Cosmopolitan Practices

The European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes. Vol 1, no 1 (2018)
ISSN 2612-0496

Cosmopolitan Practices

Vando BorghiUniversity of Bologna (Italy)

Andrea BorsariUniversity of Bologna (Italy)

Amir DjalaliUniversity of Bologna (Italy)

Published: 2018-12-31

The European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes emerged from the initiative a group of researchers, practitioners, administrators and organizers, coming from various backgrounds, who started collaborating within the Horizon 2020 ROCK project to experiment innovative solutions for the regeneration of historical European cities. As a parallel to the fast-paced activities required by technological and social innovation, CPCL was initiated to provide the time and the space for (self-)reflection upon the practices and the agents that make and transform the European city. The concepts at the core of the Journal are presented in CPCL’s Zero issue editorials.1

In this inaugural issue, CPCL reflects upon the first adjective that qualifies its title. What is the European city? What does it mean to be European, today? The project of a political unity of Europe of Nations, as it was imagined in the postwar period, has long been defeated. The end of the world order based on the Cold war, the rise of global wars, climate change, and the rise of new possibilities and desires emerging in an increasingly connected world have radically changed the way in which people inhabit the Earth today. The fading neoliberal as well as the rising sovereignist political projects seem unable or unwilling to give up the organization of a political space still based on borders as devices to manage, control, put to work and govern human beings. However, alongside hatred and racism, in the everyday practices of migrants and citizens new forms of solidarity, organization and communication are emerging. This issue of CPCL presents a series of studies putting at the center experiences exceeding the juridical order as an experimentation of new institutions, new life possibilities and new forms of habitations.

The first two contributions address the irreducible necessity and desire for movement which human life expresses, one which is negated by the organisation of camps. Professor Robert Gordon, writing from the perspective of the international symposium that was held at the former concentration camp in Fossoli (Modena),2 problematized the use of the category of camps, as in the famous definition proposed by Giorgio Agamben, to interpret modernity and its spatial deployment. Looking at transit allows Gordon to see modern camps not as enclosed entities abstracted from European’s spatial and juridical order, but on the contrary as part of a larger network, in a porous relation between their inside and outside. The relation between movement and forceful immobilisation is also the key through which Pierpaolo Ascari approaches the life of camp dwellers. Through the lens of Frantz Fanon’s writings, by looking at the body of the interned, with their concrete perceptions and affections, Ascari poses the basis for a phenomenology of waiting.

The possibility of movement is also central when dealing with strategies of commoning bringing together citizens and non-citizens in contemporary European cities. Two contributions bring an ethnographic account on two experiences of the solidarity and collaboration between resident and migrant groups in Berlin and Brussels. Katharina Rohde and Viviana d’Auria present the act of walking as a radical antidote to urban segregation, bringing migrant’s pedetic force as their “prime source of agency” against the forced stasis imposed upon them by camp life. Racha Daher and Viviana d’Auria present the case of the constitution of large networks of citizens in support to migrants in Brussels, during and after the so-called 2015 “refugee crisis.” The authors show how, beyond the rhetoric of emergency, new stable forms of grassroots organisation have been consolidated as “mobile commons.”

Solidarity is unfortunately not the only way through which Europeans approach the arrival of migrants in their cities. The Greek far-right party Golden Dawn, favoured by the economic crisis and the international blackmail over the Greek government, finds in the contested spaces of Athens a fertile ground for their politics of hatred. Aikaterini Antonopoulou decodes the use of low-resolution Youtube videos that constitute a central part of the party’s propaganda, in the perspective of a coming cosmopolitics of conflict between various forms of situated knowledges.

The Practices section is CPCL’s platform for the dialogue among the various figures and approaches through which the city is understood and transformed. Matthew Bach, Anthony Colclough, Cécile Houpert, Cristina Garzillo, editors of the section, present a series of initiatives on how European cities has approached the issue of permanence and impermanence in recent years. Two dialogues close the issue on the practice of academic research and its social responsibility in urban regeneration processes vis-à-vis the mass transit of people in European cities for leisure or work. Vando Borghi and Davide Olori reflect with Roberto Falanga and Chiara Pussetti from the Instituto de Ciências Sociais of the University of Lisbon on the role of tourism in the urban regeneration and the branding of Portuguese capital, problematizing the role of urban researchers towards city administrations and residents’s organizations. In the last interview, Vando Borghi and Amir Djalali interview architectural historian Esra Akcan (Cornell Universtiy) on her last book on one of the largest and most successful urban regeneration processes in the postwar period—the IBA Berlin (1979-1987), highlighting the forgotten role of guest workers, mainly from Turkey, in the development of the housing program.

The idea that emerges from these contributions is that citizenship can be understood not as a set of rights bureaucratically conceded from above, but as a capacity, the power to act politically which is directly exercised in the everyday practices of the nomadic as well as the sedentary populations of European cities. The examples in this issue suggest that the cosmopolitanism of European cities is far from being a universal and ideal concept. Cosmopolitanism is currently practiced by the creative capacity of the people who inhabit European cities, beyond the national and European policies that inhibit and criminalize the free movement of people.

Thanks to the Authors for their patience and for having believed in this project despite all the uncertainties linked to the launch of a new journal. This issue would have been impossible without the help of a dedicated team of anonymous peer reviewers, whose names can now be finally disclosed: Vanessa Azzeruoli, Bernardina Borra, Teresa Carlone, Giulia Custodi, Deanna Dadusc, Ivano Gorzanelli, Platon Issaias, Marta Menghi and Davide Olori.


  1. CPCL Agency, “Culture as Primary Political Action in City Governance: Three Key Concepts and Ten Policies to Start With,” The European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes 1, no. 0 (2018), https://cpcl.unibo.it/article/view/8153/7840; Carola Hein, “Creative Practices: Bridging Temporal, Spatial, and Disciplinary Gaps,” The European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes 1, no. 0 (2018), https://cpcl.unibo.it/article/view/8154/7842.

  2. “Transit camps in Europe from the Second World War to today: history, spaces, and memories,” Fondazione Fossoli, Carpi (Modena), 3-6 October 2018, https://www.fondazionefossoli.org/it/news_view.php?id=612.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Vando Borghi, Andrea Borsari, Amir Djalali

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