Public Lecture Series of the Center for Metropolitan Studies (TU Berlin) – WiSe 2018/2019 “Technologies of the City”


I am particularly happy to take part in this Winter Semester’s Public Lecture Series of the Center for Metropolitan Studies (TU Berlin), under the theme “Technologies of the City”.

In this context, next February 5th 2019 I will have the honour to present the following talk:

Infrastructure as ‘the people’: The social-technocracy of Barcelona’s accessible sidewalk standards

Disability rights activists have for a long time advocated for cities hospitable to bodily difference: de-stigmatizing, enabling, and supportive of their bodily diversity. Since the 1970s protests, many cities of the Global North have developed processes to sensitize architects, engineers, and civil servants so that such environments could be made to exist, creating the conditions for urban infrastructures to embody concrete arrangements of ‘sidewalk democracy.’ Drawing from archival, interview and observational work in the city of Barcelona, I would like to show different attempts at this: from the instalment of ‘free-barrier’ policies and architectural standards to more contemporary problematizations around ‘cultural’ and ‘multisensory’ approaches. Grounding on STS and Anthropology works, I would like to provide an account of the particular ‘infrastructural style’ of these undertakings, and the challenge it poses: or how a de-stigmatizing agenda is predated by its very mode of implementation.

To exemplify, I would like to reflect on the ways in which the city’s accessible sidewalks and crossings have been made and implemented to stand as infrastructures for ‘the people’. First, I will delineate the participatory governance processes–involving several representatives and associative movements of people with disabilities–through which the system of ‘urban elements’, including accessible sidewalks, was developed by the city hall. Second, I will show recent civic, techno-legal and techno-political controversies that have arisen after the enactment of a newer state-wide regulation, entailing an alternative sidewalk configuration: this will allow me to pay special attention to a ‘shared streets’ implementation in the iconic Passeig de Gràcia, which created as a response a united front of disability rights activists self-denominated ‘streets for all’, whose articulate demands were put on hold because ‘a technical solution was needed’.

In paying attention to the contested modes of composing those accessible urban infrastructures, I would like to analyze the relational architectures there arising, also reflecting on the challenges they pose to urban democracy. Even though the aspiration is openly and overtly social-democratic–these infrastructures standing for an aspiration to achieve an inclusive society for all, undoing and reworking the stigma of bodily diversity–, I call this infrastructure of public space and mobility an instance of ‘social technocracy’. In order to democratically respond to the many social demands of different stigmatized collectives and activist initiatives wishing to further use the city and move around, the only available strategy is a very paradoxical one: to produce an expert-managed, materially sealed, and procedurally closed-down to public scrutiny type of urban infrastructure. Rather tragically, in seeking to provide urban infrastructures and practices to tackle with manifold forms bodily stigma and social cohesion, newer versions of ‘inclusive exclusion’ are invented, of technocratic origin. Or, put otherwise, the material mode of expression and urban articulation of these political aspirations foregrounds infrastructures as ‘the people’. Against this background, alternative politicizations around accessibility, both intra- and extra-institutional might show us a way through: how, rather than engaging in classic political contestation, a technical democratization of these urban infrastructures is needed to avoid redoubling technocratically the harsh effects of stigma.


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Antropologia de les Infraestructures i les Mobilitats – GRECS (UB)

El próximo viernes 9 de noviembre Roger Sansi organiza en Barcelona unas jornadas bien interesantes sobre antropología de las infraestructuras y la movilidad. Gracias a su amable invitación, ahí estaré andaré presentando mi trabajo más reciente sobre las infraestructuras accesibles de la ciudad de Barcelona.

Dejo por aquí el programa:

JORNADES INTERNACIONALS ANTROPOLOGIA DE LES INFRAESTRUCTURES I LES MOBILITATS

Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat de Geografia i Historia, Aula 411

C.Montalegre 6, Barcelona.

