The Language of the Becoming City

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ISBN 978-3-86859-712-7

The Language of

the Becoming City

© 2021 by jovis Verlag GmbH

Texts by kind permission of the authors.

Pictures by kind permission of the photographers/

holders of the picture rights.

All rights reserved.

Editor: Henrietta Palmer

Copy editing: Everett Thiele and Helen Walasek

Design: Johan Cnattingius

Cover photo by the research group

Cover design by Johan Cnattingius

All images © by the researchers behind this book,

unless otherwise stated

Graphics: All larger maps and general diagrams by Yvan Ikhlef

Lithography: Bild1Druck, Berlin

Printed in the European Union

This publication was made possible through funding from

Swedish Research Council and J. Gust. Richert’s Fund.

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), via the

Gothenburg Local Interaction Platform of former Mistra Urban

Futures, contributed financially to the workshop in Goa.

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ISBN 978-3-86859-712-7

The Language of

the Becoming City

Making spatial justice from conflicts, commons, networks and hybridity



Preface, by caroline wanjiku kihato...................................................7

Acknowledgements.......................................................................................... 8


The Language of the Becoming City

by henrietta palmer................................................................................11

Introduction: How to Imagine the Urban Becoming?................ 12



Shaping Identities and Spaces in Södertälje, Sweden

by henrietta palmer, iain low with

solano da silva......................................................................................... 33

Introduction....................................................................................................... 34

Sites of Conflict Practices......................................................................... 45

Discussion........................................................................................................... 56

Conclusion.......................................................................................................... 59


Concepts Emerging from the Change Dynamics

of Conflicts.................................................................................................... 62

In-between Spaces, by ulrika lundgren....................................... 64

Spaces of Identity Formation: Building New Societal

Imaginations, by yvan ikhlef............................................................ 68

The Destabiliser, by katarina nitsch.................................................74


Urban Commoning as Counteracting Neoliberal

Global Order in Cape Town, South Africa

by henrietta palmer, iain low and solano da silva....... 85

Introduction....................................................................................................... 86

Sites of Commoning Practices............................................................... 95

Discussion ........................................................................................................102



Concepts Emerging from the Change Dynamics

of Commons...............................................................................................106

Bodies at Risk, by katarina nitsch..................................................108

Spiralisation: Building Knowledge, Citizenship and

Community, by yvan ikhlef..............................................................115

Geographies of Anonymity: Commoning Urban

Resources for Co-existence, by yvan ikhlef...........................118


Struggles for Land Justice and Belonging in Goa, India

by henrietta palmer, solano da silva and iain low...... 133

Introduction..................................................................................................... 134

Sites of Network Investigations and Practices........................... 144

Discussion......................................................................................................... 155

Conclusion........................................................................................................ 159


Concepts Emerging from the Change Dynamic

of Networks................................................................................................. 162

Acknowledging Locus as a Spatial Component

of Networks, by ulrika lundgren................................................164

Water Cycle Goa: The Image of an Inclusive Goa,

by yvan ikhlef..........................................................................................166

Spinning Bridges: Establishing Bridges as Nodes

of an Urban-Rural Network, by yvan ikhlef............................172

The Love for Land Act: Increasing Equality and Equity

within the Network of Goa, by ulrika lundgren................. 182

Breaking the Silence, by katarina nitsch with evelyn

fernandes.................................................................................................. 188


Changing Positions of Power, Identity and Rights

in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

by henrietta palmer, mariana cavalcanti, iain low

and solano da silva........................................................................... 205

Introduction.................................................................................................... 206

Sites of Hybridisation Practices.......................................................... 213


Conclusion....................................................................................................... 228

Endnotes........................................................................................................... 229

Concepts Emerging from the Change Dynamics

of Hybridity................................................................................................. 230

Hybridisation, by ulrika lundgren..................................................232

Hybridisers, by ulrika lundgren..................................................... 236

An Inventive Territory, by katarina nitsch................................. 238

Boundary Spaces: Integration of Languages and

Formation of New Urban Identities, by yvan ikhlef..........242

Bypassing Mobilities: Inclusiveness through Informal

Transport Systems, by yvan ikhlef............................................ 246


A Language for Urban Justice: Re-enacting the City

by henrietta palmer...........................................................................257

Constructing a Language........................................................................258

Endnotes........................................................................................................... 264

References and Links to Organisations.......................................... 265




The Language of

the Becoming City



The image of the future city is possibly

one of the most explored, exploited in

architectural and urban presentations,

as well as in artistic imaginations. Yet it

is desired and utilised not only as a tool

for agreement and negotiation, but also

as a map for citizens to position their

rights and hopes in an ever-changing

urban environ ment. Changes, however,

affect citizens unevenly. For some,

change increases an already vulnerable

urban situation, leading them to resist

the way urban transformations are

imposed. To understand the spatial

outcomes of these resistances and of

initiatives guiding change towards

desired futures, we propose four change

dynamics. These are conflicts, commons,

networks and hybridity. In giving them

a spatial and visual significance, a new

nar rative of change is taking form.

This narrative is built from emerging

concepts describing ongoing practices.

It is also built from radical imaginaries,

as ground ed and speculative imaginations

of a different urban future.

Together, they form a Language of the

Becoming City.



The four contexts provide Emerging Concepts and

Radical Imaginaries to form a language for the

becoming city (opposite right).

Diagram by Yvan Ikhlef.

To imagine is the professional practice of the architect

or the artist, with the task of contributing to society

through their embodied, visualised or built imaginations.

A speculative approach implies a back-and-forth movement

between facts and imaginations, between historical

accounts and anticipated futures. Speculation, part of the

practice of the architect and artist, is also used to design

and build the tools supporting knowledge production and

its outcome. 4 Such an approach will not end with a set of

new facts but with propositions. This is how this research

has been conducted, putting together concepts from

actions on the ground, proposing a language for the

becoming city. Here the involved artist and architects

have had specific roles to play in contributing to the

research with images. The images presented in this book

are sometimes explorations and interpretations of what is

taking place on the ground, sometimes speculative proposals

for emerging concepts or for radical imaginaries.

There is no set stan dard or common agreement for how

these speculations should be presented, as they are individual

contributions emerging from our experiences and

conversations. On the other hand, although individual

contributions, together they form a shared imagination

constructing a language of the becoming city.


This book builds upon ten years’ of research-based education

within the post-master programme Resources at

Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm (2005–2015).

Resources was an experimental space where global challenges,

such as the depletion of fossil fuels and of biodiversity,

or global drivers like consumption, growth or migration,

were critically positioned in relation to the future of

the urban environment. Within the Resources programme

each of the urban contexts presented here was the focus

of a year-long explorative study. It is from these experiences

and the network of researchers, activists, practitioners

and organisations who focused on these sites that

the four change dynamics have been framed and contextualised,

each in a specific city or region. 5 Even if there is no

definite rationale behind the combination of a change

dynamic and a particular geographical context, in these

particular urban contexts there are specific characteristics,

traditions and historical accounts that speak to the

change dynamic in question.


The pedagogical environment of Resources contributed to

a transdisciplinary approach. Participants entered the

programme from a number of spatial practices – architects,

planners, engineers, designers, artists, writers, photographers

or geographers. This diversity of disciplines

and expertise, represented as well in the lecturers and

topics of study, put demands on methods for boundary

spanning and integration of knowledge. It is from such

educational and collaborative experiences that the group

of researchers for this inquiry was formed, consisting of

previous participants and educators in the Resources programme,

together with researchers engaged in the different

urban contexts. It was of particular importance to

contextualise the research through the expertise and

knowledge of local participating researchers. Hence, the

group included Associate Professor in Urban Anthropology

Marina Cavalcanti from the State University of Rio de

Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil, Professor in Architecture Iain

Low from University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa,

Assistant Professor of Development Studies and Political

Theory Solano Da Silva at BITS-Pilani’s K.K. Birla Goa

campus in India, together with Swedish colleagues, lecturer

and artist Katarina Nitsch at Royal Institute of Art

in Stockholm, architects Ulrika Lundgren and Yvan

Ikhlef from Stockholm, and Henrietta Palmer, Professor

of Architecture at Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. 6

Building a Language of the Becoming

City – Change Dynamics, Emerging

Concepts and Radical Imaginaries


In building a language for the becoming city we have suggested

to first engage with a set of change dynamics: conflicts,

commons, networks and hybridity. These are four

phenomena that have helped us to read and contextualise

actions of change on the ground. Each has its own disciplinary,

theoretical and historical connotations, reaching

out to embrace a wide range of topics and ideas, which in

turn enriches its guiding capacity for understanding

change. The book, and the research behind it, is also

organised according to these four dynamics. Each frames

the research of a specific geographical context, a workshop

on site, and a chapter that illustrates the dynamic.

