Professor Ash Amin, University of Cambridge
Public lecture hosted by Theatrum Mundi
In this lecture on the intersections of urban design and urban identity, Ash Amin presented research from the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, where inhabitants of favelas deprived of formal infrastructure communally co-construct supplies of water, electricity and sanitation. As people work together and the fruits of their collective labour become visible, he argues that these infrastructures become deeply implicated in the making of community and social identity. In turn, as informal settlements become incorporated and these infrastructures rationalised and made invisible, individual lives and the experience of solidarity and struggle subtly shift in both positive and negative ways.
This compelling case study offers a vital perspective on the themes of Designing the Urban Commons, which asks how design could create new ways for the social act of commoning to take shape in London, enabling citizens to work together to generate and use urban resources.
Professor Amin is known for his thinking on the geographies of modern living, through his research on cities as relational performances, globalisation as everyday process, economy as cultural habit, and race and multiculture as the hybrid of biopolitics and vernacular practices. He has held Fellowships and Visiting Professorships at a number of European Universities. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded a CBE in 2014 for his contributions to social science. Before joining Cambridge in 2011, he was the founding Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University. His latest books are Thinking about Almost Everything (co-edited with Michael O’Neill, Profile, 2009), Land of Strangers (Polity, 2012), and Arts of the Political (with Nigel Thrift, Duke, 2013). He is completing a book for Polity with Nigel Thrift on the City as Machine.