{Re}Assembling Public Space/ Creating New Urban Commons: Evolving Geographies of Contestation, Celebration, and Collaboration in Contemporary Tokyo

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Christian DIMMER , RCAST, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Urban Conservation Systems Unit, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
When Walter Lippmann (1925) famously called the public a phantom, he meant to stress it's fragile, provisional nature —ceasing to exist, once no longer upheld, re-assembled, performed. Clive Barnett suggests that publics do not simply exist a priori, but must be convened in open-ended, contingent processes without the certainty of success (2008). Nancy Fraser emphasises the presence of many “subaltern Counterpublics,” where marginalised groups congregate to discuss matters of common concern (1990). Also Bruno Latour rejects the idea of one unitary public sphere, where only the quality of the best argument matters but not the identities of those presenting it — suggesting that the public and the political are constantly {re}assembled through devices, procedures, and mediums; crystallising around specific issues, or topoi. Highlighted are the processes of how publics are created, and the many small, mundane acts and things that support these. ‘True’ public space has therefore a performative and ephemeral quality, that only exists in an instance when a public sphere is temporally supported, or even convened into being by a physical setting. In such a moment a public space turns into more than just a state-owned venue of accidental, amorphous sociability and begins to take on a broader collective, often political, relevance. This paper is interested in the transformative potential of such public spaces and examines the myriad of new commons in Tokyo, having recently sprung up in the form of collective houses, artists communities and others places. Here people are testing new modes of sharing time, goods, skills and spaces beyond state and market — prefiguring new models of post-consumerist society in privately owned settings. Although neither explicitly political, nor fully public, arrangements like these create new affordances, and social capital that may later become pertinent; transforming society in many small, quotidian, pragmatic steps.