Thus, conflicts are explored in the geographical context of

Södertälje in Sweden; commons coupled with practices of

change taking place in Cape Town, South Africa; networks

investigated in Goa in India; and hybridity positioned in

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The intention behind these couplings

is to understand the properties of each dynamic,

how they engage – or possibly could engage – in bringing

the full potential of desired changes to the context in focus.

The change dynamics have certain characteristics that

make them useful when understanding transformation.

First, they are relational, suggesting that change takes

place through interaction between citizens and through













their interactions with space. Second, they are dynamic,

meaning they embrace both actions and outcomes in a

simultaneous ‘doing’ and ‘being’. Hence, they act as both a

verb and a noun – they both make and become something.

Networks, commons and hybridity all subscribe to this

property in ways of organising, interacting and negotiating

a process of change, as well as representing the outcomes

of such processes. Conflicts, on the other hand,

appear differently. Conflicts are never the aspired for nor

anticipated outcome of a process of change, but are, in

this research, a precondition for each one of the other

dynamics with a transformative capacity to guide change

From the contextualisation of the change dynamics in

different urban environments, we will discern how concepts

of importance for processes of change emerge.

These emerging concepts are defining actions, or counter

actions, related to each one of the change dynamics. They

could also be the effects of the dynamics in play. An emergtowards

a just city. Because of this, conflicts as a change

dynamic is presented first and more extensively. A third

characteristic of change dynamics is their engagement

with power. As the change dynamics assume the integration

of different actors’ knowledge and values, power will

become manifest in terms of whose knowledge and values

count. In order to achieve urban change through any of

the change dynamics, there is also risk-taking. Those

taking the greatest risks in the processes of change

described here are also the most precariously situated,

while other urban actors, such as politicians, planners

and researchers, can engage from more unchallenged

positions. Hence a relational imbalance of power is

embedded in the change dynamics and requires attention.

This brings us back to our initial question: Who has

the right to imagine urban change?





Södertälje, Sweden







become the approach to conflict resolution. However, conflict

transformation as framed by Lederach has also been

criticised for not being explicit about how power (and the

idea of ‘truth’ as connected to power) is formulated or

shaped by the different leadership levels throughout the

process. This brings us back to our central question:

Peace for whom, and transformation into what? If the

project of modernity is actually upholding conflicts by not

acknowledging plurality, how can this hegemony be challenged?

If the voices of the oppressed are brought into the

peacebuilding process, how will possible counterhegemonies

that are produced be considered in the light

of modernity?

Betts Fetherston, lecturer in peace and conflict studies,

also criticises conflict resolution for being part of an

apparatus of discipline and normalisation. Fetherston

asks: What roles do counter-hegemonies play in the

process of conflict transformation? Is engagement possible

beyond a mere contestation of the hegemony of

modernity, given that counter-hegemonies tend to be not

only small but also fragmented? From such a fragmented

position, how could any foundation for new radical

agendas be constructed? One way to do this, she suggests,

is to identify local movements working for change with

‘hegemonic capacities’, so-called local hegemonies. 27

Assuming that these local hegemonies are neither oppressive

nor excluding, they could possibly open up a conceptual

space where fragmented means of change could be

considered as transformative. Some doubt still remains

about whether such local counter-hegemonies could

challenge the hegemony of neoliberalism. Fetherston suggests

that although the transformative role of counterhegemon

ies in peacebuilding might actually be small, the

strength of their presence lies in their resistance to the

homogenisation process that often emerges in the

consensus-building of peacebuilding. Therefore, they offer

spaces for alternative directions of social life. 28 Here, her

critique bears similarities to Mouffe’s arguments, acknowledging

an institutional space for difference to counteract a

process leading toward a predetermined hegemony. But

unlike Mouffe, who criticises Habermas’ notion of communicative

action with the objective of consensus, Fetherston

sees the necessity of building consensus across different

groups and identities. Hence, Fetherston suggests that

transformative peacebuilding should build spaces, however

incomplete, where communicative action can take

place. In doing so, transformative peacebuilding aims for a

perspective of post-hegemonic societies, where spaces for

the counter-hegemonic create ‘the outlines for coexistence

and a legitimation of a multiplicity of social meanings and

realities’ instead of a new hegemony. 29 A minimal ambition,

according to Fetherston, is to open a critical space where

the very ‘foundations of social meaning and practice are

examined’ without reproducing a ‘regime of truth’. A

maximum potential of such transformative approach,

Fetherston continues, would be to repair and bring

to gether distorted communicative networks within everyday

sites of social structures and action. 30



Another way of framing conflicts can be found in transversal

politics, which evolved from the practice of Italian feminist

peace-activists in the 1970s. Transversal politics is

based on the recognition of intersectionality, i.e. that identities

are always multiple and layered. It has been brought

into contemporary debates by peace and conflict scholar

Nira Yuval-Davis. 31 Yuval-Davis considers it necessary to

separate social identities from social values. In her view,

people belonging to a collective identity do not necessarily

share the same social and political values, and therefore

certain values, for example an orientation towards social

justice, can cut across differences, creating other formations

or communities than those based on a collective

identity or cultural belonging. Transversal politics then

recognises the differential power positions that may

appear within such value-based communities. The principle

for handling differences in conflict situations is to use

dialogues based on ‘rooting and shifting’. This means

understanding one’s own ‘roots’ with reflexive knowledge

of one’s own positioning and identity, 32 but at the same

time engaging in empathetic identification with the position

of the other participants, thereby encompassing

differences with respect for and recognition of everyone

present. Transversal politics is similar to agonistic

pluralism in so far as both make difference the norm and

respectfully acknowledge adversaries. However, transversal

politics moves beyond agonism as defined by Mouffe,

because each participant also needs to ‘shift’ to inhabit

the identity of the other. What happens then is a denial of

closure of identity, leading to a belief in incompleteness

and a future of difference. Cynthia Cockburn, activist and

peace and conflict researcher, describes transversal politics

as a ‘politics of a future tense’, a politics of ‘will have

become’, which demands a radical imagination. 33


We can discern that both agonistic pluralism and conflict

transformation regard the process of agonism and a multilayered

process structure as spaces where the dynamic of

conflicts is contained. But while agonistic pluralism

intends to keep the conflict vital as a genuine ‘space of

politics’, conflict transformation, dealing with structural

and physical violence within the social, necessarily sees




The waterway today (top).

Map of Södertälje from 1870 showing the waterway

from the Baltic to Lake Mälaren and the location for

what is today the city of Södertälje (below).

the conflict as a ‘stage’ leading towards individual, collective

and societal emancipation. This stage should not only

offer a space and voice for the oppressed, but also, according

to Fetherston, build spaces for a post-hegemonic coexistence.

This notion of space differs from the institutional

spaces supporting conflicts, as discussed by Mouffe, but

bears similarities to the new material and cultural landscapes

for practices of the unheard, as described by

Swyngedouw. Transversal politics further imagines that

something different emerges from keeping identities open

and in continuous transformation. Taken together, these

viewpoints all acknowledge difference as the norm, and

conflict as a dynamic for societal development. These

approaches will support our discussion of how the urban

environment of Södertälje provides spaces for conflicts.

We will return to this sketch of a possible spatial outcome

of conflicts as we learn more about the practices on site.

A Short History of Södertälje’s Urban

Growth – External Connection

vs. Local Fragmentation

Before entering the spaces of Södertälje, we will briefly

present its geography and history. To forestall possible

confusion, Södertälje is the name of both the municipality

with 95,000 inhabitants, and the central town itself,

with 70,000 inhabitants. The city is situated in a rolling

agricultural landscape some 40 km south of Stockholm.

In a contemporary urban terminology, one could call

modern Södertälje an arrival city. 34 According to former

city antiquarian Emma Tibblin, Södertälje has always

been a transition town. People have travelled through the

city, stayed for shorter times, and also settled for good.

This variety of residential patterns is partly due to Södertälje’s

geographic location and topographic qualities, and

partly to its infrastructural connections and its large

amount of jobs within its industries. Of further importance

for the urban development have been the demographic

restructurings of the record years, and in recent

times, the large presence of migrant communities

up holding established social networks for immigrating

fellow citizens.

