Call for Papers

Call for Papers






Photo Courtesy: Georges Khalil





April 28-30, 2021



Art and the City: Urban Space, Art, and Social Change conferences bring together a team of international scholars with an interest in art and the right to the city, urban creativity, aesthetics and politics, cultural and artistic rebellion, aesthetics of urban social movements, and art in the urban space. The central goal of this conference series is to engage in a multifaceted, multi-disciplinary, and multi-geographic perspective to articulate and promote a richer and more integrated understanding of the ideologies, relationships, meanings, and practices that arise from the diverse interactions among the three social spheres: urban space, art, and society.

Art’s role in the urban space of social mobilizations results in a multitude of spatial dynamics and emotional, communicative, and aesthetic interactions. Such urban creativity has a broad scope of interests from a clear “right to the city” perspective with its ecological, spatial, and ideological agenda to the struggles of civil rights, and individual and collective freedoms. While, this aspect of urban creativity has opened the research into recognizing street art as a genre for “political democratization” (Bengtsen & Arvidson, 2014), the growing significance of art in social and spatial justice movements has not met with a rigorous academic undertaking.

Art had an essential part during the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions (Abaza 2016), the Greek Aganaktismenoi movement (Tsilimpoudini 2016), and the Gezi Uprising (Tunali 2018). It is even argued that the civil war in Syria is triggered by a graffiti work in Dara’a (Asher-Shapiro 2016). Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement leaves its mark in the urban space with street murals in nearly 550 places across the US. The socio-political character of these movements has been explored extensively from the point of plural resistance against the authoritative government, a political struggle over public space,  structural inequalities, and human rights issues. This material emphasis has often focused on what was done, not what was made visible, despite the popular use of the urban space for immense creativity and the increasing influence of electronic mobility and communication networks that have helped the aesthetic strategies of the movements. On the other hand, most research related to the arts in social resistance, both from a social science perspective and from a community arts perspective, tends to emphasize the therapeutic, unitary, or reconciliatory attributes of art, paying attention to how art contributes to ease tensions between communities and city authorities. Although such criticism for socially engaged art is sound, it undermines art’s capacities of struggle and agonism, of contestation and re-appropriation that emerge through the creation of common and shared spaces for socialization, mobilization, and political action.

The increasingly visible aesthetic dimension of the recent political protests, revolts, and uprisings has not only challenged what is acceptable as politics in society, but it has also problematized what is acceptable in society as art. In the recent urban social movements and protests the artistic practices, interventions, and performances, with the accompanying talks and manifestos, have further challenged the traditional political critique on the relationship of aesthetics and politics. In the current condition of the world connected through hegemonic discourses and authoritarian politics, which tend to erase the conditions that make democratic participation and grassroots mobilization possible, the political capacity of art that becomes a conditioning factor for social resistance is a fundamental and timely issue.

To push forward the dialogues and widen the debates on art’s relationship to the political, Art and the City conferences interrogate what the reconfiguration of difference, equality, and equity entails at present moment, and what it is to aesthetically and politically experience the world from the perspective of social dissensus and rebellion. The overarching theme “Urban Space, Art, and Resistance” envelops this year’s following four tracks:

1. Art and everyday resistance in the city

2. Art and aesthetics of urban social movements

3. Urban space, art, and social crisis

4. Art and rebellious urban commons


The participants are invited to analyze the relationships between art and social movements in various historical and local contexts. The proposed papers should engage in questions such as:

How does the spatial politics of late neoliberalism demand and alter new interactions of the way artists and urban dwellers approach daily life in the urban space?

How could artistic expressions in the urban space reveal, delimit, question, and resist the complexity of the socio-political crisis?

How are symbols, slogans, and visual expressions communicated in the urban space of resistance? 

What kind of political and aesthetic possibilities could emerge in the intersection of the dialogical premises of art and the ideological premises of political mobilization?

How can we analyze the political significance of art in increasingly militarized, policed, surveilled, or otherwise controlled urban contexts?

What kind of role do urban art narratives play in incorporating marginalized subjects and voices as dissidence?

Under what conditions could art become effective in reclaiming the cities as sites of resistance and change?

How could artistic expressions in the urban space reveal, delimit, question and resist the complexity of neoliberal urbanisation?

How can art produce new narratives of social organization in the gentrified urban space?

How does art engage in, facilitate, and make visible the actions and strategies of grassroots anti-gentrification activism?

What can we learn from street art about visual resistance in the interplay with political power structures?  

How do artists get involved in social movements and how do social movements deploy art? 

How have been the artists interpreting and developing the knowledge, discourses and tactics that the recent urban social movements produced?

How are the artistic strategies and performances in urban social movements transmitted to other local contexts ( e.g Las Thesis)?

What is the role of music in street activism?

How can art in the urban space be used as a tool of collaboration and a means of imagining alternative political communities?

Could aesthetics of occupation, communing and communality deployed in social movements be the arena and context for political transformations?  

How can art transform our understanding of the politics of the urban space?

How could street art be a critical tool for the visibility of a community in a time of crisis?


There is no conference fee. Interested participants are requested to submit an abstract of maximum of 500 words and a short CV  to the conference convener Tijen Tunali tijentunali9@gmail.com  no later than  January 31, 2020.

Selected papers will be invited to contribute to an edited volume.


Works Cited:

Abaza, Mona (2016), ‘The field of graffiti and street art in post-January 2011 Egypt’ in Ross. J.I (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Graffiti and Street Art, London: Routledge.

Asher-Shapiro, Avi (2016), “The Young Man Who Started Syria’s Revolution Speak about Daraa Where it all began”, Vice News, March 15, 2026.https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qv5eqb/the-young-men-who-started-syrias-revolution-speak-about-daraa-where-it-all-began. Accessed, 12 January 2020.

Bengtsen, Peter and Arvidsson, Matida (2014), ‘Spatial Justice and Street Art’, NAVEIÑ REET: Nordic Journal of Law and Social Research, 1, pp. 117-130.

Tsilimpounidi, Myrto, (2015), ‘If These Walls Could Talk: Street Art and Urban Belonging in the Athens of Crisis’, Laboratorium 7:2, pp 71–91.

Tunali, Tijen, (2018), ‘The Art of Resistance: Carnival Aesthetics and the Gezi Street Protests’, ASAP: Journal of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, 3:2, pp. 377-399.




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