The AIDU (Italian Association of University Professors) and the Research Committee 54 “The Body in the Social Sciences” of the International Sociological Association are organising the International Conference “Bodies at the World Cities: The New Places of the Social Link”.
The Conference comes within the framework of the complex transitions that are transforming the social areas (physical and symbolic ones) of our cities, in Italy as well as in Europe and on the whole planet. In the words of the economist Edward Glaeser (2011), the very nature of cities makes them an attempt to cancel distances and “their success depends on the demand for physical connection”.
Change is the only constant in today’s world. Cities constitute the frontline of this change that is currently characterised by apparently unsurmountable inequalities and conflict. Aware that the city is the place where the rules of community life are modelled and human experience is transformed into society and history, the proposed event calls on sociologists and social scientists, historiographers and urban planners, art and philosophy historians: but, above all politicians and operators in medicine and psychiatry to reconsider “the bodies at the World Cities” as basic “places” of social link. We ask ourselves: What will happen to the bodily habits through which we live the social space developing the abilities and customs necessary to interact with every different context or territory? Are we capable of living our body like our house and our house like our body?
It is a very difficult question because it summarises the fundamental dispute between sedentary bodies and moving bodies that characterises the social space in general and, in particular, the Western one starting from the Greek polis. As both Lefebvre and Sassen also teach us, one of the problematic nodes of global cities is the struggle for space. From the current “exercise to the cities” there is now an increasing emergence of anti-social behaviours, empathic disorder, emotive resilience, when they are not true psychopathies associated to criminal figures. There is a growing resistance by those citizens who are excluded from the benefits of globalisation, those from the suburbs, from the social centres, from the business activities that try to withstand the logic of the major distribution groups by trying to preserve their local specificity.
In tackling the emerging behavioural fragility, this Conference thus aims at determining a “reconstructive surgery” of our urban spaces based on the geography- and also on the history- of the bodies crossing them. Starting from the consideration of common sense as spatiality (Fuchs, 2018), the urban spaces are proposed as habits. These are the uses and customs from which the collective memory and identity of each different society (and/or social group) have been progressively modelled.
And we also ask ourselves, not without concern, about the excessive use of social networks that, in various situations, are showing themselves to be responsible for incomprehensible and sudden expressions of social disease, precisely in the meeting between the person’s body and the bodies with which it interacts at a given moment and place.
By analysing domestic and international case studies, the participating scholars are, therefore, called on to tackle this basic problem whose methodological and above all ethical focus is the bodies of human beings, of animals and of objects by considering the topicality and the multidisciplinary nature of this problem, the Conference becomes the pioneering event of an international digital platform, aimed at monitoring the evolution of uses and habits in the construction of the different bodily spaces related to the specific territory. We wish to create an interactive project, modulated by the geography and by the history of the “bodies at the World Cities” on the basis of the diversity and wealth of the genders, ages, memories and religions, lifestyles and consumption, sexual dispositions, geographical and cultural origin, conditions of physical and mental health and social position.