At the time I am writing these lines, hours after landing back in Athens in December, a father and his two sons had been arrested in the central neighbourhood of Koukaki, beaten up by police on their own flat’s roof and the father (Dimitris Indares, a prominent film-maker, as it turns out) was pictured surrounded by heavily armed police, handcuffed and topless, his t-shirt pulled above the neck as some kind of impromptu head cover. What was all this about? Ever since coming to power in July this year, the conservative New Democracy government has leashed a war against migrant and anarchist squats, the newly arriving migrants at the country’s borders, academic freedom, and even clubbing, with a now renowned incident of armed police raiding a night-club full of hundreds of revellers, ordering everyone at gunpoint, all for a mostly fruitless drug raid. The new government has been particularly, and bizarrely so, obsessed with the case of Exarcheia—the small central Athenian neighbourhood that has been a bastion of political resistance for the past decades. Even before gaining power, its main pre-election promise had been of ‘cleaning up Exarcheia’—as if a country reeling from a near-decade of economic crisis was in any need of more policing in a neighbourhood most ND voters had never set foot on. It might not be a complete coincidence that both Exarcheia and Koukaki top the city’s Airbnb list, as the city authorities are seeing the promise of the quick tourist buck as a swift and easy way out of the recession—for some at least.
So, what is going on in Greece? The country that had become something of a flagship case in resistance against the crisis and austerity seems to have firmly joined in the line of the places where even the most meagre of rights are under assault, the places where even the most miniscule threads weaving together our everyday lives are slashed by vindictive and ruthless power. Think Trump’s America, from the Muslim ban all the way to subway raids; think Johnson’s UK and his pompous assertion that EU citizens had treated the UK as if it were their own country for too long. The world over, as the neoliberal dogma intensifies and tightens, ever-more elements of our everyday come under assault. We saw it in the UK with the avoidable tragedy of Grenfell Tower, we see it in Athens with squat raids and families beaten in their homes: the latest phase of the neoliberal assault is an assault on the everyday and the intimate.
In this issue of CITY, you will once again find voices offering alternatives to the neoliberal urban transformations (Hollands); you will find critical takes on the racialised governance of the urban margins, this time in Romania (Teodorescu); and you will find new ways of thinking the city through photography (Rizov) and a proposal on how we can make space for the extra-economic in the city today (Harris). The first article, a dialogue on existential space (Millington and Rizov) brings into conversation Orhan Pamuk with Marshall Berman, a strong reminder that theory and everyday life have more in common, including assaults but also hope, than the powers that be make us believe. This issue also offers a film review, with Ammar Azzouz providing a personal, poignant account of the devastating documentary, For Sama, in which Waad Al-Kateab takes us into the intimate heart of loss, love and survival in Aleppo: taking us with her to bear witness to the deadly penetration of geopolitics into the everyday tenacities of care and resistance. In brief, this issue strives to combine the somber analysis of a difficult present with the optimism that things can, and indeed will, change, as people confront and transform the dead-ends of the neoliberal project.
CITY is also set for change, and this is the last issue of the past era as we now prepare to relaunch in 2020; marking the new decade with a transition to a non-hierarchical structure and collective governance that will bring with it CITY’s long-standing radical openness and critical urbanism, whilst welcoming new intersectional collaborations and creative interventions. The first 2020 issue will renew CITY’s commitment to incisive analysis of urban change, theory and practice with a specially commissioned issue of diverse contributions from scholars, activists, artists, poets and urbanists; who variously propose theoretical considerations of contested histories, critical diagnoses of contemporary crises, practical reflections on major urban conflicts, visual responses to oppressive ascriptions and subaltern imaginings for more progressive futures. The issue aims to be an agenda-setting collection and reference for future urban scholars, written from multiple standpoints, reflecting a range of intersectional personal and political concerns, speaking between the Global South and Global North, inverting notions of centre and periphery, shifting scale and perspective and troubling boundaries that divide and rule. We look forward to taking you with us into this questioning, engaging, disruptive and inclusive new adventure.