Bitušíková Alexandra

Masaryk University, Faculty
of Social Studies, Brno, Czech
Republic, November 30 – Decemeber 1, 2007

The Faculty of Social Sciences of Masaryk University in Brno organized
a multidisciplinary conference, The City – a Changeable (Un)Certainty (Nov. 30 –
Dec. 1, 2007). The goal of the conference was to open a forum for discussion on the
meaning of the contemporary city and its various definitions. What is the city?
How is it reflected by various disciplines? What impact does the (post-socialist,
post-modernist) transformation of the city have on (in)equality, solidarity, social
cohesion, inclusion/exclusion, and local/urban identities? How are the boundaries,
public and private spaces, physical and social structure of the city created?
These questions were in the core of the conference discussions.
The conference attracted the attention of sociologists, human geographers
and environmentalists, social anthropologists and ethnologists, philosophers,
architects, social psychologists, and also several representatives of municipalities
and non-governmental organizations. The diverse structure of the participants
created a very good basis for a fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue, but also a dialogue
between academics and practitioners. It seems that it is easier to present
and publish nice academic ideas and perspectives on how urban problems can be
solved than to implement them into practice. For this reason, without a dialogue
of both parties no progress in the cities can be made. That is an important lesson
from the conference. Urban scientists should work closely with local actors
at all levels of governance. It is useful for both sides, and in the end it is useful for
the citizens of each city. The program of the conference was
thematically structured. It was opened by introductory words of Prof. H. Librová of
the Department of Environmental Studies, followed by blocs of lectures focused
on different aspects of urban development and change. The first day was dedicated
mostly to the topics of urban spaces and their integration and/or differentiation
as seen from the angle of different disciplines (L.Galčanová, S. Poláková,
L. Sýkora, D. Luther, J. Pospíšilová – A. Steinhübel, J. Janto, J. Sládek); urban
diversity (A. Bitušíková); and psychological reflections and effects of the city
(T. Řiháček, M. Koťová). Sustainability of city development in its broader perspective
was stressed several times. This concept is still understood more in
its environmental meaning in the Central-European region. The conference
brought a wider view of the sustainable city, emphasizing the importance of an
urban environment that creates conditions for friendly cohabitation of diverse
cultural and social groups and encourages social integration leading to better
life for all urban citizens. The second day was opened by an
inspiring keynote address given by Prof. M. Marcelli on the philosophic topic of
urbanophobia. Marcelli built his presentation on numerous writings of philosophers
(both unbanophiles and urbanophobes)
dealing with the city, with the main focus on Rousseau. Rousseau
was probably the most famous critic of the city, describing it as a place of
moral decadence. Marcelli pointed out some paradoxes of this approach and
talked about an open city and even about the “urban” universal fluid which is neither
the city nor the countryside, but the countryside within the city and the main
channel of communication processes. Marcelli´s presentation was followed by
blocs of lectures given by architects and art historians (T. Vích, M. Topolčanská
and M. Horáček); and human geographers, environmentalists and sociologists
(J. Novák, A. Burjanek, O. Mulíček, P. Pospěch, B. Vacková and L. Šolcová).
Urban space, locality and society were the key words linking most of the presentations
of the Saturday program. The City – a Changeable (Un)Certainty
conference brought fresh air to the debates about the city, mainly because
it made various disciplines talk to each other. It is obvious that interdisciplinary
dialogue is a challenge. We often tend to see “our” disciplinary view or methodology
as a better one or more appropriate, but only by listening to other disciplines
can we learn, broaden our understanding of the topic and overcome our “disciplinecentrism.”
The conference was organized by young scientists and it was very
encouraging to see many young researchers in the audience, too. The future of
urban research is in good hands.

Alexandra Bitušíková

Vydání: 10, 2008, 2