CFP: [Theory] "The City From Below" : March 27th-29th, 2009 in Baltimore

full name / name of organization: 
John Duda


March 27th-29th, 2009

The city has emerged in recent years as an indispensable concept for many
of the struggles for social justice we are all engaged in - it’s a place
where theory meets practice, where the neighborhood organizes against
global capitalism, where unequal divisions based on race and class can be
mapped out block by block and contested, where the micropolitics of gender
and sexual orientation are subject to metropolitan rearticulation, where
every corner is a potential site of resistance and every vacant lot a
commons to be reclaimed, and, most importantly, a place where all our
diverse struggles and strategies have a chance of coming together into
something greater. In cities everywhere, new social movements are coming
into being, hidden histories are being uncovered, and unanticipated futures
are being imagined and built - but so much of this knowledge remains, so to
speak, at street-level. We need a space to gather and share our stories,
our ideas and analysis, a space to come together and rethink the city from

To that end, a group of activists and organizers, including Red Emma’s, the
Indypendent Reader, campbaltimore, and the Campaign for a Better Baltimore
are calling for a conference called The City From Below, to take place in
Baltimore during the weekend of March 27,28,29, 2009 at 2640, a grassroots
community center and events venue.

Our intention to focus on the city first and foremost stems from our own
organizing experience, and a recognition that the city is very often the
terrain on which we fight, and which we should be fighting for. To take a
particularly salient example from Baltimore, it is increasingly the case
that labor struggles, especially in the service sector, need to confront
not just unfair employers, but structurally disastrous municipal
development policies. While the financial crisis plays out in the national
news and in the spectacle of legislative action, it is at the level of the
urban community where foreclosures can be directly challenged and the right
to a non-capitalist relation to housing can be fought for. Our right to an
autonomous culture, to our freedom to dissent, to public spaces and to
public education all hinge increasingly on our relation to the cities in
which we live and to the people and forces in control of them. And our
cities offer some truly inspiring and creative examples of resistance -
from the community garden to the neighborhood assembly.

We are committed in organizing this conference to a horizontal framework of
participation, one which allows us to concretely engage with and support
ongoing social justice struggles. What we envision is a conference which
isn’t just about academics and other researchers talking to each other and
at a passive audience, but one where some of the most inspiring campaigns
and projects on the frontlines of the fight for the right to the city
(community anti-gentrification groups, transit rights activists, tenant
unions, alternative development advocates) will not just be represented,
but will concretely benefit from the alliances they build and the knowledge
they gain by attending.

At the same time, we also want to productively engage those within the
academic system, as well as artists, journalists, and other researchers. It
is a mistake to think that people who spend their lives working on urban
geography and sociology, in urban planning, or on the history of cities
have nothing to offer to our struggles. At the same time, we recognize
that too often the way in which academics engage activists, if they do so
at all, is to talk at them. We are envisioning something much different,
closer to the notion of “accompaniment”. We want academics and activists to
talk to each other, to listen to each other, and to offer what they each
are best able to. Concretely, we’re hoping to facilitate this kind of
dynamic by planning as much of the conference as possible as panels
involving both scholars and organizers.


* Gentrification/uneven development
* Policing and incarceration
* Tenants rights/housing as a right
* Public transit
* Urban worker’s rights
* Foreclosures/financial crisis
* Public education
* Slots/casionos/regressive taxation
* Cultural gentrification
* Underground economies
* Reclaiming public space
* The right to the city
* Squatting
* Urban sustainability


Please share with us your proposal for workshops or presentations. We hope
to host 15-25 sessions with a mixture of formats and welcome proposals from
groups and individuals. The conference is geared towards discussion and
participation. People are welcome to bring papers andother resources with
them, but this conference is not oriented to the presentation of papers.
There will be 50 and 110 minute sessions. We welcome self organized
workshops but will also work to incorporate individual proposals into
panels with others. In your proposal please indicate how your proposal
relates to the themes of the conference, expected participants, organizing
partners and session format (training, panel, open discussion, video, etc.)
and how long the session will be. We are especially interested in proposals
which combine critique of the urban environment with discussions of new
strategies for its reclamation.

Please get proposals to us no later than the 30th of January, but
preferably before January 1st.

Please send proposals to:
cityfrombelow -at-
Email is preferred, but you can also send a proposal to:

City from Below
c/o Red Emma’s
800 St Paul St.
Baltimore MD 21202

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Received on Wed Nov 26 2008 - 09:50:49 EST