Liminal Cities 2023/2024

Annual Theme

Faced by a multiplicity of global crises, urban life today has reached a tipping point. Most pressingly, an accelerating climate catastrophe calls for feasible social and ecological alternatives beyond western capitalist hegemony and its dependence on profit-oriented production and excessive mass consumption. Equally, the resurgence of military conflict in and beyond Europe combined with the worldwide renaissance of right-wing and fascist movements and parties ask for the active re-invention and creative re-appropriation of collective practices of solidarity across all domains of urban life. Finally, decades of neoliberal rule and entrenched globalisation have left behind deeply fragmented and highly individualised societies now reflected in a planetary urban landscape of unprecedented global interdependency. Situated at the crossroads of these and other current global challenges, today’s city emerges as a city in transition – a liminal city.
Originating in 20th-century European ethnography, the idea of liminality refers to an intermediate stage in rituals and rites of passage in which participants shed their old identities before having arrived at fully formed new ones (Varvarousis 2022: 24). Liminality, in this sense, opens up a space of political potentials, hope and fear, anxiety and anticipation. Turning its attention to sites of urban in-betweenness, this year’s theme wants to explore the city in its multiply liminal dimensions. Where does the liminal character of the contemporary city break to the surface most visibly? What does it mean to experience liminal in-betweenness on an individual, collective or even societal level? What, as a consequence, are the political potentials of liminal practices “from below” and where, in reverse, can we detect possible pitfalls, impasses and blind spots of liminal urbanism?

Varvarousis, Angelos. 2022. Liminal Commons: Modern Rituals of Transition in Greece. Bloomsbury.