Is the North-South Axis obscuring “Post-Socialist Cities”?

Our group has been discussing Ananya Roy’s work. The conference announcement posted below suggests another aspect of our research that so far has been neglected. With the discussion of cities in the Global South, are cities of the former East Bloc obscured or neglected? The upcoming Resourceful Cities Conference in Berlin (Aug. 29-31, 2013) seeks to include Eastern European cities in what Ananya Roy calls “new geographies of theory.” The conference will explore urbanism beyond the West and the North:

In the search for new models of urbanism, attention is now being shifted towards non‐Western cities. Yet the urban dynamics of post‐socialist Eastern Europe are largely disregarded in the recent literature on global urbanism with its focus on the North‐South axis.

While also very distinct, the Global South and the former “Second World” share many phenomena, including neoliberalism. Thus, a comparison of these various urbanisms might be productive.

At Central European University, sociologist Judit Bodnar has done some interesting work on thinking about the post-socialist city. I particularly liked her Slavic Review article, but this other one looks very good too:

  • “Assembling the Square: Social Transformation in Public Space and the Broken Mirage of the Second Economy in Postsocialist Budapest” Slavic Review, 57, 3 (Fall 1998): 489-515.
  • Becoming Bourgeois: (Postsocialist) Utopias of Isolation and Civilization” Pp. 140-151 in Mike Davis and Daniel Monk (eds.): Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism. New York: The New Press. 2007.

The announcement below mentions “the notion of ‘chaos’ and its use in the global urbanism debate.” What do you think this means?

URBANISM BEYOND THE WEST: COMPARING ACCELERATED URBAN CHANGE IN EASTERN
EUROPE AND THE GLOBAL SOUTH

In the search for new models of urbanism, attention is now being shifted
towards non‐Western cities. Yet the urban dynamics of post‐socialist
Eastern Europe are largely disregarded in the recent literature on global
urbanism with its focus on the North‐South axis. Although the cities of
Eastern Europe and the Global South have been theorized as radically
different, the former being described as “under‐urbanized” and the latter
as “over‐urbanized”, we propose to include Eastern Europe in what Ananya
Roy calls “new geographies of theory”. In cities of both regions the
intense socio‐material transformations of recent years have been highly
uneven, normatively guided by foreign aid programs and neoliberal policy
agendas. In both cases we can also observe new forms of “insurgent” or
“messy” urbanism emerging in reaction to new inequalities and arbitrary
politics. Despite substantial (i.e. infrastructural) differences, we claim
that comparing cities of Eastern Europe and the Global South may both
re‐open the regionally biased debate on the “post‐socialist city” and
contribute to the broader discussion on global and comparative urbanism.
This session invites contributions comparing major phenomena of urban
change in both regions as well as papers theorizing the post‐socialist
city in global terms. Following the question of how patterns emerging from
accelerated urban change can be treated as resources for new models of
urbanism, we suggest the following topics:

-new inequalities and new solidarities
-accelerated socio‐material change as a challenge for sustainable urban 
policy
-reshaping relations of property and new property forms
-changing urban form and infrastructures of daily life
-foreign policy aid and its discontents
-urban informality and marginality
-ethnographies of urban society between neoliberal dreams and dystopian
reality
-the notion of “chaos” and its use in the global urbanism debate