Annual Conference 11-15 July 2012 /

Special Session AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures

(Under Conference Track / 9: Heritage, Urban Cultures, Urban Design) Working Theme: “Conviviality”
Abstract submission deadline: 15 January 2012

About working Theme Conviviality: A definition

Conviviality is a term which originates from the latin “convivium”, where it used to mean “live with”, and as such meaning sharing a living space, in which meal used to have an important role for the cohesion of the community. The term means also “banquet”, usually hosted as a celebration of a community event. In more recent times, the term has also been to refer to meal sharing, dinner parties, or other jovial and merry moments among friends or community of interest.

Convivial moments have been termed either local festivals/markets with social purposes (i.e. fundraising for local charitable programmes, such as the Milanese Convivio), or simple grass-roots initiatives organised in the streets (for example: The Big Lunch, Breakfast in the street).

A challenge

The topic of conviviality has recently seen a growing interest among urban scholars. Not only conviviality as a spontaneous social activity is in danger, in the recent popularity of privatised spaces, but it tend to be substituted by forms of regulation of urban spaces which lead to exclusion of social groups (for example the banning of drinking in parks outside very expensive café’ premises, in Italy), the enforcement of health and Safety regulation, interpreted in very instrumental way, to reduce spontaneous community gathering larger than a family (for example in UK), or the wide privatisation of streets and squares and their embedding into shopping centres, which introduce new forms of ownership, and reduce the tolerated non-consumption activities.

Nonetheless, we can also observe a raising number of spontaneous forms of re-appropriation of public spaces around convivial activities, such as food growing, food sharing, and food selling. Guerrilla gardeners, spontaneous ethnic gathering for food cooking and selling, or communities gathering around food markets are becoming more frequent, and a wide range of convivial practices are becoming part of the everyday life on the street.

Research questions

We are interested in:

  • Knowing what convivial practices are emerging in your city. Who organise them? Where? Which resources mobilise? How are the local authorities or competing groups reacting to this? We are in particular interested in agency-structure dynamics.

  • What is “conviviality” in these projects? What social meanings are embedded in these practices? What forms of sharing? Are these site –specific, therefore built around a specific public space, or type of space, or are them relatively mobile?

  • How can a reflection on research and practice (in planning, architecture, cultural studies, and critical geography) add new insight into the trajectories of these convivial projects?

    About abstract submission

    The abstract submission for this thematic group special session will be via AESOP Conference website (,57,call_for_papers) following the official procedure of the conference organization. The abstracts should be submitted for Track 9: Heritage, Urban Cultures, and Urban Design with a short notice on the text “Thematic Group Public Space and Urban Cultures / Special Session” which indicates your interest to present your work in this session. These abstracts will be judged as all other abstracts of the track by track co-chairs.

    Important note: Participants who are not member of the Thematic Group are very welcome to submit an abstract to present their work in this session.