9 de novembre 2018

10.45. Presentació  

11.00 Infrastructuring urban mobility: Discipline, culture and a tramway construction in Cuenca, Ecuador. Sam Rume, Universitat de Barcelona

11.30  ‘Baka Motility and Fascia: Mobilities, Infrastructures and Moving-Sensing Bodies’. Doerte Weig, Movement Research | Lancaster University, UK

12.00  Infrastructure as ‘the people’.The relational architecture of Barcelona’s accessible sidewalk standards. Tomás Criado, Humboldt-University of Berlin

12. 30  Infra-demos: Infrastructures and democracy in Greece Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije University Amsterdam

13.00 Discussió i debat general, a càrrec de Roger Sansi, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

3. 00 La infrastructura de la supervivencia urbana. Chatarreros senegaleses en las calles de Barcelona Mauricio Chemás, Universidad del Valle /Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

3.30  Las formas de lo informal. Estampas etnográficas de un garage klando en Ziguinchor, Baja Casamance (Senegal). Marta Contijoch, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

4. 00 Aproximación antropológica a la infraestructura central del transporte en la Baja Casamance: la Gare Routière de Ziguinchor. Romina Martínez Algueró, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

4.30 Discussió i debat a càrrec de Pedro Jose Sanchez, Université de Paris Ouest, Nanterre

5. 00 Aproximació panoràmica al marc general del desenvolupament contemporani d’infrastructures bàsiques a Cap Verd (Àfrica). Gerard Horta, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

5.30 Fitzcarraldo al Sàhara: les vicissituds del telefèric d’Ifni. Alberto Lopez Bargados, Universitat de Barcelona GRECS

6.00 Discussió i debat a carrec de Manuel João Ramos, ISCTE-IUL Lisboa.

Per més informació : rogersansi@ub.edu.

Experimental Collaborations – Book launch events

Experimental Collaborations: Ethnography through Fieldwork Devices‘ (#xcol), Adolfo Estalella and I’s co-edited book (Berghahn, 2018), is finally out! *

As stated in the book description:

In the accounts compiled in this book, ethnography occurs through processes of material and social interventions that turn the field into a site for epistemic collaboration. Through creative interventions that unfold what we term as ‘fieldwork devices’—such as coproduced books, the circulation of repurposed data, co-organized events, authorization protocols, relational frictions, and social rhythms—anthropologists engage with their counterparts in the field in the construction of joint anthropological problematizations. In these situations, the traditional tropes of the fieldwork encounter (i.e. immersion and distance) give way to a narrative of intervention, where the aesthetics of collaboration in the production of knowledge substitutes or intermingles with participant observation. Building on this, the book proposes the concept of ‘experimental collaborations’ to describe and conceptualize this distinctive ethnographic modality

The introduction’s PDF is freely available for download here

It has been a long journey, full of conversations and collaborative writing: A process of learning together how to practice contemporary anthropology; a collective project that required the generosity and effort of many people involved in the project. Therefore, we would like to share some of our joy and open up conversations of what it might imply in a series of forthcoming events:

#xcol-book launch event_1 Barcelona, 3 de mayo de 2018, 18–20h [ES]

Colaboraciones experimentales. Un inventario de dispositivos para la etnografía contemporánea‘.

Departament d’Antropologia Social, Universitat de Barcelona (Aula 207, 2º piso de la Facultat de Geografia i Història) – Organizado por el Grup de treball sobre Antropologia, Imatge i Cultura Visual (IVAC) de l’ICA y el Grup de Recerca en Antropologia i Pràctiques Artístiques (GRAPA)

#xcol-book launch event_2 Berlin, 3.7.2018 12-14h [EN]

Ethnographic Experimentation: An Inventory of Fieldwork Devices

Humboldt University of Berlin’s Department of European Ethnology Institutskolloquium ‘Conjunctures & Creations: Anthropological Transformations/Transforming Anthropology’. Moderated by Prof. Dr. Ignacio Farías.

#xcol-book launch event_3 Granada, 4.9.2018 17-18:30h [ES]

Conversation with Prof. Aurora Álvarez Veinguer (Social Anthropology, Granada) at the 4th AIBR International Conference of Anthropology, Granada (Spain)

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* In the next months, Berghahn is offering a 50% discount code (EST533 & AIBR18) for all individual online orders placed directly on their website

2018 Winter School of the Estonian Academy of Arts “Building Lives”

Delighted to be in Tallinn for the 2018 Winter School of the Estonian Academy of Arts (15-19 of January), thanks to the invitation of Francisco Martínez.

