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 La ciudad de las sombras: Etnografiar la habitabilidad urbana en tiempos de mutación climática

[Originalmente publicado en la web del Departamento de Umbrología]

Taller de co-creación comisariado por Tomás Criado (UOC) y Santiago Orrego (HU Berlin)

Organiza: CareNet-IN3, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. 

En colaboración con Bit Habitat y la Oficina de Canvi Climàtic i Sostenibilitat (Ajuntament de Barcelona).

Requiere inscripción previa (fecha límite: 17 de mayo de 2024; comunicación de resultados: 24 de mayo de 2024)

Máximo 20 participantes | Se emite certificado de participación (1 ECTS) | Se llevará a cabo en su mayoría en castellano (en el trabajo informal no habrá problema en comunicarse en catalán e inglés)

[ES] La ciudad de las sombras: Etnografiar la habitabilidad urbana en tiempos de mutación climática (17-21 de junio de 2024 | Barcelona)

Este taller es una invitación a co-crear y explorar cómo hacer existir un Departamento de Umbrología, entregado al estudio de y la intervención en la vida urbana de las sombras: una umbrología que atienda tanto a los aspectos físicos y materiales como a las relaciones sociales y culturales de las sombras. Para hacerlo existir, a través de distintas actividades queremos entrenarnos a apreciar esta relación ambiental: dedicándonos al estudio etnográfico de las complejas relaciones entre el sol y los edificios, la calle o los árboles, así como el papel que distintos tipos de sombras pueden tener para distintas personas o colectivos y sus modos de sobrevivir al calor abrasador.

Actividad de las Setmanes d’Arquitectura 2024

[CAT] La ciutat de les ombres: Etnografiar l’habitabilitat urbana en temps de mutació climàtica (17-21 de juny de 2024 | Barcelona)

El taller és una invitació a co-crear i explorar com fer existir un Departament d’Umbrologia, lliurat a l’estudi de i la intervenció en la vida urbana de les ombres: una umbrologia que atengui tant els aspectes físics i materials com les relacions socials i culturals de les ombres. Per fer-ho existir, a través de diferents activitats volem entrenar-nos a apreciar aquesta relació ambiental: dedicant-nos a l’estudi etnogràfic de les complexes relacions entre el sol i els edificis, el carrer o els arbres, així com el paper que diferents tipus d’ombres poden tenir per diferents persones o col·lectius i les seves maneres de sobreviure a la calor abrasadora.

Activitat de les Setmanes d’Arquitectura 2024

[EN] The city of shades: Ethnography of urban habitability in times of climate mutation (June 17-21, 2024 | Barcelona)

The workshop is an invitation to co-create and explore how to bring into existence a Department of Umbrology, namely, a space devoted to the study of and intervention in the urban life of shades: an umbrology that addresses both the physical and material aspects as well as the social and cultural relationships. of the shadows. To make it exist, we want to train ourselves – by means of different activities – to appreciate this environmental relationship: dedicating ourselves to the ethnographic study of the complex relationships between the sun and buildings, the street or trees, as well as the role that different types of shadows can have for different people or groups and their ways of surviving the scorching heat.

Activity part of Setmanes d’Arquitectura 2024

***

Presentación

Diferentes paneles intergubernamentales alertan desde hace tiempo que la respuesta al cambio climático debe partir de las ciudades: asentamientos cada vez más poblados e infraestructuras complejas de cambiar desde los que necesitamos repensar la habitabilidad del planeta. La mutación climática en curso nos sitúa ante el reto de configurar nuevas ideas urbanas de cuidado, protección o refugio, que permitan formas plurales de habitar y que protejan a quienes pudieran estar más expuestos o sufrir más sus efectos devastadores. En ese sentido, vivimos un tiempo de urgencia y de búsqueda frenética de soluciones. Pero en situaciones de gran incertidumbre, donde cómo responder es un asunto a veces complicado de imaginar, quizá necesitemos entrenarnos a prestar atención a lo aparentemente irrelevante, pero crucial. Ese es el objeto primordial de este taller, que quiere poner el foco en las sombras: entidades aparentemente ínfimas, pero que articulan nuestra vida urbana y nuestras relaciones cotidianas con el sol y el calor.

Sin duda, no hay nada más convencional que la sombra. En tanto seres terráqueos todos tenemos una. Pero pensar la sombra urbana puede ser algo mucho más profundo, puesto que nos obliga a prestar atención de otra manera a nuestros entornos cotidianos. De hecho, ¿qué es la sombra, sino una relación cambiante en que entramos con el sol a medida que atraviesa nuestros hábitats a lo largo del día? Solemos atribuir al sol la capacidad de dar vida, pero ¿qué hacer cuando nos daña o nos pone en riesgo, como ocurre en condiciones atmosféricas de calor extremo? Con esa clave, nuestra vida terrestre pudiera ser leída como una larga historia interespecífica de cómo los vivientes hemos aprendido a protegernos de su irradiación. La misma atmósfera, con su compleja circulación del aire, los mares y las riberas de los ríos o el tapiz irisado de las nubes y los bosques no son sino un gran sistema, con expresiones locales, de formas de captar, regular, disipar o bloquear los rayos del sol. Pero, también, de producir sombra.

