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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, milena.bister AT and tomcriado AT 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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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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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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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)

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Ensamblajes peatonales: Los andares a ciegas como prácticas tecno-sensoriales | Pedestrian assemblages: Blind people’s walks as techno-sensory practices

Nuevo artículo publicado en AIBR, Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana junto a Marcos Cereceda.

New article published on AIBR, Iberoamerican Anthropology Journal with Marcos Cereceda.

Ensamblajes peatonales: Los andares a ciegas como prácticas tecno-sensoriales | Pedestrian assemblages: Blind people’s walks as techno-sensory practices


¿Cómo andan y cruzan las calles las personas ciegas? Esa es la pregunta, solo aparentemente sencilla, que hemos abordado a partir de un estudio etnográfico en la encrucijada de la Antropología Sensorial y los Estudios de Ciencia y Tecnología (STS) realizado en los últimos seis años en la ciudad de Barcelona. En él hemos seguido a diferentes activistas por los derechos de la diversidad visual en su cotidianidad, así como en sus trabajos de politización de las infraestructuras urbanas. A partir de una atención a la agencia múltiple y distribuida que equipa e in/habilita modos de desplazarse por la ciudad, esta pregunta nos permite describir la complejidad corporal, social, material y técnica que encierra este vulgar acto cotidiano. Nuestra indagación gira en torno a dos elementos principales: (a) la descripción de prácticas sensoriales para caminar a ciegas y (b) la descripción y examen del papel que juegan conjuntos de elementos no-humanos (animales y tecnológicos) que conforman el «equipamiento» para andar a ciegas. Profundizando el giro material y corporal de la antropología urbana sobre las realidades y prácticas de los peatones, transeúntes o flâneurs, en el presente trabajo queremos resaltar la importancia de prestar atención a los ensamblajes peatonales y las prácticas tecno-sensoriales que habilitan particulares desplazamientos: unos ensamblajes que en lugar de una ciudad hecha para el encuentro indiferente entre distintos sujetos, nos muestran una ecología compleja de soportes y acompañamientos para acoger la diversidad corporal.


How do blind people walk and cross the streets? This has been the guiding question, only simple at first glance, of our ethnographic study at the crossroads of Sensory Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies (STS), undertaken in the last six years in the city of Barcelona. In it we have followed different activists for the rights of people with “visual diversity” in their everyday urban displacements, and in their politicizations of urban infrastructures. Paying attention to the multiple and distributed agency that equips and dis/ables modes of moving about in the city, this question allows a description of the embodied, social, material and technical complexity that this mundane act entails. Our inquiry foregrounds two main elements: (a) the description of the sensory practices unfolded in blind walks; and (b) the description and close examination of the role played by non-human actors — animals and technologies — which constitute the “equipment” to walk as a blind person. Deepening urban anthropology’s material and embodied turn to the understanding of the circumstances of pedestrians, the present work wishes to highlight the relevance of considering pedestrian assemblages and the techno-sensory practices enabling particular types of displacements. A description around assemblages allows us to unfold a description of the city not as a place for the indifferent encounter of abled subjects, but as a complex ecology of supports and accompaniments to host bodily diversity.

Recommended citation: Cereceda, M. & Criado, T.S. (2021) Ensamblajes peatonales: Los andares a ciegas como prácticas tecno-sensoriales | Pedestrian assemblages: Blind people’s walks as techno-sensory practices. AIBR. Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana, 16(1), 165 – 190 | PDF (Español) · PDF (English)

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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

2021. Anthropology as a careful design practice?Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 145 (2020): 47–70
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


caring infrastructures design intraventions events experimental collaborations functional diversity & disability rights intravention objects of care and care practices re-learning design techniques & ways of doing urban and personal devices

Caring for intervention: Anthropology in multimodal design experiments > EE Forschungskolloquium Würzburg

Prof. Dr. Michaela Fenske and Isabella Kölz M.A. have invited me to join their interesting Forschungskolloquium WS 20/21 of the Lehrstuhl für Europäische Ethnologie/Volkskunde, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, titled: “Lebenswelten gestalten. Neue Forschungszugänge einer Anthropologie des Designs

On November 19 at 6pm, I’ll be joining them to talk about a series of experiments in multimodal anthropology from my own ethnographic engagements in a wide variety of exploratory and speculative design milieus where care, openness and playfulness are vindicated as part of their attempts at articulating alternative modes of togetherness: what kind of anthropological practice can we learn from them, how do they teach us other ways of caring for intervention?


