Resistance, Creativity and Planning

Silvano De la Llata and Walter Nicholls

"To resist is to create, to create is to resist", said Stephen Hessel (2010) in Indignez-Vous!, a book that inspired most of the uprisings in Europe and Latin America in 2011 and 2012. Resistance and creativity are not only linked but a condition of one and the other. In order to create something new, there is an implacable need to transgress the normative and break the rules. Innovation occurs through experimentation rather than through perpetuating order. This is true for the city as well. The city is one gigantic laboratory in which people create through transgression. These kinds of creativity do not only happen in controlled environments (i.e. architecture firms, planning departments, universities, government institutions, etc.) but rather "out there", whenever ordinary citizens turn a parking lot into a skate park, empty walls into a graffiti murals, abandoned buildings into squatted social centers, plazas into protest encampments, and empty lots into community gardens. Transgressiveness is where potential lies in the city. Nevertheless, these expressions exist only within the confines of a normative urban order.

The proliferation, preponderance, diversity, reach, and cross-fertilization of transgressive activities suggest a need for theorizing these expressions beyond individual instances. We need to situate them in the context of broader conceptualizations of social movements and of forces that shape urban space in the 21st century. Therefore, the session aims to examine how how creative and transgressive acts grow out beyond their points of origin through the assemblage of complex and disruptive networks. Just as important, we want to explore how this process expands notions and practices of what is possible regarding the socially just city.

This panel explores the links between transgression and creativity in city-making processes, and particularly focuses on expressions of resistance that result in creative citizen-driven projects. The objective is to understand the challenges and opportunities of resistance to plan a more citizen-responsive and just city. This includes, but is not limited to the following examples:

  • Direct-action and insurgent planning
  • New/old forms of social movement
  • Transgressive art collectives and projects
  • Community gardens and food justice movements
  • Squatted social centers
  • Spontaneous organization in the context of disaster
  • Solidarity movements in the context of refugee crisis
  • Self-organization in protest/refugee encampments