The city is increasingly a privileged and central assemblage of forms of life. Globally, cities have long been infused with individual and collective aspirations for greater opportunities and a better quality of life. More recently, the potentialities of urbanity for sustainable modes of living have become crucial. However, cities are also characterized by the dangers of inequalities and by practices fostering socio-economic and ecological debt. Furthermore, expert interventions in the city often foreground anonymous activities and flows related to productive life, neglecting the needs and expectations of individuals and groups. But it is also in the city and its configuration that, increasingly, multiple answers are invented to address challenges and recreate social life in diverse socio-cultural, economic and environmental aspects.
The pivotal idea that guides this week of exchanges among scholars, social movements and state officials is a critical examination of the ways in which policies of urban government are not necessarily promoted by institutions of the state apparatus but, instead, can result from shared creative processes that start from the grassroots level and progress to discover and fulfill collective interests, and protect and valorize common goods. During the last five years, the metropolitan area of Lisbon has been offering several interesting examples of innovative policies in the field of socio-cultural territorial management. Thus, this Summer School starts from observing this local context as a “learning environment” and widens the discussion through the presence of international discussants and presenters coming from both Northern and Southern countries of the world. Such an approach aims to provide a critical reading of how top-down/institutional and bottom-up/grassroots dynamics meet in situations of jointly constructing and re-addressing local policies within contexts whose complexity is constantly increasing within a changing framework of metropolitan governance.
The issue of citizens’ participation in the construction of public policies and projects will be a transversal one during the week. The Summer School will aim to discover new methods, strategies and tools through which urban participation practices are being reinvented, both in the Lisbon metropolitan area—which will offer stimulus for debate, anchoring discussions to concrete experiments—and in the different territories from which speakers and participants originate.
The Summer School aims to deepen reflection on the potentialities and limits of new ongoing processes intended to rethink the commons and recreate spaces of shared responsibility—precursors of new forms of political democratization which could be more participatory, more inclusive and more environmentally sustainable. It seeks to be a meeting place and venue for exchanges. First, it values exchange and learning between perspectives of the North and the South. Second, the Summer School also valorizes exchange among scholars, urban activists and state officials.
The Summer School will be conducted mainly in English. Simultaneous interpretation services will be essential to facilitate exchanges between English-speaking international student participants and keynote speakers, on one side, and Portuguese-speaking local organization participants and guides during field visits, on the other side.
This Summer School is part of the Cities Are Us series of events, which includes the international conference "Rethinking Urban Inclusion. Spaces, Mobilizations, Interventions" to be held 28-30 June 2012.