Throughout its history the town of Södertälje has undergone

intense periods of rapid expansion. The constantly

changing self-image of the city – from resort town to

industrial town, from sports city to immigrant city, and to

its current image of research city – testifies to these shifts

in urban development. But it also implies an uncertainty

about what the city is and could become. In the novel Ett

kort uppehåll på vägen från Auschwitz, 35 Göran Rosenberg

writes about his Polish father who survived the Holocaust

and ended up in Södertälje, and how, during the post-war

period, the city became a place where his dreams of the

future coincided as well as clashed with the dreams of the

city. At the time, Södertälje was creating a place of importance

for itself in the national economic expansion that

built the Swedish welfare society, while Rosenberg’s

father was trying to recreate his life and find a reason to

go on living after Auschwitz. The post-war expansion of

the city, with its thriving industries, carried promises

competing with the dream of Israel, the USA and remote

Australia and Argentina. However, the dream of the

future city was not able to create space for Rosenberg’s

father’s history or his dreams, and he tragically committed

suicide. The Jewish history of Södertälje has left few

imprints. Other ethnic and religious groups have more

visibly re-organised the urban territory, first the Finnish

labourers who also arrived in the post-war period but

then and even more so the Middle Eastern Christians,

who began arriving in the late 1960s.


Located where the Baltic sea connects with Lake Mälaren,

the site of Södertälje was historically the place where

boats could pass from one body of water to the other

without travelling all the way to the site where Stockholm

was founded further north. The continuous widening and

deepening of this water passage, to maintain control of

imports and exports to and from the industries and towns

around Lake Mälaren, became the underpinning of an

expanding economy in what was to be declared the city of

Telge before the end of the 14th century. In the 16th

century, the city developed around the port, and in the

early 19th century a wide and deep channel with a lock

enabled intense industrial growth and urban expansion.

The establishment of a more modern road to Stockholm

in the late 1850s, and of a national railway line between

the city of Gothenburg and Stockholm some years later,





The sites of Assyrian centres in which conflicts

of different kinds exist.

1. The Culture House of the Assyrian Association

together with St Jacob’s Cathedral and Party Halls

2. The Elaf School

3. Reading for Integration, in the Culture House of

the Assyrian Association and at the Hovsjö Hub

4. Beth-Nahrin Culture Centre and Bethnahrin

Women’s Association

the risk of them becoming obsolete, while another one

would be to develop those values, potentially jeopardising

a collective identity. These two spectra of identity and

belonging – on one hand belonging to a ‘home country’, 64

a religion and/or an ethnic identity, and on the other to

the country of arrival and a new national identity – are

fundamental tensions that permeate the sites we visited.

Deniz further tells us that any minority culture needs

to draw a boundary between itself and other cultures and

then decide when and how to transgress that boundary,

and for what reasons. For any culture, a number of practices

become prominent, both to position the culture in

relation to other cultures, and to fix and develop these

positions. 65 In Deniz’s analysis, these practices include

social organisation in terms of family structures and networks,

including a separate education system, endogamy

(i.e. marrying within the extended family), public rituals,

geographic and social segregation, the practice of a language

connected to the culture, organisation in associations,

and a professional structure and economic situation.

66 These practices are mirrored at the sites of our

visits, which are in part physical manifestations of such


















When the physical structure of Södertälje evolved

along a fragmented and disrupted pattern, it created

urban ‘in-between environments’ consisting

of roads, and patches of forests and green areas. Not unlike

the rest of urban Sweden, these areas, together with the

fringes of the million homes programme suburbs, have

gradually been developed into semi-commercial districts

with offices and light-industrial buildings, car repair shops

and showrooms, retail outlets and large parking lots. They

also house gyms, independent schools, independent

churches and other activities searching for cheap rents. It

is partly within these kinds of urban landscapes that the

migrant communities of Södertälje have found a territory

for manifesting their practices. It is generally supposed in

the urban debate that urban inhabitants are drawn to the

physical centre of a city. But anyone who has lived within a

certain distance from a city centre knows that other

attracting forces come into play, creating new relationships

of importance and places of meaning. Hence, a reinterpretation

of the concept of centrality is needed to

understand the impact of these spatial practices. The sites

of our visits are dispersed over the terrains of Södertälje,

not only within these intermediate zones, but also centrally.

Sometimes they appear in remodelled buildings, sometimes

as constructions in their own right, and sometimes

as temporary spaces.

The sites were selected in dialogue with Marlen from

her repertoire of social and cultural engagements. The

assumption was that these sites were already a sort of

response to some of the conflicts outlined above. Al though

these conflicts were not necessarily pointed out at the

time of our visit, their contours emerged during the visits

and in our discussions with the people managing and

defining the spaces of interest. The following sections will

provide brief introductions to these sites and discuss

emerging concepts from which a spatial production can be


1. The Culture House of the Assyrian

Association together with St Jacob’s

Cathedral and Party Halls – Spatial

Division for Collective Identity


The Assyrians’ name for themselves is Soryoye (in

Swedish Suryoye), which at the time of their arrival in

Sweden was translated as Assyrier in Swedish. In 1971, a

Syriac Orthodox parish was established in Södertälje and

the first Assyrian association was founded in the million

homes programme suburb of Ronna, supported and

encouraged by the State. 67 In 1975, a conflict emerged

within the association between the older generation constituting

the board and the younger generation asking for

more progressive development. The older group of important

family leaders, who associated themselves with the

values and traditions of the Syriac Orthodox Church,

came to denounce the use of the name ‘Assyrian’. 68 The

younger group voted the board out of office and took over

the leadership role and the task of transforming a deeply

rooted religious identity into an identity based on national,

ethnic and also more modern principles. In doing so they

picked up on an Assyrian nationalistic agenda already

emerging before their migration to Europe. 69 In 1977, the

Assyrian Federation of Sweden (Assyriska riksförbundet)

was established to unite different local associations

founded across Sweden and to strengthen the Assyrian

identity as primarily ethnic rather than religious. The

magazine Hujådå (translated as Unity or Union) was

started the following year and became an important

organ of communication for the Federation. It was used to

modernise and develop the Assyrian identity in terms of

history, language, culture and religion in relation to both

other Syriac Orthodox communities and the majority

Swedish society. 70 How ever, the local association in

Södertälje was above all a social hub, providing important

guidance to newly arrived Assyrians and supporting

fellow countrymen and women in their home countries.

The conflict between the two emerging groups – the

Assyrians and those who eventually came to call themselves

Syrianer in Swedish (here translated as Syriacs) –

continued to escalate in the wake of certain incidents.

Here the Swedish State also played an important role. 71 In

broad terms, this conflict was about transforming a religious

identity into a nationalistic one, and it played out

between factions, elites and generations. 72 In 1983, the

still united community inaugurated St Afrem church on

the outskirts of the million homes programme suburb of

Geneta, in response to the urgent needs for an appropriate

ceremonial space. 73 As the ‘name conflict’ evolved, the

Assyrian group withdrew from St Afrem to organise a distinct

religious space of their own. In 2009, St Jacob’s

cathedral was consecrated at the edge of the neighbouring

million homes programme suburb of Hovsjö. With the

two churches as centres for the now separate communities,

civic and cultural amenities were further established.

What was now called the Syriac community

housed its civil activities in an already existing office

complex near the church of St Afrem, while the Assyrian

Association built its own Culture House adjacent to

St Jacob’s cathedral. At both sites, large wedding halls –

an important feature of a religious, social and cultural

practice – were set up next to the cathedrals. In St Afrem’s





Drama-reading takes place as ‘translanguaging’ in

the Culture House of the Assyrian Association.

Professional actors engage with excited children

(top and lower left).

Parents join as a learning audience (lower right).

Association has gone from being in a condition of stagnation,

to being a place of critically expanding identities.

Because she is Swedish-Assyrian, Marlen is acutely aware

of the role language plays in shaping identities. ‘Language

is connected to identity, power, empowerment and

democracy’ she explains. Multiple languages are spoken

during the plays, which makes the children secure about

being both Swedes and Assyrians (or members of any

other nationality), and able to connect the two (or more)

identities. ‘Here they can be both and, instead of either

or’, says Marlen, ‘We are “hybridising” the children.’ 106

The Country of Reading takes a slightly different

approach from the Elaf school. Embodying through the

acting of languages, whether Swedish, Arabic or Turoyo,

is more important than specific language training, or the

teaching of historical narratives. This pedagogy bears

similarities to translanguage pedagogy, which challenges

the pedagogical approaches of bilingualism and multilingualism.

