás Criado nos cuenta sobre su trabajo en el ámbito del diseño desde la antropología. Él es antropólogo con especialización en STS (estudios de ciencia y tecnología). Trabaja en la Universidad de Humboldt en Berlín (Alemania). Nos explica conceptos como el cuidado, la diversidad funcional y las tecnologías de la amistad. A la vez describe algunos proyectos de diseño concreto en los que se comprometió luego del 15M, en España. Nos convoca a pensar el diseño desde la incertidumbre y entender los vínculos que se producen en procesos de diseño colaborativos. Al final de la entrevista también hablamos de la enseñanza de diseño a partir de un proyecto donde exploró con alumnos el diseño en situaciones de crisis. 

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DGSKA 2019 Konstanz – Plenary ‘Envisioning Anthropological Futures’

Under the theme ‘The End of Negotiations? / Das Ende der Aushandlungen?‘ the DGSKA (German Association of Social and Cultural Anthropology) celebrated it’s 2019 conference from September 29th till October 2nd at the Universität Konstanz.

Kristina Mashimi and Thomas Stodulka (on behalf of the DGSKA board) organised and moderated the following plenary session, to which they invited some of us “mid-career scholars” – Janina Kehr (Universität Bern), Sandra Calkins (FU Berlin), Michaela Haug (Universität zu Köln) and yours truly – to envision anthropological futures departing from our own experiences engaging in public, inter and transdisciplinary settings, their epistemic and methodological opportunities and limitations.

Below you could find further information on the session, as well as links to the videos / audio files of our interventions. Hope you enjoy it.

Plenary session IV: Envisioning anthropological futures

Tuesday, 1.10.2019, 9.00-11.00h, Audimax

In the wake of political, economic, and ecological transformations of the contemporary world, and the far-reaching impact of digitalization and mediatization, social and cultural anthropologists are challenged to continuously rethink their theoretical, methodological, and professional practices. Not only are they required to respond to the emerging topical challenges of globalizing, postcolonial research settings by engaging the expertise from other social science and humanities’ disciplines, the wider field of area studies, and the natural and health sciences. They also face growing expectations from their interlocutors, funding organizations, and their immediate professional environments in regard to shifting standards of research ethics and data management, the engagement in various modes of collaborative research, and meeting their responsibilities to society and the public.

This plenary assembles presentations from 4-5 early to mid-career scholars who discuss the challenges and tensions they face when doing anthropology today. They will outline their visions for future positionings of the discipline regarding its epistemological and methodological opportunities and limitations in inter- and transdisciplinary research settings. Furthermore, the panelists will discuss the discipline’s engagement in academic teaching and the move towards open access publishing, as well as its intervention in public debates. As a forum for innovation, the plenary session is less concerned with systematic reviews of previous disciplinary discussions than with the articulation of future visions for practice and collaboration in and beyond the context of anthropology (or, in the German-speaking context, Ethnologie or Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie). The contributions will be published in the upcoming 150th anniversary issue of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (ZfE, 2019) which will be edited collectively by the DGSKA board and is due to appear in time for the 2019 conference.

Videos / Audio files

Janina Kehr (Universität Bern): Crafting the Otherwise in Medicine and Anthropology

Tomás Criado (HU Berlin): Anthropology as a careful design practice?

Sandra Calkins (FU Berlin): Writing planetary futures: Plants, loss, and intersections of STS and anthropology in Germany

Michaela Haug (Universität zu Köln): Looking into the future through the lens of hope: environmental change, diverse hopes and the challenge of engagement

Technologies of friendship: Accessibility politics in the ‘how to’ mode

Thanks to the joyful invitation by Joanna Latimer & Daniel López–possibly two of the best editors in the planet, capable of hosting the nicest people and make all of us enjoy wonderful and lively debates–, I am honoured to take part in their absolutely flabbergasting Sociological Review monograph ‘Intimate Entanglements’ with an impressive line-up. Do not miss this one!

The monograph focuses on rethinking the relation between “the abstract and general connection between entanglement and knowledge-making by grounding it within specific socio­material relations”, proposing us to pay special attention to intimacy not as a category of the local and experiential as opposed to the scientific or universal. Instead, as the editors suggest, “by foregrounding what is often made invisible in extant accounts of how knowledge is done, the authors explore how a focus on affect restructures possibilities for more situated knowledge, that involves non-anthropocentric modes of relatedness in a wide range of substantive domains and communities of practice”.

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My own humble contribution to this collective effort is a particular ode, entangling intimately with the practices and spaces of ‘mutual access’ we pried open when searching to inhabit En torno a la silla.

Technologies of friendship: Accessibility politics in the ‘how to’ mode

Abstract

This text is an ethnographic account of a singular, Barcelona-based activist endeavour called En torno a la silla (ETS): a do-it-yourself and open design and making collective engaging in a very peculiar form of accessibility politics beyond a ‘disability rights’ framework. In it, I entangle intimately with ETS’s relational interventions, in the form of making and documentation processes. What animates me is a political engagement with the practice of ‘re-description’, paying attention to the singularity of what relational vocabularies and practices bring to the fore. In describing the context of its appearance, as well as several of the collective’s endeavours, I address ETS’s relational register. Rather than being a clear-cut activist group with the aim of materialising the ‘inclusion’ of ‘disabled people’ through ‘technical aids’, ETS engaged in producing what they called ‘technologies of friendship’: frail and careful material explorations opening up interstitial relational spaces of ‘mutual access’ between bodily diverse people. Through circulating tutorials, poetic accounts, digitally and in workshops and presentations, ETS’s technologies of friendship became also ways of addressing how relations can be materialised and reflexively described, making available in its wake ways to re-enact them. Thus it produced an inspiring ‘how to’ accessibility politics: a material-political concern with the speculative opening up and materialisation of conditions for the very happening of relations, relating at the hinges of unrelatability.

Published in the Sociological Review, 67 (2) 408–427 | PDF

Acknowledgements

This article has benefited from a series of kind spaces functioning as ‘technologies of friendship’ in themselves. I would here like to warmly thank: Isaac Marrero Guillamón and the 2016 Goldsmiths’ Anthropology ‘Research >< Practice’ seminar series; Gonzalo Correa and the 2016 MA in Social Psychology students at the Universidad de la República in Montevideo; Marisol de la Cadena and the attendees at a 2017 UC Davis ‘STS Food for Thought’ event; Joanna Latimer, Daniel López, and the commentators at the 2018 ‘Intimate Entanglements’ workshop in York; and a 2018 seminar of the CareNet group in Barcelona, all of whom greatly helped me finetune the article’s main ideas. I dedicate this account to my friends from En torno a la silla, in the hope that this could serve to bring ourselves closer to yet-to-be-found intimate others.