Urban Identity, Power and Space: The Case of Trans-European Corridors

Urban Identity, Power and Space: The Case of Trans-European Corridors

Commission on Urban Anthropology/ International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences
Tirana/ Albania
From - Until
27.08.2007 - 31.08.2007
Prato, Giuliana

The programmes for the reconstruction of post-Communist Europe, such as the Stability Pact for South-East Europe, have
been compared to the Marshall Plan implemented after WWII. These programmes, however, are having a significant
impact not only on post-Communist countries but also on the rest of Europe and on other areas worldwide. These programmes aim at fostering peace, democracy,
respect of human rights and economic prosperity, through a shared strategy of stability and cooperation among the
involved countries. To this extent, the construction of the so-called Trans- European Corridors, also known as
Multimodal Transport Network, seems to be playing a central role in such a strategy. The ‘Trans-European Corridors’ aim at
making exchange of goods, people, oil and other energy supplies easier between the EU, the East and South-East European states and other areas of the world. They
also aim at improving stability in historically troubled regions of Europe.

The conference will address the changes that are occurring throughout Europe in relation to the construction of
the Corridors. In particular, it will focus on urban change, old and new identities and the methodological issues raised by
carrying out research in this new geopolitical situation.


The conference will be structured around three main sessions: 1) Corridors of Power;
2) History and Memories;
3) Anthropology, Research and Local
The sessions will follow a sequential order, focusing on specific
aspects of the conference’s overall theme. Each session will bring together papers that speak to each other and stimulate constructive discussion among the participants.

Session 1. Corridors of Power – Convenor: Dr Italo Pardo, University of Kent, UK.
E-mail address: i.pardo@kent.ac.uk
The progressive enlargement of the European Union and the subsequent ‘restructuring’ has led to a redefinition of
identities and boundaries, including, political, economic and symbolic boundaries. Such ongoing process of redefinition
poses disciplinary challenges and the question of how to link academic research to responsible and legitimate policy.
The construction of the Trans- European Corridors has brought to a head critical aspects of this problematic. While
the dominant political rhetoric has portrayed the Corridors as an opportunity for economic development and integration,
they and their ramifications have been either hailed or vilified at grassroots level, often with equally strong feelings.
Environmental and cultural concerns have been voiced. Economic development and sometimes conflict have been stimulated, particularly by the growing participation
of the private sector in urban affairs. Legal problems remain unsolved in highly significant fields, such as the regulation of
international business deals, citizenship rights and cultural conflict. Such complexity has raised both fundamental issues
of legitimacy at the various levels of the decision-making process and significant questions on how this process is experienced at the local level, particularly in urban areas; on how it is affecting urban N E W S change and expansion; on what impact the internal and international demographic
movement, particularly, though not only from outside the European Union, is having on urban life and identity; on the
attendant competition; on whether the new social, economic and spatial situation is contributing to entrenching or to
solving existing problems and on whether new forms of inequality and exclusion or new opportunities and forms
of integration are instead taking shape. The mixture of graded timidity and political determinism with which the ruling
élite in various countries have addressed this problematic has visibly compounded on their difficult relationship with citizenship. An anthropological approach based on a contested understanding of the empirical situation at the local level illuminates key methodological and theoretical
issues with specific reference to relations of power among different States and between governing élite groups (national
and international) and the rest of society.

