MGSHSS co-organized a workshop on cities with colleagues from American University of Cairo on Everyday Life in Times of Ruination, which was held at LUMS on March 12 and 13. The workshop combined a discussion of AbdouMaliq Simone’s Improvised Lives and Veronica Galo’s Neoliberalism from Below with presentations of ongoing research.
Our approach to ruination in everyday urban life was framed by a set of questions that emerged from the two texts that we read together and were further developed in our discussion. The first and perhaps most important question concerned the location of the political in the present. How does power operate in urban contexts? Is the category of resistance relevant for capturing the lives of the urban poor? A related question was around the categories that we use to understand the urban. Theoretical tools such as precarity, working-class and slum need to be rethought because they privilege the production of victims. Third, it is important to question the modernist tropes, such as megacity, that we continue to privilege and think with other forms such as assemblages that emphasize fluidity rather than fixity. Looking at the urban through the lens of temporality and mobility are possible ways to challenge the fixity of our existing concepts. Finally, a focus on peripheral urbanism is another possibility for unpacking the meaning of urban life.
Inviting scholars and practitioners to think through their ongoing research using the lens of urban ruination, the workshop allowed for a discussion of selected texts that theorize ruination (led by different faculty members) and then presentations of ongoing research on cities in Pakistan and Egypt. Finally, attracting a diverse range of audience particularly owing to Architect Arif Hasan’s Key Note session: The Horse that Ran Away with the Bit the event was a success.