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Conference Information

Full Title: Urban Space Research Network Symposium 2012

Location: Heidelberg, Germany
Start Date: 04-Oct-2012 - 06-Oct-2012
Contact: Beatrix Busse
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Interdisciplinary Symposium
City and Belonging
Negotiating Mobility and Sense of Place in Urban Discourse
4-6 October 2012
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg
Bremen Heidelberg Series on Urban Communication # 2

A joint cooperation between the Urban Space Research Network (USRN) and the fields of English linguistics (University of Heidelberg) and interdisciplinary linguistics (University of Bremen)

The city is a highly concentrated place in which a variety of social effects and agents arise and influence one another. Urban place and urban discourse are showcases for investigating the interacting effects between global tendencies like demographic change, gentrification and segregation, on the one hand, and local traditions, individual and personal relations as well as historical idiosyncracies, on the other (Berking & Löw 2008). The dynamics unfolded by this interaction are not only manifested in what is ‘visible’ in the city - for example, in prestigious building or rehabilitation projects - but also in what is ‘sayable’ (Foucault 1967), that is, in what is communicated in spoken or written form about the city. The patterns investigated to explain these urban discourses range from drawing on concepts of ‘placelessness’ (Massey 1997) to drawing on aspects of ‘home’. Hence, urban citizens use a variety of discursive, semiotic modes to identify with their tightly organised urban place and to ascribe different views of local identities to it.

More generally, these processes can be seen as discursive practices of construing urban identity. They are particularly evident where the city functions as a site of transformation and migration. Cities are characterised by global migration and are connected with a number of varying values - phenomena which are currently being described by the concept of ‘arrival cities’ (Saunders 2010). However, it is not only through migration that a fresh view and new identity of an urban place are perceived, but also through increasing mobility. ‘Mobility’ (Adey 2009, Cresswell 2006) represents a central component of the everyday life of many citizens. Its effects go beyond the outskirts of the city itself, because for many citizens the places where they work and live are not the same.

The question of urban belonging then arises from spatial movement through migration and mobility. And it is not only this type of belonging which is negotiated discursively - in everyday conversation, media, social networks as well as linguistic landscapes, street art, graffiti and toponyms - but also questions of human beings’ individual links and bonds to their places of residence. Therefore, being loyal to one’s place as ‘an attitude of affective, cognitive and activity-oriented connectedness to a place’ (Hofer 2002: 313) as well as writing and talking about belonging and movement are central topics of recent discourses about cities.

The aim of this 3-day conference is to explore urban discourse in relation to mobility, migration and to the variety of ways the sense(s) of place can be negotiated.
Linguistic Subfield: Discourse Analysis; Sociolinguistics
LL Issue: 23.1044

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