Aunque la sombra es una vieja conocida, la creciente preocupación ambiental ha hecho que administraciones y profesionales de todo tipo hayan comenzado a recuperar esta relación ambiental cotidiana. Es más, a pesar de que suela ser considerada como un producto secundario del sol, su versión en negativo, ¿y si la sombra fuera condición misma de la habitabilidad en la tierra y, por ende, en nuestros entornos urbanos? Por esto mismo ha cobrado gran importancia en distintas soluciones técnicas para hacer frente al calor extremo del presente: planes municipales de sombras, itinerarios bioclimáticos o infraestructuras de sombreado. Esto está requiriendo revitalizar saberes y técnicas antiguos, así como especular y crear nuevas soluciones para mitigar y adaptarnos ante el calor creciente.

En un momento así, necesitamos también abordar la vida social y cultural de las sombras, sean estas ya existentes o diseñadas. En un presente acalorado, donde la capacidad de cobijarnos del sol abrasador es un bien mal repartido, revitalizar sus saberes y prácticas generativas quizá sea crucial para reaprender a vivir como seres terráqueos. Para ello, quizá necesitemos, como sugiere el escritor Tim Horvath en su cuento The discipline of shadows, crear un ‘Departamento de Umbrología‘ en cada uno de nuestros territorios. 

El taller es una invitación a co-crear y explorar cómo hacer existir ese espacio, entregado al estudio de y la intervención en la vida urbana de las sombras: una umbrología que atienda tanto a los aspectos físicos y materiales como a las relaciones sociales y culturales de las sombras. Para hacerlo existir, a través de distintas actividades queremos entrenarnos a apreciar esta relación ambiental: dedicándonos al estudio etnográfico de las complejas relaciones entre el sol y los edificios, la calle o los árboles, así como el papel que distintos tipos de sombras pueden tener para distintas personas o colectivos y sus modos de sobrevivir al calor abrasador.

Partiendo de una sensibilidad antropológica queremos: (i) trabajar en el diseño de pequeños materiales para realizar investigaciones de campo; y (ii) hacer un inventario de prácticas espaciales cotidianas, centrado en la relación que diferentes personas tienen con nuestras perpetuas compañeras como habitantes bajo el sol. Así, haremos aparecer otra ciudad, la ciudad de las sombras, normalmente pasada por alto. Y nos entregaremos a entender su complejidad social, así como la multiplicidad de actores y ensamblajes que la constituyen: las formas de generar sombra, por parte de y para quiénes, así como las formas de socialidad que permiten, sus tiempos, sus ritmos y sus espacios.

Público

– El taller está especialmente dirigido a profesionales, investigadoras y estudiantes de grado, máster o doctorado de las artes, las ciencias sociales (antropología, geografía, estudios sociales de la ciencia y la tecnología, sociología), las humanidades, el diseño y la arquitectura, interesados por la etnografía y el estudio social de cuestiones urbanas o ambientales. 

– Mientras que un conocimiento de la práctica etnográfica es deseable, no se requiere conocimiento previo sobre diseño para el cambio climático o sobre la física de las sombras.

Objetivos

–   Abrir a reflexión colectiva los modos de respuesta urbana al cambio climático, colaborando con un proyecto de prototipado en curso, produciendo infraestructuras de sombra estacional (reto de sombreado efímero).

–   Generar un proceso de intercambio interdisciplinar sobre cómo indagar la ciudad en tiempos de cambio climático, prestando atención a las sombras como fenómeno social.

–   Inventar dispositivos de indagación urbana desde los que repensar las formas de relevancia de las artes, las humanidades y las ciencias en un momento donde priman las soluciones técnicas.

Programa

DÍA 1 | LUNES 17 DE JUNIO DE 2024 

Lugar: U0.3, Planta 0 Edifici U, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (C. Perú 52) y diversos lugares cercanos de interés

9:30-10:00 Presentación del taller: La necesidad de un departamento de umbrología

10:00-11:00 Presentaciones inaugurales

  • Prestar atención a las sombras urbanas: Zonas críticas de la habitabilidad contemporánea (Tomás Criado, UOC)
  • Etnografiar urbanidades ínfimas en tiempos de mutación climática(Santiago Orrego, HU Berlin)

11:00-11:15 Pausa-café

11:15-11:45 Propuesta de trabajo por grupos y dinamización

11:45-13:30 Documentar sombras en contexto, a cargo de Carla Boserman (UCM): un paseo guiado por distintas áreas del Poblenou –– (1) parque central del Poblenou e inmediaciones de Ca l’Alier, (2) parque del Poblenou y playa de Bogatell, (3) c. de Marià Aguiló y (4) la superilla del Poblenou –– documentando en grupos configuraciones de sombras 

13:30-14:00 Puesta en común

DÍA 2 | MARTES 18 DE JUNIO DE 2024

Lugar: U0.3, Planta 0 Edifici U, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (C. Perú 52)

9:30-12:30 Taller por grupos: Creación colaborativa de dispositivos para un departamento de umbrología.

Una sesión donde, recuperando las configuraciones estudiadas en el paseo guiado, entremos en el diseño de pequeños elementos de papel a partir de los que (1) analizar y tipificar configuraciones sociales de las sombras urbanas, (2) imaginar dispositivos de campo para futuras indagaciones, (3) testear sus posibilidades y (4) ponerlos en común para imaginar un departamento de umbrología.