In particular, in my presentation–titled Technologies of friendship? Open design objects and their figurations of relatedness–I will be speaking about some of the particular creative processes of En torno a la silla (or ETS, the Barcelona-based critical disability and open design collective I have been part of since 2012), gadgets and indoor/outdoor spatial interventions whose conception and execution have entailed a  series of experiments whereby the relation between the people involved was granted particular architectural and design affordances. Indeed, and thanks to particular relations they have afforded, I will refer to them using the particular name the very collective has employed: i.e. technologies of friendship. Thinking from there I will search to unfold how En torno a la silla’s open design objects should not only be described as inscribing and supporting already existing relations but also affording a plexus of potential figurations of forms of relatedness, whereby the process of making is also a process of relating. Or, as I would call it, an exploration into a ‘how-to’ friendship: a particular mode of relating premised on the very concern of discussing and showing the how-to of relations.

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This Winter school, with the title Building Lives, invites for a reflection on the place buildings occupy in peoples’ biographies by studying the transformations of built forms and its correlation with individual subjectivities and societal changes at large. Specifically, the objective of the event is to explore the possibilities to correlate personal maturing and the life states of buildings and provide new tools, concepts and frameworks for understanding the plural life stages of the built environment.

A key proposition behind this Winter School is that comparisons can be drawn between the biographies of persons and the biographies of buildings, yet perhaps the metaphor of biography highlights a too linear process of change, instead of the eventful discontinuation and change of states they might go through.

The programme is set up to reconsider the birth, death, and reconstitution of the built environment by paying attention to the different relations that emerge between buildings and people. The event will consist of lectures, workshops and artists talks, including a keynote and four excursions. Some possible lines of thought addressed by papers may be:

  • What are the recognised stages of a building’s life?
  • Can we use human metaphors to study the built environment?
  • In which ways do buildings store personal memories and social significance?
  • What discrete activities are engendered to maintain buildings alive?
  • When or what is the ultimate no-return point that marks the death of buildings and their functional discontinuation?

Organiser: Francisco Martínez

Invited scholars: Tomás Errázuriz (Andrés Bello, Chile); Andres Kurg (EKA); Patrick Laviolette (Tallinn Univ.), Michał Murawski (Queen Mary Univ. of London); Tomás Sánchez Criado (Munich Center for Technology in Society)

Artists, designers & architects: Andra Aaloe; Flo Kasearu; Paul Kuimet; Laura Kuusk; Karli Luik; Triin Ojari; Margit Säde; Ingel Vaikla and Tüüne-Kristin Vaikla.

Programme

15th, Monday (Suur Kloostri 11, Interior Design Dept.)

10:30 Introduction and lecture by F. Martínez, Architectural Taxidermy

11:45 Seminar by P. Kuimet

14:00 Seminar by L. Kuusk

15:00 Lecture by T. Errázuriz, When new is not better: the making of home through holding on to objects

16:00 Seminar by T.K. Vaikla, How long is the life of a building? Screening the film ‘The House Guard’ (I. Vaikla, 2014),

17:00 Excursion to the F. Kasearu Museum.

16th, Tuesday (Suur Kloostri 11, Interior Design Dept.)

10:30 Students’ Seminar.

14:00 Excursion to the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.

16:00 Excursion: Sense of Domesticity by A. Aaloe & M. Säde.

17th, Wednesday Independent research by the students, preparing their own work on the biographical correlation between people and buildings / the built space.

18th, Thursday (Suur Kloostri 11, Room 103, Art History Dept.)

10:00 Keynote Lecture by M. Murawski, People make buildings (and buildings make people), but not under conditions of their own choosing. Chair, A. Kurg.

12:00 Round table about the life stages of buildings with T. K. Vaikla, K. Luik, T. Ojari, A. Kurg, and M. Murawski.

14:00 Independent research by the students

19th, Friday (Suur Kloostri 11, Interior Design Dept.)

10:30 Lecture by T. Sánchez Criado, Technologies of friendship? Open design objects and their figurations of relatedness.

12:00 Lecture by P. Laviolette, Buildings A-live

14:30 Presentations by students.

A ‘how-to’ anthropology? – Antropologie Umělcům, Brno

Next November 28th I will be in Brno to take part in the Antropologie Umělcům, a series of course of lectures, discussions and screenings organized by Kristína Jamrichová on current approaches and various forms of collaboration between Social Sciences and Contemporary Art not only within the so-called Visual Studies but including also other fields and topics such as experiment, engagement, applicability or design. The courses will take place from 16th to 30th November 2017 in Aula FAVU VUT in Brno, Czech Republic.