Translanguage emphasises meaning-making

and communication through accessible languages, rather

than multilingual performances. 107 Linguistic researcher

and pedagogue Suresh Canagarajah explains this as ‘a

shuttling between languages’, 108 a hybrid form of communication

that does not exhibit binary or hierarchical preferences

between the different languages in use. The

change here is to make difference the norm. Canagarajah

continues ‘While the “trans” in translingual stands for

meaning relationships beyond individual languages, it

also perceives communication as going beyond words and

accommodating other semiotic systems (such as sound,

visuals and body experiences) in creating meaning.’ 109

In the Country of Reading, performance is added to the

language repertoire. In a trustful exchange between professional

and amateur acting bodies and in the negotia-


tion of multiple languages, self-awareness and ethics are

created. Canagarajah describes translanguage awareness:

How intelligibility works is through both parties opening

themselves to learning the norms of the other as they

speak. This calls for a different ethic or disposition of

communication. Rather than seeking refuge in a uniform

shared norm, or their own preferred norms, the interlocutors

are disposed to engage with the otherness of the

interlocutor. 110

The move towards a spatially situated interaction of

translanguaging creates what Canagarajah, borrowing a

term from literature scholar Mary Louise Pratt, refers to

as a contact zone. The notion of a contact zone, Pratt

writes, is intended to contrast with ideas of bounded communities

when thinking about language and culture,

since contact zones are ‘social spaces where cultures

meet, clash and grapple with each other.’ 111 Inhabitants of

contact zones need to use certain pedagogical arts to

engage with potential asymmetries of power. Pratt recommends

storytelling, for example, and methods for

identifying with the ideas and histories of others. 112 The

manifestation of such relational space is unfamiliar, in

that it is nontypical and located outside of the normative

learning space of the classroom.

The Country of Reading ultimately established itself

as a contact zone through the destabilising capacity of

Marlen. Canagarajah describes ‘the ability to anticipate

and repair potential communication breakdown in

contexts of variable grammatical proficiency among

inter locutors’ as a procedural and strategic capacity. 113

Translated into an urban social context, this could be

understood as a capacity to anticipate and repair, or

rather rebuild, situations where conflicts can emerge due

to differing values and norms. The personas who have this

capacity have been identified by others and given different

names from slightly different viewpoints. Transversal

enablers, for example, are women working informally to

promote intercultural connections, creating contact

zones for this purpose. (This persona is also defined in

Chapter 5 on hybridity.) Others describe change-agents

within public organisations, working from discreet positions

for long-lasting societal transformations or as

agents forging new identities, place meanings and transcultural

understandings. 114 In the context of conflicts, we

have chosen to call this persona the destabiliser. The

destabiliser has a certain societal position that gives her

the agency to act. This could be an intersectional position,

such as that of an engaged professional, feminist, activist,

mother and community member, or an in-between position,

moving across organisational or cultural borders. As

a boundary spanner, the destabiliser is able to question

cultural stagnation, oppression or other obsolete values

from within, at the same as she uncovers and identifies

structural gaps in society. She arises from the vacuum

created by different losses and identifies criticalities to

address. She furthermore has a multiple perspective on

conflict; i.e. she recognises that knowledge derived from a

single position is never the complete knowledge needed. 115

In doing so, she anticipates new, concrete, relevant and

long-lasting solutions for high urgency situations, for the

purpose of effecting profound societal change. The destabiliser

makes conventions unstable through practical

action. Rather than empowering a particular community,

she forms a new one, based on transversal ethical practices.

In the context of the Language of the Becoming City

the destabiliser has the capacity to forge new relations

with space, and thereby to create and recreate spaces for

the negotiation of differences.

What Marlen is dealing with is a transversal politics

pursued through translanguaging. Her spaces are in that

sense emerging from agonistic pluralism, but move beyond

it, since they invite difference not to be revealed, but

to become a shared tool for empowerment. As a destabiliser,

she takes on the role of a ‘middle level individual’,

considered by Lederach to have the greatest potential to

uphold a conflict transformation. 116

In Södertälje we met several destabilisers engaged in

conflicts and working with societal issues towards longterm

goals. Susanne, for example, heads a public elementary

school with 280 children speaking 33 different languages.

She is continuously working around conflicts that

arise in languages and communication by using a holistic

perspective of sustainability involving children, teachers

and pedagogies, families, locality, environment and

nature alike, in new practices with visions of new spaces.

As a civil servant, she challenges the role that is formally

prescribed to her, sometimes taking great risks to do so.

4. Beth-Nahrin Culture Centre and

Bethnahrin Women’s Association

– Translocal Identities and Spaces

There is a nerve fibre connecting Södertälje

with the Middle East. The pain down there

is very clearly felt here. 117

Travelling from Stockholm by train through Södertälje,

one gets a brief glimpse of a large sign reading Panorama

on top of a bright red building. Panorama Party Halls is

one of the popular establishments for hosting grandiose

Syriac and Assyrian wedding parties. The road from Panorama

passes industrial premises and fenced-off storage

grounds, near the inlet of the Södertälje channel. The








Spaces of Identity Formation:

Building New Societal



Thresholds are places and moments in time where identities

and communities are formed in a temporary passage leading

from one state to another. This imaginary proposes to link the

notion of the threshold to a number of informal and formal

places in the Swedish-Assyrian community in Södertälje that

provide complementary spaces for transforming themselves

and Swedish society.

Thresholds is a concept found in ecology,

physics, sociology and pedagogy

that represents a moment of shift. It

can also represent instances of deliberate

encounters with ‘otherness’ – other ideas,

behaviours, communities or cultures –

with transformative effects. These thresholds

emerge in response to conflicts, as

places and moments where encounters

(and possible discord) lead to significant

change. To experience such transformation

as a group within a threshold could be,

as architectural theoretician Stavros

Stavrides has pointed out, a precondition

for community building. Being ‘on the

threshold’ the experience of communitas

emerges (Stavrides, 2016: 56).

Stavrides S. (2016). “Common Space: The City as Commons”

The path of integration into Swedish

Serres M. (2013). “Statues”

society provided by the Swedish State

follows a defined pattern. Institutions

such as the employment office, the social

insurance agency, or different adult

Serres 1993:90



Stavrides 2016: 5

R o n n a c e n t r u m



Cape Town,

South Africa

00 01 02

0 5 10 km



00 01 02

04 km


0 5 10 km

0 5 10 km

0 5 10 k









Collages showing:

A sequence from Mitchells

Plain, from 1940–1980 (top).

A sequence from Khayelitsha,

from 1980–1990 (middle).

A sequence from Khayelitsha,

from 1990–2010 (lower).

Collages by Yvan Ikhlef.






criticism of urban commons is that due to their

emergence having been forced by the withdrawal of

municipal or State of infrastructure deliveries, they

offer a voluntary replacement, thereby actually playing

into the hands of those who are behind these reductions in

public efforts. A different perspective understands the

commons instead as redefining the power of the State. 58

The practices examined in our study were formulated not

only in terms of access to and provision of services, but

explicitly as nodes of social exchange and knowledge production,

and as experiments with new communalities, as

well as explorations of alternative forms of partnership

and institutionalisation. The sites were selected from local

knowledge by Iain Low, 59 following the development of

their practices over a longer time, and partly for being sites

of deliberate coproduction among different stakeholders

and organisations in attempts to reformulate the agency of

State or Municipal authorities. 60

As noted earlier, we will discuss the practice of these

sites through a framework of three moments of commoning

– emergence, maintenance and translation. 61 For each

of these moments, we will identify the supporting structures

bringing about necessary transformations and highlight

significant outcomes of the same.


The three sites in our study are situated on or near the

Cape Flats, which is the name of the vast, flat terrain

south-east of the emblematic Table Mountain. If Cape

Town was chosen as a site for gardens for provisioning

colonial traders partly due to its lushness, the southeastern

lowlands demonstrate a completely different type

of landscape, with dunes once covered by low fynbos vegetation.

With an exceptionally high water table, Cape Flats

is now subjected to winter flooding and suffers an overall

lack of sheltering trees or protecting woods. These conditions,

with intense summer heat and strong northwesterly,

rain-bearing winds in the winter season, create

a harsh living environment for a population of almost one

million people living in the townships founded by the

apartheid planning practice. 62 The major arterial N2

freeway at the north edge of Cape Flats provides a connection

from the airport to the city centre in the west,

and to the south coast in the east, and also serves as the

primary transportation road for a working population

travelling between 20 and 40 km to the city centre and

back on a daily basis.