12:30-14:00 Discusión del taller tras presentación de Isaac Marrero (UB), Etnografía multimodal y la política de la invención 

14:00-15:30 Pausa / comida

15:30-17:00 Presentación a cargo de Fernando Domínguez Rubio (UC San Diego), La ficción como método. Acompañan: Daniel López & Israel Rodríguez Giralt (UOC)

DÍA 3  | MIÉRCOLES 19 DE JUNIO DE 2024

Lugar: Pg. Marìtim de la Barceloneta, 32-34 y Pl. Leonardo da Vinci

9:30-14:00 El primer encargo del departamento de umbrología: La vida social de las infraestructuras de sombra efímera en el espacio público

  • Visita guiada a los sitios de testeo de los siguientes prototipos del reto de sombreado efímero en el espacio público (Oasi, ombra per a tothom + Mar d’ombres). 
  • Por grupos:
    • Puesta a prueba de los pequeños dispositivos etnográficos generados y discusión in situ de las adaptaciones necesarias para estudiar las configuraciones sociales que cada uno de estos prototipos implican: los usos y formas de socialidad que permiten, sus tiempos/ritmos y sus espacios. 
    •  Con los dispositivos generados se entrará en relación con los actores que transiten o habiten esos nuevos espacios de sombra, prestando atención a sus configuraciones de vulnerabilidad o exposición, así como a sus saberes y recursos. Tras cada visita se discutirán posibles cambios necesarios
DÍA 4 | JUEVES 20 DE JUNIO DE 2024

Lugar: Rambla de Badal, 113 + U0.3, Planta 0 Edifici U, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (C. Perú 52)

9:30-11:30 El primer encargo del departamento de umbrología: La vida social de las infraestructuras de sombra efímera en el espacio público

  • Visita guiada al sitio de testeo del tercer prototipo del reto de sombreado efímero en el espacio público (A l’ombra del trencadís). 
  • En grupos:
    • Puesta a prueba de los pequeños dispositivos etnográficos generados y discusión in situ de las adaptaciones necesarias para estudiar las configuraciones sociales que cada uno de estos prototipos implican: los usos y formas de socialidad que permiten, sus tiempos/ritmos y sus espacios. 
    •  Con los dispositivos generados se entrará en relación con los actores que transiten o habiten esos nuevos espacios de sombra, prestando atención a sus configuraciones de vulnerabilidad o exposición, así como a sus saberes y recursos. Tras cada visita se discutirán posibles cambios necesarios

11:30-12:30 Desplazamiento

12:30-14:00 Puesta en común

14:00-15:30 Comida

15:30-17:00 Tarde de trabajo por grupos en los prototipos

DÍA 5 | VIERNES 21 DE JUNIO DE 2024

Lugar: Bit Habitat, Ca l’Alier (c. Pere IV 362)

9:30-10:30 Presentación a cargo de Francisco Martínez (Tampere University), Por un observatorio de sombras. Cómo entre-ver lo que ocurre en la oscuridad

10:30-10:45 Pausa

10:45-12:45 Equipar futuros departamentos de umbrología: Sesión de documentación colaborativa de los dispositivos generados en pequeños formatos como el fanzine (en colaboración con el projecte de micro-edición y publicación abierta pliegOS.net), con la idea de inspirar la creación de departamentos de umbrología en otros contextos.

12:45-13:00 Pausa

13:00-14:00 Relatoría final y discusión a cargo de Adolfo Estalella (UCM), La experimentación etnográfica y su archivo

Documentación

La documentación generada en el taller por las distintas personas participantes será archivada en abierto tanto en el Departamento de Umbrología como en xcol y Tarde

Financiación

Este taller está co-financiado conjuntamente por el Programa Nacional de Investigación Científica, Técnica y de Innovación de España 2021-2023 (RYC2021-033410-I) y por las Setmanes d’Arquitectura 2024 (Ajuntament de Barcelona / Fundació Mies van der Rohe)

**

El Departamento de Umbrología es una producción conjunta de xcol. An Ethnographic Inventory y Tarde, a handbook of minimal and irrelevant urban entanglements 

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A Publics’ Anthropology: Setting Up Ecologies of Collective Speculation

Thanks to the gracious invitation by Gabriele Alex (Uni Tübingen), last April 12, 2024 I had the chance to give an online lecture at the Civis (Europe’s Civic University Alliance) “Social Sciences Going Public – Research and Practice with, in and for the Society” Summer School 2024.

I took the occasion to share my vision for what I have been calling not Public Anthropology but, rather, A Publics’ Anthropology!

A Publics’ Anthropology: Setting up ecologies of collective speculation

What does it mean to undertake anthropological work in contemporary domains populated by a wide variety of ‘publics’, ranging from technical experts to affected communities? Publics are perhaps the main collective condition of knowledge production and circulation in the contemporary: not just as media-provoked entities–e.g. the ‘public sphere’ or scientific and professional societies, connected through ‘publications’–, but also the many uncertain and emergent collectives that gather in different degrees of involvement under issues of concern, using a variety of mediums. As I see it, an anthropology aware of its public dimension should not just be one engaging in public criticism, but also, and perhaps mainly, one transformed by the very relation to publics, developing different forms of engagement and exploring different aims and effects. In my work, I have been inspired to do this in activist design endeavours with different kinds of urban agents. To discuss the different forms a publics’ anthropology might entail, in this session I’ll share with you two recent projects working with municipal actors setting up ecologies of collective speculation: the game Waste What?, an interdisciplinary team production as part of studying activist circular economy projects in Berlin, searching to simulate the conundrums of these initiatives as well as provoke a reflection on their predicaments; and the Department of Umbrology, a collective speculative experiment equipping a proto-municipal division to inquire on the social dimensions of heat mitigation projects, in the hope that his might sensitise technical professionals to consider the social in the plural.