Here you can access the information of mine’s:

A ‘how-to’ anthropology? The ‘ethnographic recursions’ of tutorial and documentation-driven projects

In the last years, I have engaged as ethnographer in extensive tutorial and open documentation projects of different activist ‘free culture’ and ‘DIY’ urban groups in Spain (mainly, the activist design collective of Barcelona “En torno a la silla” and other associated endeavours). In my ethnographic work with them I have had to partake of art-related and design-inspired multimodal playful experimentations addressing styles, genres, and formats of documenting design processes and events. Thus, what might have only been a descriptive stance of a particular design culture became an inventive process, full of ‘re-descriptive’ moments, holding in suspension the very aims and goals, as well as the modes of authorship, the devices and the narrative styles brought to bear to ethnographic endeavours as practices ‘documenting’ the life of others. Such joint modes of relating–that is, of producing encounters or forms of togetherness as well as accounts–had a lasting impact on my very ethnographic practice, generating many moments of ‘unlearning.’ Here I wish to address the ‘ethnographic recursions’ they made me enter. Indeed, my involvement in such projects premised on the idea of the ‘how-to’ as a grounding trope has somehow urged me, in collaboration with other colleagues (namely, the ones we are gathering around the EASA’s Colleex network), to reinvent our fieldwork devices drawing inspiration from the how-to ontology of our epistemic partners. In showing somewhat playful attempts at translating that ‘how-to’ ontology into academic debates for the discipline I would like to delineate here the productivity of addressing forms of methodological rather than conceptual recursion as a way into other modes of learning and doing anthropology.

Efectos documentales – Taller en el Máster en Arquitectura Alicante

Mañana tendré el inmenso placer de poder estar en Alicante (algo que me apetecía especialmente desde hace mucho tiempo), gracias a la intermediación de Ester Gisbert y Miguel Mesa del Castillo, en el Máster en Arquitectura de la Universitat d’Alacant (Sala 01, Politécnica IV).

Mi intervención y los talleres en que estaremos trabajando, girarán en torno a los “efectos documentales“. En los últimos años–y sobre todo a partir tanto de mi participación como etnógrafo/documentador en el colectivo En torno a la silla, como de la experiencia pedagógica en una facultad de arquitectura–me ha venido interesando enormemente la importancia de una indagación sobre las “interfaces documentales”. A pesar de que en particular me he centrado en los ámbitos de diseño abierto y el activismo de la diversidad funcional, cada vez más me está interesando particularmente experimentar y reflexionar sobre cómo los diferentes tipos de trazos–en diferentes lenguajes, géneros o estilos, producidos para el recuerdo o la puntualización de la experiencia de momentos de gran intensidad colaborativa, o donde se está más preocupado por hacer más que por el pensar sobre lo que se hace–producen efectos particulares sobre quién, cómo y qué se diseña. Y, por ello, quisiera que prestáramos particular atención a diferentes dispositivos, plataformas, sistemas de registro, o métodos para la generación de encuentros donde producir acercamientos y situaciones para compartir las experiencias; esto es, interfaces donde la documentación–entendida más bien como una experimentación con diferentes medios, formatos, sensibilidades y momentos que al modo enciclopédico o positivista–se nos aparece como un recurso esencial para el descubrimiento y articulación de la experiencia compartida en la relación entre quienes construyen y los diferentes materiales con los que lo hacen; esto es, para el trazado de ciertas transformaciones o efectos, pero también para  permitir, recursivamente, generar otras relaciones en y a través de los procesos de diseño.

Soy consciente de que muy probablemente la principal impugnación o crítica de inicio a lo que voy a plantear aquí es que “no documentar así” también tiene sus efectos sobre el diseño, y me encantaría discutirlos; aunque me parece que la documentación, con todas sus dificultades y efectos complejos (porque aquí hablaré de la documentación que se enfoca en el proceso, no en ese proceso de documentarse para diseñar o en la producción de una divulgación a posteriori para hacer circular o vender un diseño), que a veces bloquean o paralizan un proceso de diseño, nos acerca a una reflexion mucho más mundana sobre las prácticas y la política del diseñar. Pero siendo una de sus principales virtude que abre registros de lo político que van más allá del “hacer visible” y que, al menos en los casos que he venido estudiando, plantean redistribuciones de la experticia, circulaciones de saberes, aperturas de relaciones e incorporaciones constantes de elementos o reacciones en los propios procesos y materializaciones (algo que no puedo llamar de otra forma que “auto-experimentación”).

