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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

A Shabby Revolution? Urban Space and Postgrowth Democracy in Tokyo and Bologna



Prof. Dr. Robin LeBlanc (Washington and Lee University, Lexington)

Date and Time

February 26, 2020, 2 - 3:45 pm


The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report claims that while it is technically possible to make the necessary changes in how we inhabit our planet to avoid a disastrous increase in average global temperature, we lack the political will. I conduct ethnographic studies of civic spaces in wealthy communities facing decline in order to understand the techniques by which political coalitions committed to rethinking the way we live are formed. Japan and Italy provide good field sites because they are (1) both democracies crafted through and with the postwar promises of constant material improvement, and (2) now faced with
inescapable economic stagnation and decline. They must find ways of revising the terms of their implicit social contracts or confront a possible fatal challenge to democracy itself.
Recrafting social expectations toward an acceptance of degrowth may be exactly what we need for an effective response to the climate crisis. But practically speaking, where and how can citizens be brought together to pursue a new, climate-friendly version of democracy? I will discuss ethnographic fieldwork in Tokyo and Bologna that explores how shabby (kutabireta or degredato), left-behind spaces of the high-growth era can serve as valuable incubators of visions for a new, postgrowth democratic community. Then, I will examine how shifting priorities for postgrowth urban planning might enhance civic engagement in the midst of these
cities’ shared challenges.


University of Zurich, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies, Room ZUB 416, Zürichbergstrasse 4, 8032 Zürich


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Japanese Studies

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