Grassroots temporary urbanism as a challenge to the city of austerity? Lessons from a self-organised park in Thessaloniki, Greece

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Abstract

This paper traces the legacies of austerity through a focus on grassroots temporary urban interventions in public spaces. Drawing on a self-organised neighbourhood park in Thessaloniki, Greece, it explores and analyses the politicising dynamics of these urban experiments that emerged as a direct response to state retrenchment but became a long-term legacy of austerity with material and social consequences. The aim of the paper is to contribute to contemporary scholarly debates on temporary grassroots urbanism amidst austerity by uncovering the ambiguous nature of such urban experiments without reproducing dichotomising approaches that understand them as either a vehicle of neoliberalisation or an instrument of revolt. Through the case of Svolou I develop a twofold argument. First, regarding their social dynamics and legacies, grassroots urban initiatives that lack a politicising element of disagreement with (planning and governance) authorities result in creating parallel micro-spheres of socialities and solidarities with a questionable long-term impact against austerity urbanism. Although such socialities are important at the local level, they often risk reproducing neoliberal rationalities of individual responsibility and exclusions. Second, regarding their material legacies, I argue that grassroots urban initiatives produce temporary self-organised spaces and experiment with innovative grassroots space-making processes but they often remain entrapped at the local level without being able to develop broader contestations of the uneven urban development model emerging in and through austerity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Early online date2 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2023

Keywords

  • austerity urbanism
  • community-led planning
  • grassroots urbanism
  • Greece
  • public space
  • urban politics

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