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"Metropolitan Temporalities", panel descriptions

1) Questioning the Temporalities of Metropolitan Memory

Within the interdisciplinary sub-field of memory studies that has emerged since the 1980s, the urban realm has been acknowledged to be particularly well-attuned to reflect the dynamics of social memory and has subsequently been elevated as a key context for investigation. Within this body of literature, however, notions of temporality and time are often under-scrutinized and their significance is often assumed to be self-evidently connected to the process of handling the past in the present. Temporality is almost always present but is rarely the focus of such studies. One notable and influential theoretical exception is Jan Assmann’s attention to memory transitions, most significantly the transition between ‘communicative’ and ‘cultural’ memory, determined by generational cycles and characterised by durations of 80-100 years. In addition, numerous empirical studies have emphasised memory moments or ‘flashpoints’ – commemorative anniversaries or instances of returning social relevancy that facilitate the remembrance of specific pasts and the repression of others. These explications of mnemonic temporalities, however, may themselves be of the past, outdated and no longer suited for the study of metropolitan memory in the early 21st century. Globalisation processes, in particular the spread of virtual and digital technologies with their increasing degrees of social connectivity and instantaneity, have eroded the sharp distinctions that formerly characterised notions of ‘metropolis’, ‘time’ and ‘temporality.’ This urban temporal transformation has undoubtedly changed the nature of urban memory, although the precise ways in which this has occurred has yet to be fully empirically investigated or theoretically formulated. As such, papers presented in this session will question and explicate the changing temporalities of urban memory.  Presenters will explore the temporal transfigurations of existing theories of urban memory and question their ongoing validity through the application of comparative and transnational perspectives in reference to empirical case studies.

2) Reconciling Temporalities of Transformation

Urban transformations – here conceived of in the broadest of terms – occur through varying temporalities, e.g., the timeframes of planning and execution, the rhythms of everyday spatial use, the tempo of change, and the pace of acceptance. This panel aims to analyse the temporality of urban transformation and more specifically, the role that temporality plays in the conflictual nature of change. Whether it is the purposeful transformations of planners and developers, the evolution of place through population change or political shift, or the changes caused by shifting uses and dynamics of space, all transformations create tensions and conflicts. Can competing temporalities create conflict? What role do temporal categories play in already existing conflicts? How are such temporal conflicts resolved? How might temporality itself be used as a method of reconciling conflicts over urban transformation?

3) Everyday Life, Informality, and the Experience of Permanent Temporariness

Contemporary city life is shaped by everyday experiences of instability and impermanence linked to growing housing and income insecurity, financial precariousness, deregulation, and crumbling welfare states. Related to these processes, informal practices as well as spaces of informality - or "gray spaces", as Oren Yiftachel terms them - are globally expanding. However, how the state is dealing with such activities differs from context to context. State interventions range from clamping down on informal spaces immediately to tolerating them to a certain extent. The tolerance or even encouragement of such gray spaces preserves many of these informal activities in a state of "permanent temporariness", that is tolerated but condemned, and that perpetually waits to be corrected. This notion of "permanent temporariness" needs further in-depth investigation, especially on the temporal dimension: the seemingly opposing notions of permanence and temporariness generate conceptual tension as they are being experienced simultaneously in everyday city life.  This session brings together contributions that engage the question in what way this status of permanent temporariness has become an everyday experience in contemporary city life. Given the thematic concern of the conference, the papers explicitly embark on the temporal dimensions in these everyday practices and, furthermore, conceptually expand the notion of permanent temporariness. This session aims to bring together established researchers and new scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds working in the urban context of both the Global North and the Global South.

4) Cultural Representations of Urban Rhythm

The perception of cities as everyday environments has been a central subject of artistic production ever since they existed. Although this may seem most apparent in image based artistic genres, it can be argued that temporal and spatial rhythms are main organizing principles in all forms of art. When looking at times of change in the rhythm of everyday life in urban societies it becomes obvious that these changes – caused by processes such as industrialization, economic growth, commodification, political restructuring,
(de-)densification, and increased foreign cultural influence – trigger shifts in prevalent forms of artistic expression. This may lead as far as to the invention of new modes or genres of artistic production, as exemplified by the widely studied example of “City Symphonies” in the 1920s, documentary flows of urban images structured by film cutting and musical form.

In this panel we will investigate the cultural production of urban imaginaries in times of crisis. We define "times of crisis" as times of evident change in habitual conditions of life causing a changed spatial and temporal perception on the urban level. The panel seeks to look at these interactions and parallels between changes in temporal dimensions of artistic productions and those of urban life from a historical perspective. We will explore the following themes: In what capacity did an altered urban rhythm produce or require new formal means of artistic production? In which ways did a culturally transferred (artistic) rhythm modify the perception of the existing ones? Are there analogies in terms of the use of urban rhythms in different artistic forms of expression and at different times (e.g. in the first and second Avant-garde)? And how did the reception of these new aesthetic forms possibly change the perception of the metropolis?

5) Histories of the Future Metropolis

Be it as utopian visions, apocalyptic fears or development plans – urban futures have always played a vital role in how cities were experienced as well as governed. Until today, the question of how the future of urban environments should look like often serves as an arena for struggles of recognition and regularly causes furious debates.

