The urbanization of politics in Eurasia

With the advent of planetary urbanization predatory developments intruded many cities. New urban movements have arisen in response and unsettled local political orders. For example, My-Poznaniacy for the first time in Polish history articulated an agenda around urban issues; Beirut’s You Stink movement bridged deeply entrenched sectarian divides by tackling the problem of waste (mis)management; Tehran’s anti-smog campaigns (Bahamestan and Nafas) circumvented official language in order to talk about the environment. In all such cases the “urban question” was central for fostering novel alliances, changing political discourses and redrawing the lines of division. Not always was the outcome progressive – Erdoğan’s politics of polarization in the wake of the Taksim Gezi Park protests or Romania’s center-right Uniunea Salvaţi Bucureştiul are cases in point. The diversity of issues that have germinated into the “urban agenda” beg further scrutiny, scrutiny that could unveil the variety of “urban questions” in the world.

  • What were the exact issues brought in to the public realm by articulating the “urban”?
  • Which groups coalesce around the urban agenda?
  • That kind of daily, material practices and activities, demonstrate that the “right to the city” is not only an abstract “cry and demand” but also a mundane, quotidian and collective practice?

We believe that employing a broader geographical focus is crucial for understanding the local meanings of “the right to the city”. Thus we embrace Jack Goody’s concept of Eurasia. By comparing and contrasting our examples, we wish to produce a set of new empirical cases for the global urban studies literature that has been hitherto dominated by insights drawn predominantly from the West, Latin American and Africa.

Don Mitchell,  Syracuse University and Uppsala University

Kacper Pobłocki, Warsaw University Centre for European, Regional  and Local Studies