SIEF 2015, ZAGREB.Micro-utopias: exploring connections in anthropology, relationality and creativity

I am so happy to have been invited!!!

Micro-utopias: exploring connections in anthropology, relationality and creativity


Ruy Blanes (University of Bergen) email
Alex Flynn (Durham University) email
Jonas Tinius (University of Cambridge) email
Maïté Maskens (Université Libre de Bruxelles) email

Short Abstract

In this panel we propose to discuss anthropological approaches – ethnographic or theoretical – to human interactions and processes of imagination and creativity, understood as “micro-utopias” following the work of Nicolas Bourriaud and others.

Long Abstract

In this panel we propose to discuss anthropological approaches – ethnographic or theoretical – to human interactions and processes of imagination and creativity. Inspired by the proposals set forth by Bourriaud (1998) concerning art as a product of a relational aesthetics that is a ‘microtopia’, a product of communitarian association (or antagonism – see Bishop 2004) working to change the present, we challenge our colleagues to use an understanding of social movement and organization as an art form whereby processes of interaction are understood as generative, transformational, poïetic micro-utopias. We thus propose to move beyond the concrete sphere of artistic production, seeing micro-utopias as part of our morphogenetic élan vital (Bergson 1907), the creativity and improvisation of our unscripted everyday lives (Hallam and Ingold 2008) that is however and necessarily framed as political act produced within historical context (Geuss 2009). Our goal is thus to engage with micro-utopias as ‘concrete utopias’ (McGuire 2011): examples – from artistic collaborations to architectural configurations, political localisms, economic partnerships, religious community makings, etc. – of relationalities and temporal redefinitions.



“We hadn’t met but we had the same dream”: appropriation and neighbourhood management of urban public space in the city/network”

From my ongoing ethnography about ICTs, public space and citizen participation, this paper analyses the claims and actions of a group of neighbours as regards the state and quality of “public space” involving a plot located in a small public square. After repeated complaints to the City Council about the abandoned state of this space, some “neighbours” decided to undertake its care, defining its use as “community-based”, “self-managed”. Later, it became a “communitarian urban garden” and “space for neighbourhood meeting”. The very same day the clean-up of the plot started, one of the neighbours opened a Blog in which she began to narrate the story of this action together with the administrative process to legalise the urban garden project. In little over a year, the Blog became a collective creation of a group of “neighbours” who continued deploying a broad range of digital technologies, making the local “public space” a hyper-connected, continuously-monitored space: camera phones, social network apps, mailing lists, online file sharing, collaborative working environment, wikimaps, etc.

In these kinds of processes, ICTs are more than a set of tools that agents use in functional and sometimes remedial ways (Bolter & Grusin 2000). In addition, they constitute, signify and are significant for the interactions and processes of creativity that make it possible to understand how current neighbourhood movements imagine themselves and concretise their “right to the city” (Lefebvre 1972), occupying, managing and using urban public space (and infrastructure) (Latour 2005; Crag, Crosbie and Graham 2007, Vasuldevan 2014).

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