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CfP | Environ | mental urbanities

Edited by Patrick Bieler, Milena Bister and Tomás Criado

[Originally published here]

The recurrent everyday distress many of us live with in times of climate mutation seems to have unearthed a peculiar link that seemed long lost: between the mental and the environmental. More than a century ago, already Georg Simmel (1903) sought to discuss how a growing urban condition was making emerge new and unprecedented forms of mental life. He was far from being the only one concerned with how urban environments were affecting urban dwellers. In the last century, a plethora of experts of different kinds – architects, public health practitioners, social reformers, urban ecologists – have been trying to address urban milieus and atmospheres, so as to tackle a wide variety of environmental stressors, ranging from noises to air pollution, with green spaces and infrastructures becoming a central area of intervention deemed good ‘for the body and the mind’. In recent times, the green city movement is one prominent example of an increasingly recurring and intensified debate about the relevance of urban parks (Fitzgerald 2023).

One of the main features of the present environmental conditions is that things seem to be happening in distributed spatial formations that sometimes seem ‘all over the place.’ Interestingly, cultural studies of mental phenomena have for decades tried to dispute cognitive sciences’ abstruse interest in emplacing the mental in, say, the brain. For instance, Gregory Bateson (1971), drawing from cybernetic theory, notably attempted to ecologize the mind: the mental, thus, could thereon be conceptualized as a relational effect of the interaction of humans with their environments. In a famous example Bateson used, a blind person’s sense of touch was not just in their hand but also at the very tip of their cane, helping navigate the contours of a sidewalk. These attempts at ecologizing mental phenomena beyond the skin and the organism, have been considerably expanded recently by the work of another anthropologist, Tim Ingold (2000, 2011), who has proposed to move beyond a dualistic, binary understanding of mind and body by empirically focusing the relational co-constitution of organisms and environments in activities rather than stressing the embeddedness of an organism in a supposedly pre-existing environment.

Focusing on the processual emergence of both, organisms and environments, situating subjective, embodied experiences in their in-betweenness, overcoming the binary distinction of nature and nurture while refraining from biological as well as environmental determinism and particularly emphasizing how bodily processes are entangled with and permeated by environmental conditions resonates with recent interest of social science scholars in the production and phenomenology of atmospheres (Anderson 2009, Duff 2016, Winz 2018), the anthropological inquiry into biosocial relations (Ingold/Palsson 2013) as well as practice theoretical investigations on bodies as assemblages (Blackman, Mol 2002). Concepts such as “local biologies” (Lock 2001), “biological localities” (Fitzgerald et al. 2016), “health environment” (Seeberg et al. 2020) or “anthropo-zoo-genesis” (Despret 2004) have been proposed to describe the permeable entanglements of bodies and environments, the biological and the social (cf. Meloni et al. 2018).

Little attention, however, has been paid so far to the similarities and differences between the broader focus on biology/embodied experiences and ‘the mental’ – understood as ecological relationality – and the specificities of ‘the urban’ have only been slightly addressed in research with a particular focus on mental health questions (cf. Bister et al. 2016, Söderström 2019, Rose/Fitzgerald 2022). Paying attention to the mental in the environmental is not just important to address the convoluted sentiments we associate with ‘eco-anxiety’, but also to understand how the mind has been ecologized, in a different sense. For instance, notions of the mental are being everyday invoked to articulate many urban spaces: from the conventions of informal encounters that regulate how we greet to more infrastructural conditions such as, say, infographics (Halpern, 2018) in transportation systems. But, also, in an ecology of the mind so brutally dominated by psychopharmaceutical compounds (Rose 2018), how come we seldom discuss the environmental effects of drugs such as anxiolytics and antidepressants in our very cities?

This Special Issue wishes to articulate these interests and sensitivities through ethnographic inquiries that empirically ground connections between ‘mental’ phenomena and urban life. We want to ask: How might a biosocial agenda searching to ecologize the mind be relevant to discuss environmental conditions making dwellers feel, indeed, ‘all over the place’ as well? Conversely, what sort of environmental effects and relations are our ecologies of the mind producing? All in all, how can we imagine, describe, map and theorize the resulting ‘urban mentalities’ or ‘mentalistic cities’ without falling into the traps of idealism, holism, cultural essentialism and Cartesian dualism? What concepts, field devices and research designs might enable us to bring into dialogue experience-based approaches (cf. Söderström et al. 2016, Bieler et al. 2023, Dokumaci 2023, Bister 2023) with an inquiry of ecologies of expertise (Beck 2015) in which ‘mental experiences’ are taken up, translated, shaped and inscribed into the urban fabric?

We want to focus on ethnographic studies approaching dwellers attempting to render their habitats inhabitable, making emerge a wide variety of ecological relations between the mental and the environmental, be they regarding experiential matters, new or disrupted habits, conundrums in between the personal and the collective, the body and the infrastructural, and relations between humans and other-than-human beings. This is the research arena we wish to address as environ|mental urbanities, a denomination hopefully guiding us to grasp the sometimes elusive or ungraspable aspects of both mental and environmental practices and experiences in urban arenas. Hence pushing us to study how we can sense, describe and analyse what and how “bodies-in-action” (Niewöhner/Lock 2018) – or, more precisely: minds-and-environments-in-action, or environ-mental configurations – feel, touch, smell, navigate, encounter and thereby come into being (cf. Manning et al. 2022, Schillmeier 2023). Beyond the seemingly unmediated immersion of bodies in socio-material environments, environ|mental urbanities urge us to ethnographically inquire into the dynamic, shifting co-constitutive relations between subjective experiences, bodies, material environments, cultural practices, urban infrastructures, animals and other non-humans.