1. Victoria Mxenge Settlement

– A Grounded Social Movement

What we have defined as grounded social movements are

characterised by struggles around conditions of

migrancy, identity and belonging in relation to shelter

and livelihood. They are directly informed by the intersection

between race, gender and class, as in the case of

the Victoria Mxenge Settlement, which evolved through

what is called a People’s Housing Process (PHP). Taking

seriously Federici’s call for us to learn from grassroots

women’s communalism, we asked the women of Victoria

Mxenge to present to us their commoning process of

jointly building relational, physical and institutional

space, and producing a piece of city where they can find a

place for themselves and their families.

The social movement initiated by the Victoria Mxenge

women (VM women for short) is researched and studied

through a pedagogic framework developed by Salma

Ismail, Associate Professor in adult education at University

of Cape Town, who also introduced us to this group of

women, their history and their small community in

Philippi some 20 km east of central Cape Town. Ismail

describes how, towards the end of the apartheid era, the

women arrived from the rural Eastern Cape to locate and

join their migrant-worker husbands. As a result, they

found themselves defined as illegal migrant land occupants

and radically marginalised in the informal settlement

of Crossroads, at that time on the extreme periphery

of Cape Town. Based on traditional practices of ubuntu,

their shared struggle for inclusion revolved around the

basic need for shelter as the means to enter the city in two

ways: to have a proper house for themselves and their

children, and to become emancipated urban citizens.

Hence, this particular group of rural women, as the

poorest of the poor, also needed to transform their own

identities to get access to power in the urban context. 63

This form of urban commoning arises from a direct

and extreme need for survival. In the absence of a

(skilled) community, such situations promote selforganisation

and self-learning. However, organisation

and growth seem directly linked to and dependent on

certain informed individuals with a capacity to translate

knowledge. In this case, twelve women came together in

1992 to form a savings group, at the initiative of one individual

who had come to know about schemes for saving

money to build houses at a grass-roots conference where

the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) presented their

Indian experiences. 64 From that meeting two organisations

were formed, the South African Homeless People’s

Federation (Federation), connecting and supporting

saving schemes across South Africa, and People’s

Dialogue on Land and Shelter (PD) an NGO affiliated with

SDI. The women’s saving group was formed under the





Mapping of emthonjenis and community

division in Monwabisi Park

(far left).

Place-making at the emthonjenis


spatial infrastructure are regarded as comprising one of

four fundamental change agents, alongside social and

institutional development and increased community participation.

The methodology presupposes three partners:

a Community, the Municipality and an intermediary

driver and negotiator. In 2005, The City of Cape Town,

together with the German Development Bank, formed a

partnership with Khayelitsha Development Forum for a

VPUU programme to be implemented by a team of professionals,

Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood Development

(SUN). Later, the process came to include additional partners

and funders, both locally and internationally. 73

One outcome of the emergence of VPUU as a constructed

social movement is a number of short- and longterm

interventions formulated as Community Action

Plans (CAP). These are documents based on surveys and

visioning exercises to overcome five modes of exclusion:

social, institutional, cultural, economic and spatial. 74

Based on CAP, certain ‘actions’ are articulated where the

spatial ones are on an infrastructural scale, identifying

regular movement patterns in order to increase the public

presence along crucial passages and thereby reducing the

frequency of violence. A significant spatial implementation

includes the transformation of a long section of a

public passage running through the central Harare neighbourhood

and connecting Monwabisi Park, an informal

settlement on the dunes south of the township, with

Khayelitsha train station some 4 km further north. Along

this important passage, where a large number of commuters

walk every day, several of public assets have been

set up as integrated infrastructure. These include sports

activities, a library, community facilities and specifically

invented architectural typologies for multi-functional

programmes, so-called Active Boxes. These are three-tofour

storey ‘towers’ housing various types of public pro­

promoting the notion of a citizen or a community engaged

in the cause of a general good. Hence the management of

the infrastructure by a volunteering community is intertwined

with learning. For individuals and a community

marked by despair and little hope for the future, the

moment of management means active engagement,

increased responsibilities, growing self-esteem and acquisition

of leadership skills. During our visit we heard that

the skill training provided as part of the exchange had led

to some ‘problems’ with individuals who did not want to

leave the training programmes after completion. Instead

of reading this as a ‘failure’, one should recognise it as a

consequence of wanting to belong to a new identity of solidarity,

and as such, a true outcome of building a commons

as ‘ownership’, not only of new infrastructural assets and

services but also of a transformative process itself.

Foregrounding community needs and local capacity

building as a precondition for all action, has here served

to invert the Community/State relationship, thereby providing

means for belonging and ownership, and to establish

sustainable self-management. Commoning processes

undertaken in conditions of this scale and scope seem to

require the support of an intermediary to nurture ‘community

building’. A negotiated, carefully weighed, critical

distance privileges the autonomy of community above

that of the State, making it possible to carry out redistributive

practices with direct consequence for local economies,

spatial configurations and ‘professional’ practices.

In this manner, engagement can be extended beyond the

scale of a discrete community or neighbourhood, and a

translation can take place with a multiplier effect that

engages civil society and ‘cityness’ within the local. The

collective experience of engaged individuals links them

with other stakeholders within a horizon of interconnectivity

that is sustainable beyond the project’s implemengrammes

on the ground floor and having caretaker functions

on the top, thereby providing a 24-hour human

presence to enhance public safety. In the single-storey

urban landscape of the township they function as

beacons, visibly rising above the surrounding neighbourhood

and making it possible from the top floors to ‘see’

people walking by on the ground, but also letting the

passers-by know they are ‘seen’ by someone, and hence

providing an increased feeling of security in previously

dangerous spaces.

Another example of an infrastructural spatial ‘action’ is

the Emthonjeni project in the informal settings of Monwabisi

Park. Emthonjeni is a southern African Bantu word

(in isiXhosa, the local language) that means a ‘water fountain

or source’, or as was explained to us, ‘at the riverbed’.

Above all the word emthonjeni evokes a dynamic place

where the people of a community socialised, while

washing clothing and laying it out to dry. As such, it has

deep linguistic and experiential associations with the

original meaning of the ‘commons’ as a commonly

managed piece of land or site. The public water-taps in

Monwabisi Park were identified as emthonjenis, around

which small spatial adjustments could be expanded into

micro, semi-public spaces for pre-school childcare and

play. With the frequent presence of the children, and their

need for safe walkways to the emthonjenis, these interventions

start to engage with the place beyond its functionality

of water provision, and to transform the neighbourhood

on a structural and social level from the perspective

of child safety. 75

Apart from the actions’ outcomes and the partnership

structure, voluntarism is a key development principle. 76

This implies engagement by local residents to take care of

public services in exchange for skill development, thereby



tation period. Urban commoning, here understood as an

institutional practice, increases the potential for the

social and the physical to be co-produced as parallel processes,

in the interest of a resilient socius. The VPUU

approach’s capacity for translation is shown through its

replication, via modification and adaptation to multiple

situations, across scales, together with marginalised communities

in the Cape Town townships. 77 It demonstrates

the resilience of urban commoning when co-produced as

collectivised actions across different contexts.



The public passage running through central Harare neighbourhood,

connecting Monwabisi Park with Khayelitsha train station (top).

Harare Live Work Units in the central square (lower left).

Harare Public Library and House of Learning (lower right).



The spatial interventions of the VPUU programme up to

this point include large transformations involving new

public spaces and public buildings that together form a

complex infrastructure of safety. From an outside perspective,

this kind of physical transformation could have

proceeded top-down without any local involvement, as

many urban development processes do. However, an

infrastructure of safety could not be built without the

trust of those being subjected to violence, and hence the

commoning process needs to create different kinds of

interdependent belongings to serve as strong bonds

between all participants. First, the local community

members, together with other stakeholders, experienced

a sense of belonging to the process of transformation,

which in the words of Stavrides gave rise to an equalising

potential among the commoners, who were sharing a

world-in-the-making. From this situation, different

responsibilities and rights, and an increased feeling of

ownership with regard to the transformed neighbourhoods

emerged in the community. Hence a second layer of

interdependent belonging was constituted in the form of

new identities and specifically reformulated citizenships.






t e g


i e





Q u

i e



t e n c

r o a c h

i n g

Geographies of Anonymity:

Commoning Urban

Resources for Co-existence









t e g


i e




Quiet encroaching as an in-between sphere

of acceptance and refusal.

Based on the planning principles of regulating

informal trading in Delft South, and on the

concept of ‘quiet encroachment’, this is a

mapping of new territories for informal markets.

