Panel: The Senses and Urban Public Space
12th International Conference on Urban History (European Association for Urban History)
Lisbon, Nova University, September 03-06 2014
How do the senses and the public space of the city shape one another? In light of growing scholarly interest in the historical specificities of sensorial experiences in various times and places, this session invites reflection on the ways in which the construction of public space is fundamentally bound up to people’s bodily engagement with the urban environment. Sensing, the action of our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin is an intimate and personal experience, through which we navigate the world we inhabit. At the same time, sensing is an eminently public phenomenon, the meaning associated with different sights, smells and sounds governed by social and cultural context. How these sensory experiences, privately felt but publically mediated, inform ideas and decisions about the construction, use and symbolism of urban public space is the underlying question this panel will explore. By doing so, it will also reevaluate the notion of urban public space. In light of the recent engagement of historians with sociologists and geographers – such as Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey, Martina Löw or Yi-Fu Tuan – who stress the social construction of space, this session investigates the bodily and sensory practices involved in this process. Simply put, public space is the space in which one comes into physical contact with strangers. At the same time, starting with the ancient Greek agora, it is the birthplace of the public realm in a political sense. By examining the sensory dimension of urban public space, the session will put this connection between space, the body, the social, and the political into new perspective.
Deadline for paper proposals submission: October 15, 2013