The United Nations Human Rights and Habitat programmes connect how we live, to where we live. The association is premised on an understanding of cultures, communities and society through the lens of place. It sees them as inherently interlinked, and mutually reinforcing. Examining this liminal state, the Local Cultures – Global Spaces conference questions this idea as it appears at the intersection of cultural studies, sociology, human geography, architecture and urban planning.
It responds to debates around community networks and cultural traditions as independent of location. It addresses readings of the built environment as an isolated phenomena – as a series of constructed objects in, of, and for, themselves. Conversely, it acknowledges that how we live can be seen as inseparable from our built environments – our buildings, villages, towns and cities. In such readings, place may be defined as deterministic – as a central player influencing actions, and even identity. Positioning itself somewhere between these positions, Local Cultures – Global Spaces explores readings of societies and place as hybrid – as byproducts of the conflicting social, cultural and economic forces shaping our lives in multiple spheres.
If we take the city as a case in point, it can be critiqued as a site of displacement, economic inequity, gender marginalization and social exclusion. Viewed through such lenses, architecture, urban design and development policy simply ingrain the status quo. By contrast, for those celebrating cultural consumption, the city is a site for exchange – of ideas, experiences, identities, money, and more. Within this mix, the design of cities is central to the riches of globalization. It is where we find the Creative Class of Richard Florida, and where we enjoy the fruits of human production: cultural buildings, public spaces and the IT networks of the ‘smart city.’
In addressing questions of social and built environment theory and practice, then, this conference is interested in a diversity of ideas. From the social sciences, themes of interest may include cultural geographies, late Capitalism spatially manifest, and critiques of community and social justice, à la Lefevre and Harvey. In terms of architectural and urban design, the conference sees these concerns as reflected in participatory approaches to housing, examinations of queer space, Critical Regionalism, placemaking, and questions of race and planning, to name but a few.
In welcoming debates on these questions, Local Cultures – Global Spaces is a virtual conference involving a collaboration between Departments of Architecture, Sociology and Cultural Studies from universities in the UK, USA and China. It welcomes research papers, cases studies, ethnographic analyses and project reports on any of the questions raised above, or any of the themes of its partner universities:
Transforming a Precarious Present – People, Politics and Place, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
Revisiting Place – Current Global Conditions and Human-Spatial Relations, Cultural Management Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Decolonising Spatial Theories, Pedagogies & Practices, Department of Architecture and Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia.
Image: Q K