The mapping is here exemplified by Khayelitsha

township. This proposal suggests Geographies

of Anonymity as a radical imaginary securing

access to resources for illegal traders and




Migrants are the most enterprising

of their generation, the authors

John Berger and Jean Mohr

remind us (Berger & Mohr [1975], 2010:

82). If so, what are the possible geographies

for such entrepreneurship? What are the

tools and strategies that could be used for

this entrepreneurship to occur?

The notion of quiet encroachment of the

ordinary describes the strategies ofthe

silent, protracted but pervasive advancement

of the ordinary people on the propertied

and powerful in order to survive

and improve their lives’ (Bayat, 2013: 1).

This is also how the creation and prospering

of informal markets at Delft South,

Cape Town, have been defined (by Fadly

Isaac, in studies on Delft South at University

of Cape Town). Here informal traders,

a large part of them migrants, use these

same strategies for establishing and

improving their businesses and living




An emerging literature on migrant entrepreneurship

reveals the positive economic

contributions of migrants and refugees to

South Africa. Figures show the rising economic

benefits of informal trading in the

form of rents to the city and landowners,

the creation of employment, and the

sourcing of large amounts of goods at local

level (Tawodzera et al., 2015). In light of

this, the City of Cape Town has redefined

its Informal Trading Policy, valuing the

informal trading sector as an integrated

part of the economic life, urban landscape

and social activities of Cape Town.

South Delft is an example of this new

understanding. The urban plans include



Transport 2 :

Public road and public parking

General business 1



Informal stores















Mapping of informal markets and land use at the

Sandelhout/Delft Main Rd crossing, Delft South.

Sources: Cape Town Zoning Scheme and Google

Satellite Imagery, 2018.



reserved spaces for informality, even for

such practices as hot-wiring electricity

and water installations. These new planning

directives are seen to also benefit

formal trading. The strategy of quiet

encroachment could therefore be understood

as an ‘in-between sphere’ of mutual

acceptance where both formal and informal

actors benefit. However, aggression

towards informal traders still exists, and

the municipality plays the double role of

being both supporter and controller. The

migrants and informal traders, in their

turn, negotiate between being accepted

and rejected as urban citizens.



If legal citizenship is inaccessible to

migrant traders, then illegality becomes

the only vacant ‘space’ to inhabit. To be

illegal then becomes the only identity left

in which to cultivate human values.

Because there are no legal and dignified

urban futures in sight for the illegal trader

and migrant, urban illegality becomes the

most stable ground guaranteeing the right

to co-exist in the urban environment and

to experience a sense of belonging. From

such a position, anonymity sometimes

becomes the sole guarantor of an urban




Defined here are three geo graphical

qualities supporting the strategy of quiet

encroachment for urban co-existence:

accessibility, visibility and hiddenness.

The geography of accessibility:

Access to resources

Public resources include public networks

for water, electricity and telecommunications,

as well as public spaces, including

public transport. We define the locations

of these different resources available for

commoning with quiet encroachments as

a geography of accessibility.

The geography of visibility:

Access to markets

The conditions for developing businesses

and beneficial market-related activities

are crucial for informal traders. This

implies a need for visibility in order to

reach potential buyers and promote

exchanges and contacts with other

traders. Well-trafficked public spaces and

busy sites of different kinds are thus

framed as a geography of visibility.

The geography of hiddenness:

Access to anonymity

While a trader needs to be seen, the quiet

encroachers also need invisibility for survival.

The search for the possible reciprocity

and trust that can flourish from anonymity

and an absence of surveillance and

state control gives rise to a geography of




Mapping these three geographies in

Khayelitsha township highlights certain

places of interest. When overlaying these

three thematic mappings, a new map

emerges showing the potential places for

informal traders to common urban

resources and establish an urban presence

and conditions for a livelihood. These are

the geographies of anonymity. Acknowledged

as a radical imaginary, they present

the quiet encroachers with new grounds to

common, and the city with new imaginations

for a more inclusive development. ❋



Goa, India







where access to land is acknowledged on a national level

as the most important resource for the poor that ‘assures

them of identity and dignity and creates conditions and

opportunities for realizing social equality’. 74

In June 2004 Baina was partly demolished by the local

government. The national Indian magazine Frontline

reported from the demolition: ‘Besides the brothels, the

demolition has also put out of business 20 bars (some in

existence since 1967), 83 eateries and a number of telephone

booths and small shops selling anything from cigarettes

to provisions. The question is, where have all the

CSWs [Commercial Sex Workers] gone?’ 75 Having been

migrants (sometimes dating back 40 years) and considered

casteless, the inhabitants of Baina were not provided

with any alternative housing or economic compensation.

Instead the government saw a golden opportunity to get

rid of an unwanted migrant population. As researcher in

women’s studies Shaila Desouza writes of the incident, ‘It

is obvious that demands of the tourism industry and the

Port Trust for evacuation of Baina beach of its residents is

the real reason for the action of June 14.’ 76 As a result of

the eviction, Baina’s former inhabitants – both the sex

workers and the many people with other trades who did

not manage to move back to their former states or to

resettle – became homeless. Moreover, the sex workers

became professionally dependent on a large and geographically

undefined economic context that exposed

them to increasingly dangerous working conditions.

Even though Baina in many ways was an unhealthy living

environment, the loss of its social cohesion was even

more devastating. This had acted as a protective shield

against the violence of customers and pimps, and against

HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, since the local

community of Baina was supported by different NGOs

working with education, healthcare and childcare.


One effect of the destruction of Baina was that the sex

workers, who previously were known as inhabitants of

Baina, became ‘invisible’. This might seem like an unintentional

result of the eviction, but in fact, to ‘make

someone invisible’ is a strategy of power that goes along

with the strategy of ‘fragmentation’. The eviction of

Baina’s inhabitants 77 was not only done to make space for

the image of Golden Goa, for which the beaches are an

emblematic frontside, but also because the sex workers

had to disappear visually as well, both as individuals and

as a community. This ‘invisibilisation’ functioned in line

with the economic logic of the new Goa, as prostitution

now went from serving local dock workers and ship crews,

to serve tourists. From this perspective, a demonstration

by sex workers and their children that took place in Vasco

da Gama in September 2014 78 can be understood as a

counter-act of visualisation and of breaking the silence of

denial. The visual presence of sex workers in the central

streets of the city, was a way for the women to ‘speak

back’, not only to an oppressive power that was making

them placeless and invisible, but to Goa as a whole, and

also to contest the prevailing images and identities of

Goa. The children carried signs saying, ‘We are also

human beings’ and ‘Hum saab ek haim’, meaning ‘We are

all one’. This act of visualisation and of speaking out was

an attempt to find and evoke an image of an inclusive Goa.

2. ARZ and Swift Wash

– Networks for Social Justice

The rationale of ARZ’s work is to see prostitution as

dependent on market mechanisms. Thus, ARZ’s strategy

involves breaking the ties that make the economic transactions

function. This entails physically removing the sex

workers from the context of customers and pimps, and

providing them with another socio-economically functioning

and empowering physical environment. ARZ calls

these movements rescue operations, since they are

planned and performed as direct acts to liberate the

women, removing them from where they are and bringing

them to a safe and secret space. As the sex industry of Goa

has become increasingly embedded within the tourism

industry, and more nationalised and internationalised,

the communication and transactions between clients,

pimps and the sex workers have moved online and become

digital. 79 Consequently, the sex workers do not work and

live in one specific physical environment, but are constantly

trafficked along certain routes to different localities

throughout India. This invisibilisation of the sex

workers and the placelessness of their work environment

make their lives increasingly unpredictable, insecure and

dangerous. The rescue actions of ARZ are likewise

becoming increasingly difficult to organise and carry out.

What might be able to replace the socio-physical

context that supported a now defunct and dispersed community

of individuals who lacked any legal, financial or

collective power? After many failed attempts to provide

rescued women with new economic possibilities, a coowned

and co-managed laundry business for commercial

laundry was started in 2000. The initiative came from a

group of former sex workers and was supported by ARZ.

A site for the business was found in the Sancoale

Industrial Estate, in Zuarinagar outside Vasco da Gama.

The laundry was named Swift Wash, which is an abbreviation

for the Women’s Association for Self-Help, but also

refers to the speed of the service. The full explanation of

Swift Wash reads: ‘A Centre for Research, Training and

Economic Rehabilitation’. According to Juliana Lohar,

who provides marketing support and is a trainer with





Newspaper clippings on the walls of the ARZ office in

Vasco (left).

Swift Wash in Sancoale Industrial Estate

(middle left).

Organisation of Swift Wash, floor plan.

Drawing by Ulrika Lundgren (middle right).

