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Leaving Traces - Living Politics in the City


Call for Participation for a study-day organised by the Laboratory of research GRIEF (ENSA Bretagne, Rennes, France), The Centre for Design Innovation at Swinburne University (Melbourne, Australia) and RMIT Centre for Urban Research (Melbourne, Australia).


Addendum*: After receiving an overwhelming number of abstracts for this symposium, a Leaving Traces 2 symposium is currently being organized to be held at Swinburne in 2019. 16 fantastic papers have already been submitted under 5 themes:

  • Writing on the walls
  • Appropriating the city
  • The politicized polis
  • Public space
  • Art as a political tool


(Official and unofficial political discourse in Montesacro, Rome. Photo by Flavia Marcello)

Public space and life in the polis were from the beginning tightly connected, both in terms of city governance and shared actions of its inhabitants. Whether carefully designed or loosely articulated, public space shapes behaviour, providing a frame for the norms and rules of society. At the same time, it implicitly invites transgression. From the agora of Athens to the central squares in the former Communist Bloc, from the streets of San Francisco to the paths in the favelas or other informal communities, public spaces are arenas of political expression, where official discourse and unofficial voices meet/ overlap/ come into conflict with each other.

If official channels of political discourse are well-documented and built into the socio-political structures of modern society, unofficial means of expression are less studied. From explicit forms of protest to furtive integration, we are particularly interested in scenarios where distinctions between official and unofficial political discourses become blurred. This study day will examine how unofficial political voices are made manifest in the urban realm by focusing on one or more of the following questions:

  • What tactics are used to make these unofficial voices ‘audible’?
  • How does political expression turn the city into a space of dynamic visuality?
  • What is the impact of ephemeral events on public space?


By questioning a certain normativity (but not only), we seek to stress the connections and the tensions between officially shaped (and designed) public spaces and unofficially used, occupied or appropriated places and/ or itineraries. By viewing political expressions – be they official or unofficial – in this way, we also want to question the very meaning of ‘what is political’.

We invite scholars from the fields of architecture, urban studies, history, political, cultural or social studies and art to engage with these broad concepts. We seek papers that focus on the analysis of both historical and contemporary case studies exploring how the urban realm can shape, frame and even incite political discourse. Presentations can address a range of manifestations in both material forms (from posters, graffiti, art interventions to simple placement of objects) and immaterial practices (rallies, protests, soap boxes, public speeches, art events, etc.).

Send your abstract (300 words) and your short bio (1000 words) to Carmen Popescu ([email protected]), Flavia Marcello ([email protected]) and Ian Woodcock ([email protected]) by July 31, 2018.

The study day will be held on November 22, 2018, and is organised by the Laboratory of research GRIEF, at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Bretagne in Rennes, France, the Centre for Design Innovation at Swinburne University and RMIT Centre for Urban Research, in Melbourne, Australia. It will take place at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Bretagne, 44, boulevard de Chézy, Rennes.

Speakers will have to ensure they cover travel expenses, we will try to provide a number of fellowships supporting these expenses. Accommodation will be provided for all speakers.

Please note that the language of the study day will be French and English.

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