With more than half of the population of the planet now living in urban arenas of different kinds, but under the strain of daunting and unravelling environmental conditions, new urbanities seem to be developing that hold the mental and the environmental in tension. At a time when eco-anxieties are grabbing a hold of us, perhaps the time has come to re-analyse the environ-mental conditions of urban dwellers, and the role that the intertwinement of the mental and the environmental play in contemporary urban arenas. In this spirit, we invite contributions from anthropology, geography, sociology and adjacent disciplines which provide inspiring ethnographic case studies, tinkering and experimenting with methods and collaborative fieldwork and/or aim for situated concept work that allow to problematize ‘the environ|mental’ while simultaneously enriching our conceptualisation of ‘the urban’ beyond mere material or geographic locality and stage for cultural practices.

Deadline: Please submit abstracts of no more than 200 words, plus your institutional affiliation(s) and a short biography (a few lines) to patrick.bieler AT tum.de, milena.bister AT hu-berlin.de and tomcriado AT uoc.edu by April 29nd, 2024. If you have any questions, please write the three of us as well.

Process: We will notify acceptance by May 21st, 2024. Abstracts of the selected contributions will be proposed as a special issue to an international English-speaking multidisciplinary social sciences Journal. We aim for Open Access publishing. All contributors will meet online to pitch and discuss their abstracts in June 2024. First drafts will be discussed in a workshop in January 2025 (either in person or online). Final manuscripts will be due in March 2025.

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Naked Fieldnotes. A Rough Guide to Ethnographic Writing

Denielle Elliott & Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer have been for the last years working on a much-needed compilation on the art of fieldnotes, called Naked Fieldnotes. A Rough Guide to Ethnographic Writing. The volume has been recently published by Minnesota University Press.

In their words:

Unlocking the experience of conducting qualitative research, Naked Fieldnotes pairs fieldnotes based on observations, interviews, and other contemporary modes of recording research encounters with short, reflective essays, offering rich examples of how fieldnotes are shaped by research experiences. By granting access to these personal archives, the contributors unsettle taboos about the privacy of ethnographic writing and give scholars a diverse, multimodal approach to conceptualizing and doing ethnographic fieldwork.

As they expound in the introduction:

The practice of writing a fieldnote—­ what goes in, what is left out, who the audience is—­ is a difficult one to acquire, which is belied by the breadth of books and classes that purport to teach novice ethnographers to write fieldnotes. Like any writing, fieldnotes are the outcome of a learned sensibility that can be acquired only through the practice of writing […] This is one of the persistent challenges of teaching ethnographic methods, particularly when most of what students learn about ethnographic writing and fieldnotes is inferred from exemplary ethnographies. Students want prescriptive, generic expectations of what goes into a fieldnote and what a fieldnote should look like, thereby ensuring their writing of “good” fieldnotes; as an index of this sentiment, a few exceptional (p. x)

Growing out of the frustrations we have had as novice ethnographers—­ and that we have shared with our students—­ this collection of fieldnotes is intended to dispel the myths about the charismatic nature of fieldnotes and ethnographers by providing readers with a diversity of techniques, generic experiments, and objects and processes of ethnographic investigation so as to show how research and writing are always shaped by the sensibilities of researchers and the shapes of the ethnographic projects they are conducting. Fieldnotes are always experimental in their attempts to capture that experience. (p.xi)

I very much wish to thank them for their invitation to share one of mine, titled:

Munich, Blind Activism, Participatory Urban Design, November 2015

This note is part of my attempt at doing fieldwork with the Bavarian Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted (BBSB). It captures one of the organization’s in/accessibility explorations of a square in Munich on November 12, 2015. This took place after the square had already been finalized by the city administration, an anomaly in how to involve disabled people in design projects. As the blind activists already knew, the square presented many inaccessibility issues. Doing fieldwork in a very graphic-­intensive field like architecture requires one to think from the visual materials, so when I was handed the promotional brochure, including pictures and renderings, architectural diagrams, and an explanation of the urban intervention, I took a very fast decision: I put away my phone, which I used only to take my own pictures, mostly to remember the details they were talking about as well as the steps, and I opted to scribble on top of the brochure. I followed them for about three hours (from nine in the morning to noon) as they went about different aspects: the tactile differentiation of the creative pavements, the color differentiation of the pavements, and a few other things. My scribbled notes were rather nonlinear interjections, taken at different moments in the brochure. The pictures I took with my phone allowed me to have a sense of sequence afterward.

Recommended citation: Criado, T.S. (2024). Munich, blind activism, participatory urban design, November 2015. In D. Elliott & M. Wolf-Meyer (Eds.) Naked Fieldnotes: A Compendium of Raw and Unedited Ethnographic Research (pp. 59-70). Minnesota: Minnesota University Press | PDF

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Ageing Cities > Zine

How are cities and urban designers responding to the challenge of population ageing? How can we as ethnographers understand the social and material transformations underway in their efforts to shape ‘ageing-friendly’ cities or cities ‘for all ages’? These are two of the leading research questions of our ethnographic study project “Ageing Cities” on which we worked together in the academic year 2021-2022.