Arun Pandey in the ARZ office in Vasco (lower left).












ARZ, the notion of cleaning has been important to the

women, who see themselves as part of a ‘cleaning process’,

recreating their lives and identities through Swift Wash,

above all as women, but also as working women. The

weight of wet linen demands strong muscles, and while

they gain physical strength the women also grow mentally


The location of Swift Wash in the industrial area of

Sancoale is also of importance. It is anonymous enough

for the women not to be recognised by former perpetrators,

but visible enough for them to feel comfortable in a

mainstream work environment. 80 Beyond the commercial

activity, Swift Wash provides support for childcare and

education, medical and legal aid, and psychological and

trauma treatment. Next to the spaces for the laundry facilities,

Swift Wash also has spaces for these purposes, with

rooms for education and a small recreational garden. 81

Ironing &














When we meet with Juliana Lohar and Arun Pandey in

the small ARZ office in Vasco da Gama, and later in the

educational back rooms of Swift Wash in Zuarinagar, they

describe how breaking the links of dependency with the

perpetrators who have victimised the women is an

arduous task, since many of these persons are relatives or

even close family members of the women, and are dependent

on the women’s exploitation. Therefore, these people

are continuously putting pressure on the women to break

out of Swift Wash and to return to prostitution. ARZ’s

strategy for opposing these counterforces has been to

interact with family members and to council them to be

supportive of the women’s development and transformation.

Parents and partners, as well as brothel madams,

room owners and pimps, have accordingly been employed

at Swift Wash. Rebuilding the women’s identities and

lives, Lohar and Pandey explain, includes replacing their





Water Cycle Goa:

The Image of an Inclusive Goa







This proposal for a new image of Goa suggests defragmenting

the administrative division of Goa into talukas, a legacy

of colonial and pre-colonial times. Instead, it understands

the rivers of Goa as producers of resources and wealth;

the watersheds of Goa’s rivers guide the new division of

land. The current uneven distribution of resources would be

redirected and evened out, forming the basis for a greater

responsibility towards the waters of Goa.



Tourism – high land value


Agriculture – forest


Agriculture – mining










Talukas are the current administrative

districts for the taxation and management

of Goa. Linguistically the word

taluka also refers to the notion of belonging

to a place. The current division of Goa into

twelve talukas is the result of an historic

process dating back to pre-colonial and

colonial times, when land was essentially

valued for its resources and closeness to

the ocean and sea transport. Thus, areas

with potential high incomes are separated

from ones with less potential, leading to

the uneven division and distribution of

natural resources.

The legacy of fragmentation left by the

divisions of the talukas is being repeated

in Goa’s Regional Plan 2021, where planning

has been conducted taluka by taluka.

This pattern further consolidates the fragmentation

of Goa, rather than bringing

forward an understanding of Goa as a

comprehensive urban-rural network

of integrated land and water.

Goa is divided by rivers. Besides providing

communication routes from inland to

the ocean, rivers are the traditional source

of water for rice and other food production

in Goa. With the current division of talukas,

rivers are divided upstream and downstream,

dividing responsibility for the

water catchment of each river between different

administrative units. A redivision of

Goan territory along the water catchment

areas would provide a more even distribution

of resources and access to waters and

to the ocean. Such defragmentation of

current watersheds would contribute to a

new and more inclusive imaginary of Goa.

The Water Cycle Goa appears as a radical

imaginary. ❋

This proposal builds on Fertile Futures,

Resources, 2011.


The current division results in

fragmentation and the uneven

distribution of resources.

Proposal for a defragmented

district division along the

Goan watersheds.

Water cycle


By bringing a humid climate and torrential

rainfall annually to these areas, the

phenomenon of the monsoon plays an

important role in understanding the

topography, ecology, hydrography and

geology of the territory of Goa, as well as

the distribution of its resources.




Biodiversity hotspot





















Rio de Janeiro,


00 01 02

04 km

0 5 10 km

0 5 10 km



0 5 10 km

0 5 10 km






View over Complexo do Alemão.

(PAC), the Growth Acceleration Programme, devoted to

housing and infrastructure investments financed in partnership

between the state and federal governments,

brought the construction of Rio’s first aerial cable car in

the hilly terrain of Alemão. Inspired by the success of this

kind of infrastructure in the city of Medellín, Colombia,

as a new kind of transportation system to serve poor

neighbourhoods on steep terrain, it would also showcase

the futuristic imagination of the coming Olympic city.

As the inhabitants of Alemão expected, the teleférico do

Alemão never achieved the same success as its Colombian

cousin. Only two months after the Olympic games were

over it was closed down due to a lack of resources for management

and service.

1. Instituto Raízes em Movimento –

Hybridisation as Knowledge Production

Instituto Raízes em Movimento (Raízes for short) is an

NGO engaged in human, social and cultural development

for the inhabitants of Alemão and other communities,

with a prime focus on youth. The institute is located on

Avenida Central, one of the steep streets of Alemão, not

far from the edge of the neighbourhood and its flatter surroundings.

Raízes was founded in 2001 by a group of local

young people and university students interested in sociological

studies and research, who began collecting local

data with the aim of strengthening community memory

and local history, and supporting socio-cultural development.

A further objective was to enhance social capital

by making local actors the main participants in the

knowledge-creation processes. The institution promotes

knowledge production through different strategies and

methods. It teaches local history and works with social

cartography and different kinds of mapping and research

techniques. Many of the participating students are in

high school, but the institution welcomes collaborations

with graduate students as well as national and international

academics and researchers. In the multi-purpose,

office-classroom space overlooking the steep street, sociologist

Thiago Oliveira Lima Matiolli and Alan Brum

Pinheiro, one of the founders of the institution and its

executive secretary, explained the idea of Raízes as being

to overcome the continuous reproduction of inequalities

by being able to speak about the city from different viewpoints.

It is not only the favela that needs to be discussed

and analysed, which is often done from the perspective of

other positions in the city. The opposite needs to happen

as well: ‘the city’ as a construct needs to be understood

from the perspective of the favela. Further, the viewpoints




Street view of the institute with the open roof terrace (top left).

Thiago Oliveira Lima Matiolli explaining the concept of circulation

(top right).

Publications and research outcomes of Raízes (middle).

Street interventions (lower left).

Shared office and classroom space (lower right).

of the favela do not have to be represented by inhabitants

of the favela only; it is important that other informed

voices are also included. For this kind of knowledge production

to thrive, it is essential to continuously create

new and varied subject positions by staging meetings and

arranging activities both at the institution and in the

streets of Alemão.

One such activity is the knowledge-production seminar

Vamos Desenrolar, ‘Let’s Untangle’, based on the ‘idea of

producing and exchanging knowledge without hierarchy’. 47

This methodology involves the holding of thematically

organised public meetings, where one or two re searchers

working on some issue in Alemão and one or two community

members with lived knowledge of the same issue are

invited to a discussion that is facilitated by the institution

before being opened up for public debate. In line with this

approach, Raízes recently formed the Centre for Research,

Memory and Documentation of Alemão (CEPDOCA), to

serve as an archive of the local inhabitants’ collected

memories, organised and structured according to academic

principles. The main motive of the institution is to

create a space for the circulation of people, ideas and

knowledge, and thereby to create new kinds of narratives

of the city and be able to inform public policy.

The teleférico has a stop at the top of the hill near Raízes.

During the construction of the cable car, the road leading

to the top was widened to make space for bearing columns,

and also to make space for the transportation of large

pieces of construction material, as well as probably to

allow for a rapid exit from the top station in case the

teleférico stopped running. The widening of the road

required the tearing down of existing housing, which left

the urban fabric along the road in a state of partial demolition.

Because Raízes was one of the organisations that,



special skills or areas of expertise, who act as insurgent

transformers building sites for hybridisation. We have

additionally witnessed how multiple actors’ arrangements

are set up across geographical borders and borders of

knowledge cultures and disciplines. Different methods are

developed to promote the hybridisation of knowledge in

order to diffuse skills; invent and explore new languages of

expression, representation and imagination; and create

new knowledge about the city. The spatial set-ups work

through spatial flexibility, layering and duplication, or by

creating border zones or repositioning centrality. Sometimes,

in stark contrast to these intentions, a sense of spatial

integrity is desired, to shelter and protect vulnerable

processes of hybridisation. Outcomes emerge in terms of

new languages, transformed identities and new knowledges

challenging an imbalance of power, or knowledge as power,

where new subject positions are forefronted that speak

about the city with new voices. We have also noticed how

the application of intentional processes of hybridisation

enables the transformation to yield reconfigured spatial

typologies. This adds layers to the city construct from

which a more just and inclusive city could unfold, redressing

a legacy of denied rights in the urban history. Echoing

Oiticica, we see in all these practices a consciousness of

not being conditioned by established structures, and hence

they are ‘highly revolutionary in [their] entirety’.