This panel aims to explore the complex strategies of how the futures of cities were anticipated and made plausible throughout history. It asks about the ways these scenarios served as tools to (re)produce social order or juxtapose them. Furthermore, it alludes to the specific historical dynamics of how these ideas of urban futures were propagated, reaching from exhibitions, world fairs, and urban planning to novels, movies, and other media. A specific focus will be placed on the various roles these future visions played in the everyday practices, subjectivities, and governmental techniques of western metropolises.    

6) Political Time in Urban Settings

Berlin, Toronto, and New York have faced a set of common challenges since roughly 1989 (date of the Wende in Berlin and onset of a severe recession in the US and Canada). These have included further deindustrialization, fiscal stress, the rise of new immigrant communities, efforts to promote economic development through sometimes questionable marquee projects, the fiscal and housing crisis of the post-2007 period, rising rent burdens, and gentrification. This panel will address the timing of efforts to respond to these challenges in Toronto, Berlin, and New York. More specifically, we would like to consider a.) the timing of how and why urban movements do or do not form political coalitions responding to these challenges; and/or b.) the temporal dimension of municipal government policies concerning them.    

7) Colonizing Time? The Impact of Globalization on Urban Rhythms

The rhythmicity of cities is a result of the interplay many different cycles: natural cycles (day and night, lunar and seasonal cycles, climate etc.) but of even more importance are manmade cycles like the week, calendars, the academic year, holidays, bank holidays, seasonal or weekly peak days, working time arrangements, opening hours of shops, production plants, services etc. Legal rules, regulations, cultures, and habits contribute to establish different rhythmicities of metropolises. With respect to internationalization and the relation between cites a lot of questions arise, e.g.:

-What is the impact of foreign populations on urban rhythms?
-How do foreign enterprises influence and change urban rhythms?
-How do collaborations over times zones (e.g. time zone shifts) influences urban rhythms?
-What impacts do high numbers of tourist, business travellers (temporary, especially international, populations) have on urban rhythms and how do inhabitants and their political representatives react?
-How do urban politicians and planners react in regulating time to demands of international firms (e.g. in the financial services)?

8) Time, Land and Rent

Time has always been a crucial factor in the relationship between capital accumulation and urbanization. The deeply intertwined linkage between accumulation and land/rent is enacted through processes such as cycles of accumulation, differing land value over time (Smith), and the spatio-temporal fix (Harvey), in which time plays a central role. Comparatively long payback periods and the durability of buildings make investment into the built environment an important asset, especially in times of economic uncertainty. In contrast to such long-term related characteristics, the current financialization of housing entails an acceleration of accumulation cycles and the expansion of short term speculative investments, as has been revealed in the opportunistic fonds’ short time-frames. At the same time, lengthening payback times is a currently wide-spread lending strategy to attract low-income households to the property market. The panel seeks to evaluate how time mediates the relationship between capital accumulation and urbanization in general. Specific attention will be paid to the recent acceleration in the real estate market in contrast to the lengthy building cycles.

How does this paradoxical temporality play out on the current real estate markets and construction projects? How do real or perceived crises influence the investors’ strategies concerning turnover times and time frames? How, if at all, does the state include “time” in its housing policies (e.g. binding and payback times’ considerations in affordable housing projects, etc.)? How do these changes affect processes of gentrification? What long term implications does the prioritization of public budget concerns over questions of the social infrastructure have for cities? Does temporality also become a discussed issue in conflicts triggered by the housing shortage? We plan to discuss in our panel these and other questions of time, land, and rent.

9) Everyday Temporalities and Contemporaneity in Urban Streets

Historically, streets and their social and spatial orders have changed over time according to the respective societal setting. Streets have always been the most profound units of urban life and the main elements to structure urban form and transportation. However, with the rise of the profession of urban planning, streets have been increasingly reshaped, according to the planner's ideals of their time. Today, streets with their specific spatial and social orders are the most dynamic space-time settings in a metropolis: they comprise a high degree of mobility, varying uses, agents, everyday practices and activities, norms, values, symbolic meanings, and power relations as well as a constant negotiation in between them. All of these coexist and affect each other according to the time of the day, week, year, and season. Thus, an ever-changing social and spatial environment is being produced in metropolitan streets, which has its own temporality and contemporaneity. Dealing with different levels of temporality and contemporaneity, this panel explores the role of time within the characterization of the metropolitan street and the processes that sustain street life and the intertwined relationship between spatial order, social order, everyday practices, and time in the urban street.

10) Urban Mobility, Social Acceleration and Time Regimes

The modern metropolis is characterized by an increasing acceleration of social interactions and economic practices. Since the evolution of enormous urban agglomerations in the late 19th century, time has become the most important resource for urban life. While commuting times determine the choice of residence, infrastructures are created to increase mobility and temporal efficiency. The panel analyzes the effects of mobility and acceleration on urban time regimes and spatial arrangements in the metropolis. What are the strategies of urban inhabitants to optimize available time? What is the impact of time efficiency on the spatial structure of the metropolis? Which are the main categories in which problems of time and mobility are perceived and analyzed in different historical, social and scientific contexts?

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