1st Colleex Workshop – Ethnographic Experimentation: Fieldwork Devices and Companions

Ethnographic Experimentation: Fieldwork Devices and Companions

13th–15th July 2017, Jardim Botânico Tropical, Lisbon

First Workshop of the #Colleex 
Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation, an EASA network

Programme and book of abstracts

1st_Colleex_Programme (PDF)

1st_Colleex_Abstracts (PDF)

Call for Papers

“Fieldwork is not what it used to be” (Faubion and Marcus, 2009). The investigation of previously ignored social domains and the incorporation of new sensibilities beyond its typically verbal or visual conventions, have expanded ethnography: Anthropologists now engage in novel forms of relationship and intervention, and enter into heterodox exchanges with other disciplines like arts and design. The invocation of experimentation in fieldwork is part of this widened exploration of new ethnographic modalities that reshape the norm and form of fieldwork.

Recent invocations of experimentation in ethnographic projects are not merely a metaphorical gesture. Descriptive accounts of experimentation bring to life ethnographic imaginations that transform field informants into epistemic partners (Holmes and Marcus, 2005), remediate the form of ethnography in the company of others (Rabinow, 2011), or trade in the traditional comparative project of anthropology for a collaborative one (Riles, 2015). The experimental can thus be a distinctive articulation of the empirical work of anthropologists in the field.

The epistemic figure of experimentation is not new in anthropology (or other social sciences). On the contrary, the experimental nature of many ethnographic projects of the contemporary connects with and draws from the creative exploration of writing genres inaugurated in the 1980s but, while the experimental drive was then located in the space of representation, we are now witnessing a shift where fieldwork is a locus of experimentation.

To invoke ethnographic experimentation is not necessarily to signal a methodological rupture with conventional forms of ethnography. Rather, it is a distinctive form of narrating contemporary forms of fieldwork where ethnography is less a set of practicalities and procedures than a mode of anthropological problematization (Rabinow, 2011). Relying on the most genuine descriptive aspiration of anthropology, the invocation of ethnographic experimentation thus signals the exploration of conceptual languages for describing distinctive forms of engagement in the field.

Experimentation remains an elusive term however, sometimes loosely used, perhaps metaphorically or allegorically. At the workshop we would like to focus on specific, thoughtfully designed interventions through which ethnography in the field unfolds in experimental ways. We are interested in particular forms of relationship, material artefacts, digital infrastructures, fieldnotes genres, spatial venues, methods of meeting… Following John Law and Evelyn Ruppert (2013) we call them “fieldwork devices”: arrangements that assemble the world in specific social and material patterns for the production of knowledge. We thus invite scholars to share descriptive accounts that offer insights of how fieldwork devices turn ethnography into a venue for experimentation.

References
Faubion, J. D., & Marcus, G. E. (Eds.). (2009). Fieldwork Is Not What It Used to Be: Learning Anthropology’s Method in a Time of Transition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Holmes, D. R., & Marcus, G. E. (2005). Cultures of Expertise and the Management of Globalization: Toward the Re-Functioning of Ethnography. In A. Ong & S. J. Collier (Eds.), Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems (pp. 235—252). Oxford: Blackwell.
Law, J., & Ruppert, E. (2013). The Social Life of Methods: Devices. Journal of Cultural Economy, 6(3), 229—240.
Rabinow, P. (2011). The Accompaniment: Assembling the Contemporary. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.
Riles, A. (2015). From Comparison to Collaboration: Experiments with a New Scholarly and Political Form. Law and Contemporary Problems, 78(1-2), 147—183.

Organised by

#Colleex – Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation, an EASA network
Instituto de Ciências Sociais (ICS), Universidade de Lisboa
EBANO Collective – Ethnography-Based Art Nomad Organisation, Lisbon

Supported by

European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)
Jardim Botânico Tropical, Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência (MUNHAC), Universidade de Lisboa
Professorship for Participatory Technology Design, MCTS, TU Munich

Organising committee

Eeva Berglund, independent scholar
Francesca De Luca, ICS, ULisboa
Adolfo Estalella, Spanish National Scientific Council
Anna Lisa Ramella, Locating Media, University of Siegen
Chiara Pussetti, ICS, ULisboa
Tomás Sánchez Criado, MCTS, TU Munich

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Live tweets of ‘Ethnographic Experimentation: Fieldwork Devices and Companions’, First Workshop of the #Colleex Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation, an @EASAinfo network | 13th–15th July 2017, Jardim Botânico Tropical, Lisbon

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