The processes of hybridisation encountered in the two

favelas and in Caxias aim to address access to urban

rights of different kinds: to knowledge and opportunities;

to safety; to urban citizenship; to equal and fair treatment

regardless of gender; to a public and individual voice; and

ultimately to an identity of one’s own. Access to these

rights is unlocked through the intentionally staged hybrid

spaces and programmes of CAM, Raízes and FEBF –

spaces that we have defined as hybridisers. From these

interlinked processes and spaces certain socio-spatial

practices and concepts emerge that could contribute to

building a language for the becoming city.

One of these is circulation, which aims to open up a

knowledge production nurtured by spatially situated

experience, agency and materiality, together with expertise

and disciplinary knowledges. The circulation of

knowledge resonates with the research approach of transdisciplinary

co-production, 69 where stakeholders from different

disciplines and practices initiate research projects

together to address complex matters, carry out the

research collaboratively, and optionally also implement

new solutions jointly. A precondition for such transdisciplinary

co-production of knowledge is having a set-up

based on agreements where different stakeholders step

out of their pre-designated roles to engage in processes

with sometimes uncertain outcomes. Space then acts on

three different levels: as the relational space needed for

building mutual trust between actors; as physical space

supporting research processes with different and sometimes

conflicting relational conditions; and as an institutional

space evolving along with the other two, affirming

and reassuring different research conditions and results

together with the representation and positioning of new

knowledge for diverse audiences (see also Chapter 3 on

commons). 70

At Raízes, all three of these spatial levels are integrated

into the process of circulation. The research method of

untangling builds relational spaces between various

knowledge producers. The office-classroom space,

together with an open, flat rooftop, serves as a flexible

educational, research, archival and administrative space

supporting the knowledge exchange. Together with the

institution’s symbolic presence on the semi-demolished

main road, Raízes positions itself, in Alemão and beyond,

as an institution that builds new knowledges for the city.

In addition to developing an institution and building

institutional space and presence, Raízes encourages new

spatial production in its vicinity, acknowledging the

street as a space of valid relevance for processes of hybridisation.

The small-scale street transformations, countering

the act of demolition, contribute to reformulating the

street as a new kind of hybrid infrastructural element of

both enhanced local ownership and public accessibility.

The changes taking place with the help of Raízes are

radical in terms of changing how people perceive the city,

and giving agency to citizens who previously have not

been involved in knowledge production about the city and

its future. The agency and ability to act from a position of

situated knowledge has been developed through Raízes’

long term-commitment to Alemão. This trustful presence

and the process of circulation have shaped a radical imaginary

in the form of an integrated and transdisciplinary

space of knowledge able to engage with the city concretely

and theoretically.

The intention at CAM is to make space for new voices

about the city, in part through the language of dance.

CAM acts as a staged hybridiser with a spatially double

and layered set-up. When the different dance practices

happen simultaneously in the two large halls, mutually

visible and tangible through the connecting opening,

international professional dancers blend with local dance

students and neighbourhood amateurs. The dance performances

attract an audience from all parts of Rio de

Janeiro whose understanding of the city merges with the

urban reality expressed through the performances and

experiences on site. The theoretical connection to the



The roof space, open towards the sky, bears the potential to

engender radical imaginaries of a feminist response – beyond

shelter and education – to a patriarchal society.

antropofagia mentality is perhaps most obvious here, as

Rodrigues ‘engulfs’ the international dance scene within

the space of CAM and creates a situation that is nonhierarchical

in terms of the local-international relationship,

together with a language that is simultaneously part

of the international scene and the local context. As a

border space, CAM provides the future professional

dancers with an embodied language for speaking about

the city as part of an exchange between multiple positions.

The international exchange bears similarities to the circulation

of knowledge at Raízes. But CAM’s spatial contribution

to the city is radical on yet another level: it also

questions what public space actually is and who has a

right to it. It is important to understand that the streets of

Complexo da Maré cannot, at the present time, be considered

public in terms of how a street space is generally

defined within an urban discourse. The streets of Maré

are controlled by criminal gangs and military police, and

despite being filled with shops, markets and the bustle of

everyday life, at any minute they can empty and become

the scene of war-like battles. In this context, the derelict

industrial facilities of Maré are taking on the role of

public spaces as they are turned into spaces for public

interaction such as churches, art museums and samba

schools, etc. We can discern a tradition here, stemming

from the imaginations of Brazilian architects such as

João Vilanova Artigas, who imagined and built sheltered,

semi-public realms within large scale structures. 71 The

large indoor space of CAM offers the safety of a public

space and the right to express oneself in the language of

art. The evolving space reconstitutes the idea of public

space by repositioning the rights to access and free speech

through the relationships created in dance.

FEBF’s spaces were not created for the hybridising processes

of knowledge production that are now taking place,

but were originally intended to serve another vision, that

of universal education and a public environment for

welfare services. With the abandonment of the CIEP programme,

the designed spaces became readily available for

other activities. In the case of FEBF it is the State that is

taking action to transform an educational programme

and now inhabits this particular modernist space for this

purpose. Amazingly, the configuration of several large

mediating spaces in the form of vestibules, ramps and

roof terraces, together with a number of traditional educational

spaces, enhances the evolving educational programme.

The sheltered exterior spaces mediating

between the inside and outside of the building in a modernist

manner, are ‘cannibalistically’ expropriated for

various interventions by students and other actors. In

total the spaces of the former CIEP building function as a

supportive structure for the FEBF programme to give

access to and develop a number of techniques for building

knowledge about a historically oppressed region. The prevailing

representation of Caxias as a region of violence

and poverty is replaced by a multi-narrative stemming

from the many voices in the region. This narrative

intends to change the notion of centrality, understood in

the urban context as in opposition to a periphery. From

the new centrality created through the institutional and

spatial set-up, older centralities, such as previous centres

of knowledge along with the classic notion of urban centrality,

are to be radically transformed.

Finally, Casa das Mulheres is also a space for knowledge

production. Here, hybridisation is not only taking

place in the programmes and organisational structures,

but also through the agency of Villela herself as she brings

international experience, networks and discourses of

gendered rights into the set-up. In so doing, Villela provides

the women of Maré with Bhabha’s ‘Book’ for reversing

the positions of domination. Here Casa das Mulheres

presents itself differently from the hybridisers discussed

above, because it needs to shelter vulnerable ongoing processes

of emancipation bundled within the practice of

cooking. While the spaces at CAM, Raízes and FEBF act

as staged hybridisers to promote different kinds of knowledge

circulation, the space at Casa das Mulheres is the

actual physical outcome of a process of hybridisation for

gendered rights.

In a way, Casa das Mulheres may have quickly settled

into its physical space because of a situation of urgency.

We could compare Casa de Mulheres with Swift Wash’s

spaces in Goa (see Chapter 4 on networks) which are also

functional responses to a critical necessity to create both

shelter and alternative sources of income for women

oppressed by male violence. These are non-patriarchal

spaces that support women in their new or developed

identities by providing them with an educational and

professional working environment. However, Casa das

Mulheres also has a presence in the favela and in the city,

making it a new urban typology and a symbol of a

reversed domination. This is a new urban imagination of

women taking back their rights – to knowledge, to






Map showing the uneven distribution of incomes

at the scale of the metropolitan area. With a

wealthy central city and poor periphery, the city

of Rio follows well-known urban economic

patterns. Overlaying this general pattern of

wealth distribution, the more than thousand

favelas form an urban archipelago of economic

unevenness. Source:





A radial pattern of movements from and towards

the city centre coincides with the map of weekly

average traffic jams. With the increase in urban

mobility, this mobility pattern faces constant traffic

jams, extended hours spent in traffic, increased

transport costs and contributes to the reinforcement

of territorial segregation.





Planned City


Rio City Bowl

Average incomes

Traffic congeson



Planned City


Rio City Bowl

Average incomes



Moto-taxi system



The average income of the

inhabitants of suburban areas is

forecast to rise over the coming

ten years. This fact challenges

traditional radial mobility patterns.

Sitting in-between these

new economically strong areas

and the city centre, the favelas

become important locations,

providing the potential for connecting

and hybridising traditional

and new mobility patterns.


Rio City Bowl



Income forecast

Average incomes

Planned City

Moto-taxi system



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