Cities without citizens?

Saturday 29 September, 5.30pm until 7.00pm, Zé dos Bois Gallery, Rua da Barroca, 59 1200-047 Lisboa (Bairro Alto), Portugal

This debate will be in English.

Tickets: free and unticketed. For more information: phone: +351 21 343 0205 | email: [email protected] |

Once Rome was the Eternal City. Today it might appear the entire world is becoming a city as urbanisation rates continue to climb as millions leave the countryside from Africa to China. London now has more than 400,000 French people living in it and the Olympics 2012 showcased it as a city that seems to belong to the world, not to the United Kingdom. It might appear that not only are we all becoming citizens but citizens of an increasingly cosmopolitan world at that. That we can make it and make it anywhere.

Yet countries like Ireland, Portugal and Greece are seeing levels of emigration not seen for a generation. Some 30 per cent of the population of Porto has abandoned the city in the last ten years alone. Lisbon is no longer a place where you can be sure of getting a job: many leave home now heading for Brazil, Angola or Germany instead. And then there are concerns about whether or not cities are environmentally sustainable, how they are being destroyed by unscrupulous get-rich-quick-developers, how ordinary workers can’t afford to live in them anymore: at the mercy of greedy landlords and shortages of affordable housing. Cities in this light can appear less of a dream come true: more of a fading memory of grandparents left behind; crumbling memorials to 20th century industry and civic life.

Even for those who can afford to live in big cities, it often seems they want to be in an urban village rather than a bustling metropolis. London’s Islington or New York’s Brooklyn Heights, even Lisbon’s Alcântara, like to reject the conveniences of supermarkets and 7/11s for local butchers and fishmongers, bakers and candlestick makers. There are also real concerns about just how alienating the modern city is: where no one, including your very neighbours, knows your name. Are the cities of today bringing us together only to keep us apart? Making us lonely? Should they be designed better to foster togetherness and community spirit? Or should we go back to real villages? Return to the rural: a slower pace of life? Or is it a sense of how to live in cities that we have lost? Is citizenship just a word today rather than a reality? Something that politicians urge us to be but devoid of any real content? Do cities make citizens or citizens make cities?

Dr Susana Araújo
research fellow, Centre for Comparative Studies, University of Lisbon; lead investigator, Project CILM - City and Insecurity in Literature and the Media

Pedro Bismarck
architect; editor, Punkto magazine

Bernardo Rodrigues
architect, Bernardo Rodrigues Arquitecto

Karl Sharro
architect; writer; Middle East commentator; co-author, Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture

Pedro Quintino de Sousa
researcher on Portuguese and European literature, CLEPUL (Center For European and Lusophone Literatures and Cultures)

Produced by
Angus Kennedy convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
Pedro Quintino de Sousa researcher on Portuguese and European literature, CLEPUL (Center For European and Lusophone Literatures and Cultures)
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