Alternative City: Possibilities and Limits of Prefiguration in Urban Mobilizations

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:15
Oral Presentation
Joelle DUSSAULT, University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada
This paper proposes a reflection on space-time where an alternative use of the environment emergences at a local scale.

The dynamic of gentrification in the neighborhood Pointe Saint-Charles (Montreal, Canada) led to different collective initiatives in the past ten years. Under the impulse of the collective La pointe libertaire and the autonomous social center of Pointe Saint-Charles, a mobilization emerged in the neighborhood for the collective re-appropriation of certain places, either on a transient or long-term scale. Moving from cinematographic projections on abandoned buildings to illegal occupations, from collective meals to popular plays, what meaning can be given to this series of initiatives? Is there a narrative framework supporting collective actions spreading over a decade? What are the potentialities and the civic limits of this type of mobilization?

Using a theoretical framework based on the notions of prefiguration (Breines, 1989; Kruzynski & Silvestro, 2013; Polletta, 2002) and right to the city (Lefebvre, 1968, 1974), we argue that formal organized collective groups channel the initiatives toward an alternative development of urbanity (1) and that creativity as a driving force of action is a mechanism guiding the alternative urban imagination (2).

This paper is based on semi-structured interviews and guided tours of the neighborhood with residents to reconstruct the meaning of urban space and its use as much in everyday life as in activist actions.