In October 2017 I’ve traveled to Porto to attend my first international conference. The conference was organized by the Philosophy of the city Research group as its fifth edition – the previous conferences held place in New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong and San Francisco. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered this platform this year, the first year in Europe; therefore my trip wasn’t so long and exotic.
To quote the Group officers, they define the activities of the Group as the following:
“From an interdisciplinary perspective, it incorporates disciplines such as urban planning, environmental science and studies, ecology, architecture, geography, and the arts. Research questions often deal with applied philosophy and ethics and utilize established knowledge from other areas of study. All philosophical traditions are welcome.”
I could also meet the president of the conference Shane Epting as he was very friendly and ready-to-help.
As the name of the conference and the Group states, the conference was dedicated to dealing with a variety of philosophical topics connected to the City. It truly was interdisciplinary, I’ve met professors from technical universities (solving transportation and self-driving cars), economic universities (solving problem with wealth-distribution in Third World Countries and up-growing Asian cities) and from the sort of art universities (solving urban aesthetics and re-fining the urban spaces).
The participants were literally from across the globe – philosophers from Asia, Africa, North America created a very inspiring environment for exchanging new ideas: the conference, as I’ve perceived it, was more of incubator for the philosophers that know each other from their everyday praxis, but this conference is every year’s occasion to meet live and present the current work to the others and brisk the debate (therefore I felt like a renegade, because I did not know anyone and I spent my lunches alone at the beginning of the conference).
The lunch breaks (which took around 2 hours) were very strange from my point of view. It was the peek time for participants to talk to each other and share ideas, but it was during the lunch! So it happened to me many times, that I was literally about to swallow a piece of food and someone came to me and asked me “Vladan, right? Tell me more about your speech, it sounds intriguing!”
The first day was really strange for me, but in the end, I understood that this is normal praxis and I got used to it. As the closing of the first day of the conference, we got Porto wine and nice jazz music on the balcony of Faculty of Arts. This was the place where I felt like talking to other people, therefore this balcony seriously made me new contacts.
My speech was called “City first – A New Political Theory Making the Polis the Centerpiece Again”. According to this theory, cities are small sovereign entities following the political stand of anarchism – it is a proposal of society with no leaders or politics, it is a proposal of technocratic society based on modern technologies and being run under a simple constitution consisting of two golden rules – the sanctity of a body and property. This revolutionary and courageous theory is trying to find out the smallest possible necessities the society needs to work. Because of the moral relativism, the theory is going from global to local.
I’ve created this political theory as byproduct of my research on the philosophy of Urbanism, and I felt like this conference could be the perfect test field, if it is completely non-sense or if there is something in it. After my speech I felt I need a special book to explain this theory, so the participants of the conference were quite confused after my 20 minutes talk. But everything bad is good for something else. Because of their confusion, they hit me after my speech and talked with me about the theory and gave me super nice tips for literature I can use in my next research.
From the other speeches I want to pierce speech of Mike Douglass called “The Rise of Progressive Cities for Human Flourishing: Globopolis versus Cosmopolis as Alternative Urban Future in Asia”, which told me totally new information about city ruling in Asia, specifically in Seoul, where an activist mayor was elected and turns the city from Globopolis to Cosmopolis. In this theory, Globopolis is an intentional world city that is appears with the rapid corporatization of the production and control of urban space supported by neoliberal political regimes. Cosmopolis then widens inclusion in public life, making gains in distributive justice, providing space for the human flourishing.
The other interesting speech was presented by Benjamin Boudou and called “From the refuge city to #citieswelcomerefugees: local hospitality in the global city”.
This speech was dedicated to the network of cities welcoming refugees on the local level, without the support of government, etc. There are cities that decided themselves, they will be helping refugees and give them shelter and protection – those cities cooperate together and share their experiences. I really loved this talk, because it gave me a lot of inspiration for my own research, in which I’m trying to demonstrate that cities are the bearers of the morality, not the national states. It is more about the local citizenship than about country citizenship. When it comes to cities, we can see the moral relativism in everyday life praxis – it is the moment when I feel my research really makes sense.
Author: Vladan Klement