9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN27 Regional Network on Southern European Societies

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Regional Innovation Systems in Southern Europe and Sustainability Building II, Auditório C1.03

The city as a new social question. Heterotopic cities.

The paper is referred to a study conducted in ten important suburban areas in the biggest italian cities. The research was developed by two partners - Caritas Italiana and Università Cattolica Milano, Faculty of Sociology. Its aim was to observe the transformation of the urban horizon, its re-organisation of the traditional co-ordinates of space and time and their consequences on social life.
The study shows how the classical model - center of the town/suburban areas - is no longer valid. First, because of a heterotopical fragmentation which is a transverse phenomenon. Some parts of the city are showing new combinations of functions and populations: these are simply juxtaposed, with neither contacts nor communications. Secondly, because suburbs depend less than before on centers: while some places/populations are loosing functions, suffering economic changes and weakening of sociability, others places/populations are wider connected elsewhere.
The metaphor of archipelago offers a more precise picture of the reality. Marginalisation processes are to be found all over in the city. Old suburbs and new critical areas can be mentioned as sensitive areas, far beyond their geographical position on the city map. In these contexts the consequences of globalisation are more visible and virulent, showing some convergence into a similar model featured by the same critical relations between globality/locality and inside/outside, institutional withdrawal, fragmentation and place banalisation, anthropological suffering and collapse of sociability.
One of the most virulent consequence regards the different forms of violence. Some areas are in the hands of big criminal networks. Other areas are totally enclosed: here violence has no sense, no direction, no targets - a nihilistic form of violence. Third, there are suburbs where the massive and fast connection with global flows give origin to a deep sense of insecurity. Lastly, there are some critical points of contact between inside and outside: here we can find a symbolic violence.
The study indicates that sensitive areas can be considered very interesting point of view to observe and understand urban changes. Cities become points of condensation in a liquid society.