Our main concern has been to explore the distinctive intergenerational design challenges of what some architects and urban planners are beginning to call “Late Life Urbanism” (check the video of the final presentation).

Our exploration included an excursion in April 2022 to Alicante, Benidorm and neighbouring urban enclaves in the Costa Blanca (Spain). The area is relevant as ageing bodies and practices have become, since the 1960s, a sort of vector of urbanisation in the region: developing into what some geographers call “the Pensioners’ Coast.”

Considering the intriguing history of migration of this region, with pensioners from all over Central and Northern Europe (but also from other regions of Spain) relocating there, the “Pensioners’ Coast” is an interesting experimental ground to witness what happens when older bodies take centre-stage. Over the course of seven eventful and exciting days we had the chance to explore how sensitised urban designers from the area respond to the intergenerational design challenges these bodies bring in different ways.

In a joint endeavour with STS-inspired architectural researchers from the Critical Pedagogies, Ecological Politics and Material Practices research group of the University of Alicante, the visit allowed us to explore different approaches to architectural practice where older people have more active roles in the design and management of ageing cities (from cooperative senior cohousing to inter- and multigenerational housing projects, as well as accessible public space infrastructures, ranging from sidewalks to beaches and public transportation).

With this Zine we wish to share some of our main reflections, learnings to engage ethnographically with late life urbanism in Costa Blanca (or should we say eng-age?). The Zine could be taken as a long thank you note and a memoir of our encounters with different initiatives. But we also see it as a relevant intergenerational gift of sorts, lent to future urban researchers on these topics.

Download

Lo-Res PDF | Hi-Res PDF

Editorial team

Adam Petráš, Anna Maria Schlotmann, Christine Maicher, Doreen Sauer, Erman Dinç, Maximilian Apel & Tomás Sánchez Criado

Design and typesetting

Maximilian Apel

CC BY NC ND November 2023 Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

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ecologies more-than-human urban and personal devices

Acte d’obertura de la Barcelona Innova Week i presentació dels projectes guanyadors del repte urbà d’ombratge efímer

Jornada > Barcelona Innova Week 2023

Dimarts, 14/11/2023

De 11.30 a 13.30 h. Ca l’Alier (Pere IV, 362, Barcelona)

Debat i reflexió al voltant de les oportunitats derivades de les transformacions urbanes, ja siguin evolutives, provisionals, efímeres o casuals. 

Programa*

  • 11.30-12.00 h Diàleg sobre la ciutat canviant i sorprenent. Elvira Dyangani Ose, Directora del MACBA i Laia Bonet, Primera Tinenta d’Alcaldia de l’Ajuntament de Barcelona. Modera Isabella Longo, directora de projectes de BIT Habitat.
  • 12.00-12.30 h Presentació dels projectes guanyadors del repte “Generació d’ombratge efímer a l’espai públic
    • Oasis, ombra per a tothom. Denvelops i Eurecat
    • Mar d’ombres. Batec
    • A l’ombra del trencadís. Arquitectura de contacte
  • 12.30-13.00 h Taula rodona: “L’oportunitat de la ciutat canviant”. Maria Buhigas, arquitecte en cap de l’Ajuntament de Barcelona, Marc Montlleó, Director de Medi Ambient i Eficiència Energètica de Barcelona Regional, Tomás Sánchez Criado, investigador sènior Ramón y Cajal en el grup de recerca CareNet-IN3 de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya i Marina Cervera, directora Executiva de la Biennal Internacional de Paisatge. Modera Isabella Longo, directora de projectes de BIT Habitat.
  • 13.00-13.30 h Aperitiu – treball en xarxa

*Cal inscripció prèvia

Categories
accessibility caring infrastructures city-making ecologies ecologies of support ethics, politics and economy of care more-than-human older people publications urban and personal devices

Reassembling Ageing, Ecologising Care?

Upon Patrick Laviolette and Aleksandar Bošković’s invitation, I have written the Anthropological Journal of European Culture’s Editorial Response to Issue 32(1) on Materialities of Age & Ageing.

Reassembling Ageing, Ecologising Care?

Welfare states and market actors across the world have transformed what ageing as a process and being old as an embodied identity might be today, through a wide range of equipment, services and infrastructures. This ‘material’, when not ‘materialist’ drive is the object of analysis of the proposals gathered in AJEC‘s 32(1) special issue, which features different case studies aiming to foreground hitherto under-analysed ‘age-related matters’ to offer conceptual and ethnographic proposals to better understand what the editors call ‘landscapes of ageing and pressing gerontological concerns.’ The backbone of this special issue addresses how ‘material culture’ works in anthropology might be affected by what in other neighbouring disciplines like STS and Ageing studies is being addressed as a ‘socio-gerontechnological’ approach: that is, a joint attention to how ageing is a material process, as well as how materials inscribe or support peculiar meanings or ontologies of ageing.

Drawing from the recent experience of teaching the StudienprojektAgeing Cities: The Crisis of Welfare Infrastructures’ – and particularly reflecting on a field trip where we visited Benidorm and other ageing enclaves in the Costa Blanca (Alicante, Spain) – in my editorial response I wish to take issue with the need to widen this material agenda around ageing bodies and their situated enactments, thinking beyond classic ‘material culture’ objects of study – the home and everyday technologies – and venturing into wider and more convoluted urban arenas, with their variegated scales and material entities. These problematisations, I believe, would force us to provide less metaphorical uses of ecological vocabularies, hence addressing the challenges that these materialised ‘landscapes’ entail for to our conceptions and practices of care: perhaps pushing us to consider the very environmental effects of ageing-friendly modes inhabiting and terraforming, and the new forms of care these landscapes – deeply affecting, in turn, ageing processes — might need?

