Tracing the urban everyday: Interdisciplinary approaches to cities in South Asia and Europe
Cities reflect and stimulate cultural, social, economic and political lifeworlds across time and space. Many recent debates have been triggered by the UN-declaration’s focus on the fact that the world’s future lies in cities, with an estimated 66% urban population reached by 2050 – whereby the fastest urban growth takes place in Africa and Asia. The Covid Pandemic has pushed urban transformation and the everyday lives of people in cities in an intense way. And it shows that there are differences wherever we look, based on a variety of reasons and contexts. How the Pandemic has impacted placemaking on the ground has yet hardly been studied and discussed, especially not in university contexts.
How can we come to terms with and study the city – our city – our neighbourhoods – and how the urban everyday transforms (us and our lives) in contexts of crisis, such as the Covid Pandemic? How can we, as students and teachers, engage in interaction and exchange beyond the surface of the computer screen and collaborate through teamwork – even if the latter is bound to be digital due to social distancing parameters and the fact that many students will not be in Heidelberg. How can we learn from each other as we will be physically distributed across Europe and Asia in this class, reading texts on urban everyday transformations – concepts and methods – develop ideas for our own micro-fieldwork set in our city – and exchange this in small teams with other students based in India, Nepal and Europe? How can the disciplines of anthropology, urban design, art and curation, help us understand placemaking and everyday life, but also the challenges and potentials of interdisciplinary work?
This class is part of a network funded by the German Academic Exchange Service, and based in Delhi, Kathmandu and Heidelberg. The network pays particular attention to the study of urban responses to the interconnectivity of natural and man-made crises in cities, e.g., earthquakes, climate change, migration, endangered heritage and cultural diversity. A focus on placemaking, that is, how people shape their urban habitats and everyday worlds in cities, is especially promising for such an approach. It is an innovative approach to studying how the everyday city changes through the Covid Pandemic in Asia and in Europe. The innovative part lies in the ways in which mixed media, disciplinary and methodological ways can be used to overcome the lockdown and home-office based situation of many students, and to encourage digital collaboration and fieldwork.
This is a quasi-block seminar, with 3 individual sessions taught in/from Heidelberg and with 2 days (4 hours each) of block seminar on June 18-19 (9am-1pm German time) jointly with students and faculty in India and Nepal, where students will exchange their micro-fieldwork materials and ideas with their fellow students (18.6.) and then present it to get feedback from fellow students and faculty (19.6.). this will be followed up by 2 feedback sessions in July, in which additional concepts and methods will help the students to transform their fieldwork data into a term paper.