19.11.20 „Caring for intervention: Anthropology in multimodal design experiments” Tomás Sánchez Criado, Berlin | Zoom:

03.12.20 „Aussortieren. Design Anthropologie des Alltags” Heike Derwanz, Oldenburg | Zoom:

10.12.20 „Design – von der Idee zur Umsetzung. Beispiele aus der Praxis der Ausstellungsgestaltung“   Claudia Frey, Würzburg |                     Zoom:

17.12.20 „Dinge am Lebensende“ – eine designanthropologische Studie“ Francis Müller & Bitten Stetter, Zürich | Zoom:

28.01.21 Gespräch auf der Grauen Couch Lioba Keller-Drescher & Gudrun König, Münster/Dortmund | Venue: Gebäude PH1, Hubland Süd, Hörsaal 1, Lehrstuhl für Europäische Ethnologie/Volkskunde, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg

accessibility caring infrastructures collectives design intraventions ethics, politics and economy of care experimental collaborations functional diversity & disability rights independent-living open sourcing press releases re-learning design technical aids urban and personal devices

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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collectives experimental collaborations functional diversity & disability rights independent-living participatory & collaborative design of care infrastructures urban and personal devices

Can ANT be a form of activism?

Throughout the last couple of years Anders Blok, Ignacio Farias, and Celia Roberts have been editing The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory.

As they conceived it, rather than as an hagiographic repetition of ANT ‘as is’, the companion has been crafted singularly so that each contribution shows and develops a question whereby ANT is mobilised, expanded, put to a test and taken further: In explorations and inquiries where all contributors have felt accompanied in different ways ‘near ANT’, as the editors describe in the introduction.

This companion explores Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as an intellectual practice, tracking its movements and engagements with a wide range of other academic and activist projects. Showcasing the work of a diverse set of ‘second generation’ ANT scholars from around the world, it highlights the exciting depth and breadth of contemporary ANT and its future possibilities. The companion has 38 chapters, each answering a key question about ANT and its capacities. Early chapters explore ANT as an intellectual practice and highlight ANT’s dialogues with other fields and key theorists. Others open critical, provocative discussions of its limitations. Later sections explore how ANT has been developed in a range of social scientific fields and how it has been used to explore a wide range of scales and sites. Chapters in the final section discuss ANT’s involvement in ‘real world’ endeavours such as disability and environmental activism, and even running a Chilean hospital. Each chapter contains an overview of relevant work and introduces original examples and ideas from the authors’ recent research. The chapters orient readers in rich, complex fields and can be read in any order or combination. Throughout the volume, authors mobilise ANT to explore and account for a range of exciting case studies: from wheelchair activism to parliamentary decision-making; from racial profiling to energy consumption monitoring; from queer sex to Korean cities. A comprehensive introduction by the editors explores the significance of ANT more broadly and provides an overview of the volume

In our contribution, Israel Rodríguez-Giralt and I mobilise the ANT-inspired repertoire of ‘activation’ to discuss not only how to study forms of collective action or techno-scientific activisms, but also–and mainly– ‘experimentally collaborative’ or ‘activated’ modes of research deriving from those engagements. Drawing from our several years long work together with the Spanish independent-living movement, and in particular with their activist explorations into the worlds of design, in our chapter we ask:

Can ANT be a form of activism?

CC BY SA 2011 Diversitat funcional BCN 15M


In this chapter we search to think with a concrete set of activist practices: the En torno a la silla collective, and in particular the research engagement afforded by its intense social and material explorations in the environmental intervention and remaking of wheelchair users and their surroundings. We characterize this particular form of research activism as ‘joint problem-making’: comprising a series of social and material interventions to problematize, transform, and account for the worlds being produced together with others. Building upon this, the chapter analyses the impact it had on us as researchers: or, to be more specific, on our ways of engaging ethnographically, and to consider how this might inspire the ‘experimentally collaborative’ or ‘activated’ ways in which ANT researchers might engage in other activist ecologies. Our hope is that in exploring our engagements with activism, ANT could become a more open and nonconformist research space: an ‘activated’ practice, problematizing in newer ways the relationship between description and action, exploring the manifold ways of being an analyst or a researcher that might be available when engaging in activist settings.

Published in The Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory (pp. 360–368). London: Routledge | PDF