Recommended citation: Criado, T. S. (2023). Reassembling Ageing, Ecologising Care? (Editorial Response to Issue 32(1) on Materialities of Age & Ageing). Anthropological Journal of European Cultures32(2), v-xii | PDF

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caring infrastructures city-making ecologies of support functional diversity & disability rights publications urban and personal devices

Learning with others about neurodiverse spatial practice > GeoAgenda “Field Trips as Pedagogical Devices”

For the most recent issue of GeoAgenda, the journal of the Swiss Association of Geography, Julio Paulos and Sven Daniel Wolfe have put together a collection of short interventions around the theme “Field Trips as Pedagogical Devices”

The main question they sought to explore was: What are the educational benefits of urban field trips? This special issue of GeoAgenda aims to answer this question through a series of stories, experiences and reflections.

As they suggest in their introduction (p.4):

Field trips are a common unit of study in geography curricula, and they are widely valued for the valuable hands-on learning experiences they provide. Nevertheless, they remain peripheral to most geography curricula. We don’t mean to suggest that field trips should be at the centre of teaching, but that a rethinking of teaching formats outside the classroom, and even within the classroom, is necessary to prepare students for the realities they will encounter once they graduate or leave academia. Field trips give students (and teachers) a vivid, first-hand understanding of (urban) environments. They allow for an exploration of the complexity, diversity, and multiplicities of urban life in a way that cannot be conveyed by classroom instruction alone.

This issue highlights these benefits, but also delves deeper into the issues of reflecting the standards of classroom teaching. In doing so, it calls for a more situated and experimental rethinking of university education.

Upon the gracious invitation of Julio (to whom I’d like to thank here), together with Micol Rispoli and Patrick Bieler we contribute to it with a short piece called:

Learning with others about neurodiverse spatial practice

In early 2020 Micol Rispoli (architect) and Tomás Criado (anthropologist) were working on a design experiment exploring how neurodiverse spatial practice might put architectural design practice in crisis. In previous months they had been engaging with a neurodivergent person and his family. They also had been revising standard architectural approaches to accessible design, in particular with neurodivergent people. But they felt they needed to discuss their predicaments with someone more experienced in these issues. Tomás, then, engaged his colleague Patrick Bieler (anthropologist), an experienced researcher on these matters, to join the conversation.

What follows is the account of a trip to the sights of Patrick’s fieldwork, where we tried to learn together what neurodiverse spatial practice might do to urban design.

Recommended citation: Rispoli, M.; Criado, T. & Bieler, P. (2023). Learning with others about neurodiverse spatial practice. GeoAgenda, 2023/2: 18-19 | PDF

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caring infrastructures ecologies ethics, politics and economy of care events functional diversity & disability rights maintenance and repair more-than-human objects of care and care practices techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Problemas de cuidado y el cuidado de los problemas > Vidas Descontadas

Gracias a la amable invitación de María Martínez, Maite Martín Palomo e Iñaki Rubio, en el marco del seminario permanente del proyecto “Mundo(s) de víctimas 3: Proyecto Vidas Descontadas. Refugios para habitar la desaparición social”, el próximo 15 de junio a las 11:00 estaré compartiendo mi trabajo en torno a: “Problemas de cuidado y el cuidado de los problemas“.

Para ello, revisitaré algunas publicaciones propias recientes (Care in Trouble & Anthropology as a careful design practice?) donde he estado interrogándome sobre la noción de cuidado como concepto y como cualidad de ciertas prácticas “cuidadosas” vinculadas al diseño. Esta indagación ha tenido lugar en un contexto de generalización presente de sus usos, no sólo en la jerga académica de campos como la antropología o los estudios de la ciencia y la tecnología (donde suelo habitar y pasar mi tiempo). A pesar de la relevancia de recuperar sus orígenes combativos e inclusivos prometedores en el pensamiento feminista, la expansión del cuidado más allá de los contextos de salud o cuidado interpersonal ha dado lugar a la aparición de un vocabulario político en toda regla, reivindicado en discursos muchas veces securitarios, trascendiendo a lenguajes institucionales del orden y el mantenimiento, así como alegatos etno-nacionalistas. A pesar de que esta generalización pudiera hacernos pensar en el éxito del término y la gran suerte de vivir en un presente más habitable, la violencia ambiente en que vivimos no parece augurar que esta popularidad tenga un fácil correlato en nuestra cotidianidad, ¿quizá como síntoma de un deseo o una aspiración evanescente? Antes que sugerir arrojar el término por la borda, me gustaría abordar los problemas de cuidado ante los que nos sitúan intervenciones sobre lo social en nombre de una aspiración cuidadosa que parecen tener claro lo que se necesita y cómo, donde la violencia efectiva también aparece como una violencia epistémica. Más allá de usos paliativos o vinculados a la reparación de órdenes existentes, quizá la única vía para que el cuidado no sea parte del problema, pudiera pasar por tratarlo como una práctica del cuidado de los problemas: un modo de abrirnos a los contornos de lo posible de frágiles ecologías de soportes, con conocimientos y maneras de hacer muchas veces relegadas al olvido, cuando no invisibilizadas, donde antes que vidas con contornos claros, la especulación de lo por venir participa de la ingente tarea de construir entornos para la vida plural en el presente (donde, muchas veces, antes que reparar o continuar, necesitaremos desarmar y tirar abajo). Una tarea que, en mi propio trabajo, ha ido vinculada a repensar la etnografía como práctica de diseño cuidadoso (de la que pondré algunos ejemplos vinculados a participar de colectivos de diseño activista desde el montaje de ecologías de documentación abierta, o el trabajo pedagógico para re-sensibilizar a profesionales del diseño urbano a que re-aprendan colaborativamente su práctica ante la radical presencia de quienes suelen hacerse cargo de sus designios). Esto es, una tarea donde el cuidado aparece no tanto como un concepto que clausura, sino como práctica emergente para las ciencias sociales, re-equipando o engendrando formas y dispositivos de indagación cuidadosa (atenta al cuidado de los problemas), para participar de la problematización conjunta de ecologías de soportes en condiciones de violencia ambiente.

