Open City

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sociology


For urbanists such as Saskia Sassen and Richard Sennett, the open city is incomplete, errant, conflictual, and non-linear. Unlike the closed city, which is full of metaphorical and literal boundaries and walls. This project explores these dimensions of city life, not as a dichotomy, but as a series of lived problematics, both social and political. The central dilemmas we will research relate to this overarching concern: what are the limits of the open city? This prompts specific issues. How open has the city been? How do people negotiate the open and closed aspects of their lives? What are the politics of living with others in the city?
This project is concerned with the ways that the turbulent micro- and macro-politics of city life enables people to live together. It explores older questions of social cohesion and newer questions of neighbourliness by exploring the ways that people move back and forward between everyday civility or indifference to forms of hospitality and community as well as the everyday issues that make a difference to patterns of co-existence and dwelling in the city.
As a city that is constantly being remade by its inhabitants, as well as experiencing considerable and on-going development, with pressures on public services and resources in housing, education and employment, London is an exemplary place to examine how people dwell or co-exist and even thrive in the city. In London, constant change affords people the opportunity to make different temporal and spatial claims over belonging to the city while also providing many everyday and structural sites of friction. This is arguably unique, yet London is comprised of ordinary places and ways of living, situated in unexceptional wider social and spatial arrangements, that enable wider lessons to be drawn.
Given this, the key research questions are: (1) In what ways has the city enabled or circumscribed practices of welcoming, generosity and solidarity within it? (2) in what ways does the city shape urban dwelling in times of perceived rapid social change? (3) How do people negotiate the variable (building, street, neighbourhood, city, national and transnational) geographies of settlement and mobility in their everyday lives? (4) How do old and new social cleavages play out in these social and spatial arrangements - and how can city government, and other civic actors, manage those cleavages?
Using a multi-scalar, mixed methods approach, the project will be able to explore the dynamics of London life at the city-wide, borough and street / tower block scales, using a blend of historical, qualitative, quantitative and online techniques. This will enable the project to understand the specificity of each case study site in ways that address the unique histories and geography of each location, while also drawing together the ways that the issues which emerge in each site around housing and other resources (e.g. the diverse and competing claims to belonging and ownership or the different space-times of city life) cut across specific locations. The project will draw on and utilise social media and digital methods to understand the relationship between physical, virtual and imagined spaces.
The project has been designed in collaboration with a range of stakeholders in London, including the Greater London Authority, Camden Council, and social movements such as City of Sanctuary. These stakeholders have all identified the question of migration into, and within, the city as a critical issue that urgently needs to be rethought. This project seeks to go beyond the various policies and politics of migration by looking at population churn, transformations in old and new forms of ethnic and racial difference, and spatial mobility to address the contemporary politics of the city. More, it builds on historical analysis to engage and synthesise a number of strands of social science disciplinary thinking to analyse and inform developments in policy and urban theory.

Planned Impact

Impact through co production and knowledge exchange; partnership with GEM
Open City will curate and collaborate in research with a coordinated and properly resourced programme of knowledge exchange generated impact in partnership with the COMPAS Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity (GEM). GEM shares expertise and ideas among academics, policy makers, civil society, lawyers, foundations, school students amongst others. Interdisciplinary in approach, GEM actively seeks new means of conveying ideas and knowledge, creating the space to think differently and support the development of social change.
Proposed activity and outputs
The knowledge exchange impact activity will be divided into two sections - public engagement facilitated in partnership with the Migration Museum, Counterpoint Arts and Tate Exchange and targeted workshops and briefings aimed at policy makers in London local government. Both strands aim to support the overarching aims of the Open City project - to interrogate the urban dynamics of hospitality, dwelling and co-existence amongst diverse communities in 21st century London through a rich mix of dynamic knowledge exchange activity which will iteratively co-produce both research input and engagement. These activities will be supported and enhanced by the creative practices of the CFs.
Public and NGO engagement
With the Migration Museum, Tate Exchange/Counterpoint Arts to develop accessible and stimulating new cartographies of the city. We will work with the Migration Museum in particular on the work developed in WP1, which illuminates deeper histories of migration by garnering archival material that contextualises practices of dwelling and hospitality. Our work with Counterpoint develops an existing partnership to coproduce some of the research generated by WP2 and WP3 focusing on differentiated mobilities through the city. The outputs will include:
A series of standalone education workshops with local schools, community groups and universities - co-producing education materials based on the research and engaging both within the museum and potentially in community settings. The programme will build onto, supplement and advance an existing Migration Museum programme
Developing a 'migration walk' through Camden which will use the mental maps produced as part of the research. The walk will make this resource available to support communities to gain an understanding of the open city co-produced in Camden with Global Generation (based at the King's Cross redevelopment). The proposed walk will generate impact particularly from WP3 and also be linked with Migration Museum.
These outputs will be synthesised with newly generated archival material from WP1 in a pop-up exhibition through Tate Exchange building on existing relationships and working with Counterpoint.
Policy orientated knowledge exchange
Through a series of facilitated workshops with London policy makers. GEM will work with the Open City project to maximise the research impact of WPs 2, 3 and 4. The specific aim of these facilitated workshops will be to bring together policy makers/ practitioners from diverse teams within the council (policy/ social integration, economic regeneration, planning, housing, and specific teams) to look at the issues such as hospitality in the context of 'churn', acting in a holistic way in terms of planning and the ways that communities and sanctuaries are built within the city and how these can be forged or facilitated. The outputs will include three facilitated workshops with key policy makers through the life of the project:
A policy briefing for local government officers, available in print and online;
A high-profile major Westminster Breakfast Briefing event for a wider cohort for London policy makers and practitioners; and,
A 'sense checking' virtual steering group of policy makers for the project who will iteratively feed into the emerging research and support the dissemination of outputs.


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