Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Call for Paper: "Loss and (re)Construction of Public Space in Post-Soviet Cities"!

Please find below our Call for Papers which is focused on the "Loss and (re)Construction of Public Space in Post-Soviet Cities"!  We invite full papers that address one of the topics outlined below. The peer-reviewed papers will be publsihed in a special issue of the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. The deadline for paper submission is 1 October 2014.

Please send your paper to and ! And please do not hesitate to contact us for further information!

We are looking forward to your interesting contributions which enrich the project, supported by the ira.urban network (!

With best regards,
Lela and Carola

Call for Paper:

Loss and (re)Construction of Public Space in Post-Soviet Cities
Editors: Lela Rekhviashvili, Carola Neugebauer              

The importance of public space as a site for power and resistance, facilitator of social exchange or a stage for art and performance has been long acknowledged in the academic literature. We understand public space as “all areas that are open and accessible to all members of the public in a society, in principle, though not necessarily in practice” (Orum & Neal, 2010). The purpose of this call for papers is to critically analyse the applicability and the importance of the term in a post-Soviet context. As public spaces host and reflect social and political cleavages, observing transformation of public spaces can be particularly helpful for understanding multiple and protracted transformation processes in post-Soviet societies. So far, however, changes in the meaning, design, use and negotiation of public space in post-Soviet cities remains to be terraincognita – besides notable exceptions such as the edited volume on ‘Urban Spaces after Socialism’ (Darieva & Kaschuba, 2011)). This special issue aims to fill this gap in the literature through exploring the tension between the loss and (re)construction of urban public space in post-Soviet cities, focusing on the agents of change, their practices and institutional settings that shaped loss and (re)construction of  public space.
Acknowledging considerable differences in urban experiences during socialism and deepened divergence after the collapse of Soviet Union, the peculiarity of post-Soviet transformation and urban public spaces originates – from our point of view - from two ambivalent developments: the new liberating opportunities to reconstruct the public space after 1990 as well as – at the same time - the loss of publicness due to new exclusive hierarchies (Darieva & Kaschuba, 2011).
Even though the role of the public/private dichotomy in Soviet Union is still debated, there is a considerable consensus suggesting that public spaces were of limited use due to extensive political control and surveillance, making the ideal of ‘everyone’s space’ effectively into ‘no-one’s space’ throughout the Soviet period (Zhelnina, 2013). Against this experience, the increased global openness of post-Soviet cities, the political and institutional reforms, processes of privatization and socio-cultural diversification could possibly be a liberating experience to use and appropriate urban public space. Thus, with the collapse of Soviet Union, citizens gained an opportunity to reconstruct the public space, transform it through daily practices and enjoy freedom of expression.
At the same time the transformation of public space has been taking place in unstable institutional settings resulting in loss or decay of public space. Looking at diverse trajectories of privatization, we observe that security of private property is not guaranteed and management of public property is not transparent. The institutional instability increased the vulnerability of post-Soviet cities against ‘new urban disorder’ (Lemon, 2011), illegal occupation and privatization of urban land, dominance of the interests of new business elites and consequently led to shrinkage and erosion of public space. Hence, post-Soviet cities have been exposed to un-regulated and un-negotiated privatisation, redesign and loss of public space.
The specific aim of this issue is to understand the tension and controversy surrounding the constraints and opportunities, (re)construction         and loss of public space in Post-Soviet cities. Loss of public space can be related to privatization of previously public land, or to limitations on accessibility of public space, while (re)construction of public space can be seen as physical recovery and redesign of streets, squares plazas ,etc. More importantly (re)construction is related to increasing ‘publicness’ of the space through transformation of the meaning of the public space and inclusion of different segments of society, and their daily practices into the public space. Depending on the position of an observer or participant of the change, the same development could be interpreted as a loss or a gain. Mushrooming informal petty trade could be seen as a reduction of public space or as a transformation of previously strictly controlled space into a lively and vibrant city life, where even marginalised citizens can access and enjoy the public space. Governmental and municipal efforts of revitalising inner city neighbourhoods to make the city attractive and safe for tourists and citizens could be seen as saving the historical centres from decay and destruction, or as gentrification. Removal of Soviet symbols and monuments from buildings and squares could be assuring the identity of some parts of society while threatening others. The spread of shopping malls, outdoor cafes and restaurants could be seen as a construction of new spaces where citizens exchange political views or as an encroachment of private sector interests on public space.
We propose to understand these contested understandings and differential experiences of public space through a focus on agents of change, their practices and institutional settings that play on the loss and (re)construction of public space.
1.       Who are the collective and individual actors that participate in loss and (re)construction of public space? What are their interests, agendas and visions concerning design, accessibility and use of public space?
2.       What are the practices that different actors rely on? (E.g. How are the decisions made concerning the privatization of public space? How do governments communicate modernisation agendas with the citizens? What is the repertoire of contesting specific changes in public space? What types of negotiation (if any) are held among different stakeholders? What are the daily practices of the marginalised groups that transform the meaning and shape of public space? )
3.       What are the formal and informal institutions which regulate the privatization of public space? Which institutions granted the citizens’ access to the public space as well as rights to contest undesired changes? How did institutional changes affect the negotiation of opposing interests in public spaces?
We encourage empirical and/or theoretical contributions from different disciplines to enhance a fruitful dialogue concerning urban processes in general and transformation of public spaces in particular. We welcome single as well as multiple/comparative case studies questioning the meaning and transformation of urban space and emerging distinction between public and private, emphasising overtime continuities and discontinuities and cross case similarities and dissimilarities.

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