The Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences (MGSHSS) at LUMS co-organised a workshop on cities with colleagues from the American University in Cairo. The workshop on ‘Everyday Life in Times of Ruination’, held at LUMS on March 12 and 13, combined a discussion of AbdouMaliq Simone’s Improvised Lives and Veronica Galo’s Neoliberalism from Below, with presentations of ongoing research.
The approach to the topic was framed by a set of questions that emerged from the two texts that were read together and further developed in the discussion. The first and perhaps most important question concerned the location of the political in the present. How does power operate in urban contexts? Is the category of resistance relevant for capturing the lives of the urban poor? Another related question was around the categories that we use to understand the urban. Theoretical tools such as precarity, working-class and slum need to be rethought because they privilege the production of victims.
Third, it is important to question the modernist tropes, such as megacity, that we continue to privilege and think with other forms such as assemblages that emphasise fluidity rather than fixity. Looking at the urban through the lens of temporality and mobility are possible ways to challenge the fixity of our existing concepts. Finally, a focus on peripheral urbanism is another possibility for unpacking the meaning of urban life.
Inviting scholars and practitioners to think through their ongoing research using the lens of urban ruination, the workshop allowed for a discussion of selected texts that theorise ruination (led by different faculty members) and then presentations of ongoing research on cities in Pakistan and Egypt. Finally, attracting a diverse range of audience particularly owing to Architect Arif Hasan’s Key Note session, The Horse that Ran Away with the Bit the event was a success.