Session 2. History and Memories: Roads of Power-Roads of Exchange and how we came to remember them –
Convenors: Gerda Dalipaj and Armanda
Hysa, Albania Academy of Sciences.
E-mail addresses:
The development of huge communication networks has been historically linked with the expansion of empires.
Communication through roads has been central to economic, political and cultural unification, as well as to military domination. Over time, these roads have affected and have been affected by the changes in economic and political relations. However, although initially built to serve military purposes for the acquisition of new areas and the control of those already conquered, they turned out to be roads of exchange, linking these areas to each-other and to the centre, while reshaping existing borders. These roads became the source of livelihood for many communities, also generating a new sense of belonging. People who livednear them, or made use of them, transformedtheir space while, in turn, being
transformed by it. These roads encouragednew trades, movement of population,the creation of new urban settings
and the reconfiguration of existing ones. The changes that they brought about were also reflected in people’s lifestyles,
especially as people adjusted to the new circumstances either through resistance or through cultural, economic and political
adaptation. The Trans-European Corridors, which are now being built along ancient itineraries, are presented as corridors of power and to power. The history of the old itineraries is being used to stress a past identity and a re-discovered belonging, or to legitimise the new politics of the involved states in opposition to those who stress the original military purposes ignoring the impact they had on economic
development and cultural exchange. This session addresses historical, social and political issues. It asks, who built the old roads of communication and why? What were their itineraries?
What were their primary purposes and how have they changed over time? How did they affect people’s life and sense of belonging through new trading centres, movement of population, new urban settings and the changes they brought to existing ones, and the reshaping of borders? The session also addresses the ways in which history and social memory are politically used, and the extent to which our understanding of ‘roads of power’ affects our scientific approach to the study of history, culture and society.

Session 3. Anthropology, research and
local spaces: Spatial connections and representations – Convenor: Dr Manos
Spyridakis, University of the Peloponnese,
E-mail address: maspy@otenet.gr
Social anthropology has been historically founded on the primacy of participant observation, which has undeniably
shaped the epistemological ‘autonomy’ of the discipline.
Participant observation takes place in a specific geographic space, the field. Space has traditionally been seen as portioned, as divided up into localities, places, regions. An isomorphism was assumed between culture/society and
place. Cultures had their own places, and the differences between place-based cultures were believed to be internally generated and preconstituted. This created a picture of identification of space with the culture that it ‘included’ and vice-versa. ‘Territorialized’ data gave a sense of ‘real’ world and a certainty that what one needed to know about the field could be found in a limited space. Therefore, the field as a limited space predetermined the information and its interpretation. Many anthropologists see this notion of
‘enclosed’, ‘isolated’ field as obsolete. Today, places are seen to function more as palimpsests within which the game of
identity, multiplicity and relations are in an incessant process of embeddedness and recreation in social, economic and political
terms. Therefore, the anthropological field as a space through which the social action exists constitutes a means for bringing
about the variety of practices and not their ending, because social action is also affected by processes that take place outside the anthropological field.
Through discussion of several contributions, this session intends to challenge fixed views about space through anthropological work in urban and other contexts,
keeping in mind that space as such is not a neutral entity; it is, instead, an interactive entity involving social practices,
which in turn affect the notion of field and of anthropological practice and theory. The challenge is to see place and
space in a way which is not defined in terms of exclusivity, of contraposition between an inside and an outside and
which is independent of false notions of internally-generated authenticity.
This session proposes three stimuli for discussion:
1. Space is a product of interrelations. It is constituted through interactions; from the immensity of the global to the
intimately tiny.
2. Space encompasses multiplicity. If space is indeed the product of interrelations, then it must be predicated upon the
existence of plurality. Multiplicity and space are co-constitutive.
3. Because space is the product of relations, which are necessarily embedded in actions that have to be carried out, it is always in a process of becoming; it is always being made. It is never finished, never closed.

Paper proposals should be submitted both to the Session’s and the Conference’s Convenors by 31 January 2007. Proposals should include the paper title, an abstract of 250 words, the
author’s name, institution, address and a brief biography. The working language of the Conference will be English. Paper
proposals from scholars from related disciplines are encouraged. Accepted papers will be notified by the end of

Registration Fee: The Conference registration fee will be 20 Euros. There will be no registration fee for postgraduate students who wish to attend the Conference. Output: A selection of revised papers will be published in an edited volume and in academic Journal.

Contact (announcement)

Dr Giuliana B. Prato

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