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caring infrastructures experimental collaborations intravention materials more-than-human multimodal publications re-learning design techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Anthropology as a Careful Design Practice?

As part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (Journal of the DGSKA – German Association for Social and Cultural Anthropology) Kristina Mashimi, Thomas Stodulka, Hansjörg Dilger, Anita vonPoser, Dominik Mattes and Birgitt Röttger-Rössler curated a plenary in the DGSKA 2019 in Konstanz titled ‘Envisioning Anthropological Futures‘ in which I had the honour to join a conversation with inspiring colleagues Janina Kehr, Sandra Calkins, and Michaela Haug.

Later, our contributions compiled into a manuscript for a special section of the ZfE that has recently appeared as part of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie/Journal of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 145 – 2020, 1.


As the editors argue in their introduction:

“The contributions in this special section discuss the challenges, tensions, and prospects of doing anthropology today: How do we position ourselves as anthropologists in a time that is marked by the rise of populist and fascist movements, climate crisis, and related environmental disasters? How do we respond to highly unequal processes of social inclusion and exclusion? How can we not only describe but also contribute to an imagination of the horizons of possibility amidst capitalist ruins (Tsing 2015)? Or in other words: What is the role of anthropology in not only representing but maybe also envisioning and shaping alternative futures? Although anthropology has been entangled with geopolitical issues ever since its inception, our current “troubled times” (Stoller 2017) have brought the political back to center stage within the discipline (Postero and Elinoff 2019). They have also provoked many anthropologists to rethink the conventional descriptive or critical practices of our field and to reflect on new ways of engaged and activist anthropology (Low and Merry 2010; Huschke 2015) – or in other words, on the role of anthropology in carving out and shaping spaces that offer alternatives to dominant socio-economic arrangements, characterized by growing inequalities” (p.15)


Kristina Mashimi, Thomas Stodulka, Hansjörg Dilger, and Anita von Poser (2020) Introduction: Envisioning Anthropological Futures (and Provincializing their Origins)

In my contribution, I speculate on the possible futures for anthropological practice that might open up when, rather than studying or collaborating in corporate or professional design activities, we undertake anthropology as a careful design practice: to envision a future – for anthropology and beyond – there is perhaps no other way than to pry open the un- certain, but also deeply asymmetric and expertocratic conditions of the present. For this, we may need to place at the very core of our anthropological endeavours a critical desire to design conditions for opening up to a plurality of knowledge platforms, so as to heighten our joint arts of learning how to know and live with one another. A careful practice to undo the conditions of those whose actions have the potential to be harmful. Drawing from this, and if anthropology wants to contribute to more careful modes of togetherness, so that diverging and plural worlds can thrive, perhaps we need to envision ways of engaging with design, not just through superbly written stories with a critical or conceptual twist, but also learning to affect it ‘from within’ its own practices.

My appreciation goes to the editors for their kind invitation, and for pushing me to clarify my arguments. Many thanks to Ignacio Farías and Ester Gisbert for the mutual inspiration in envisioning pedagogic avenues for anthropology to be relevant in architectural worlds. Also, thanks to Francisco Martínez, Daniela Rosner and Janina Kehr, who commented on versions of the manuscript at various stages.

Anthropology as a Careful Design Practice?

How can we envision the future of anthropology in the present times of crisis, when the social as we knew it, and the conventional descriptive and critical practices of our discipline may no longer be adequate? Here I tentatively draw on work at the crossroads of design, where the future can be reclaimed as a disciplinary concern for anthropology. Design has recently become a significant source of methodological and political inspiration for our discipline to take part in the materialisation of alternative forms of world-making. Yet, as design is not a unitary field, I will particularly dwell on how I have re-learnt and experimented with what being an anthropologist might mean in encounters with urban accessibility design activism. In these careful explorations I have found not only an inspiring field of inquiry within knowledge politics, but also a relevant domain for interventions seeking to create technical democracy. Describing a particular case of how I became ‘activated’ by this design activism – drawing inspiration from their practices for teaching future architects – I speculate on the possible futures for anthropological practice that might open up when, rather than studying or collaborating in corporate or professional design activities, we undertake anthropology as a careful design practice.

Recommended citation: Criado, T.S. (2021). Anthropology as a Careful Design Practice? Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 145 (2020): 47–70 | PDF