[ AUTONOMA ] Towards the Collective City

2015-2016 | International Conference
Co-curator, Athens, Greece | website

The international conference "AUTONOMA, Towards a Collective City" took place at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, Greece in July, 2016. The conference hosted 15 international speakers from diverse academic and professional bacjgrounds, among which were Erik Swyngedouw, Rafi Segal, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Nikos Belavilas, Stavros Stavrides, Ethel Baraona Pohl, Cesar Reyes, Maria Kaika, Leopold Lambert, Miguel Robles-Duran, Doina Petrescu, Constantin Petcou, Nikos Anastasopoulos and Cameron Tonkinwise.
The international call for submissions received more than 170 papers and projects from 25 countries across the world, under three main thematic tracks:
01. Self-resiliency & Resource Management, 02. Crisis Scapes & Self-governance, 03. Transitioning to Autonomy
More information, as well as videos of the keynote speakers and the files of the selected submissions can be found on the conference's website here.


"The autonomous society -the way I conceive it- is a society that very well knows that there is no transcendence, that there is no transcendent source of laws and institutions, that there is no afterlife. It is a society whose members know that whatever there is to be done, they have to do it themselves and to offer this to themselves and the community. It is a society that knows that itself creates its institutions and laws. And this very fact allows it, to exist as autonomous society, in the same way as it allows its members to exist as autonomous individuals within this society.”
__ Cornelius Castoriadis

In a time when global financial institutions largely define the means of urbanization across the world, citizens have less and less agency in the decision-making processes related to the organization and reproduction of the urban environment. The financialization of urban development has significantly limited the potential of local communities to influence the form of cities, while strengthening the role of the local elites and the supralocal capital. The present crisis, largely born of this very developmental model, along with decades of deregulation of the welfare state have acted as a catalyst to the deterioration of living conditions and the strengthening of the democratic deficit at all levels.
Under these difficult circumstances, Cornelius Castoriadis’ vision for an autonomous society as well as Henri Lefebvre’s challenge to redefine and envisage the environment we live in, away from the influence of globalized capital, are becoming once again relevant. Concurrently, the extended footprint of human development on the environment, which is utterly connected to the dominant model of production, consumption and urban growth, is revealing a complementary dimension to the meaning of autonomy as an alternative form of, not only social, but also ecological management.
In July 2016 [AUTONOMA] brought together in Athens, renowned scholars and practitioners from the fields of Architecture, Geography, Design, and Environmental Studies, in an effort to identify Urban Autonomy as a distinct area of research and explore its potential to address current and future socio-spatial challenges.

[AUTONOMA] was an initiative undertaken by a group of Onassis Foundation Scholars, and independent researchers, who joined their academic and professional background in Urban Design, Sustainability, Geography, and Urban Sociology to reflect on the vision of the collective city. The team was led by myself, Aristodimos Komninos, Nikolaos Patsopoulos, Eleni Karanicola, Georgios Velegrakis, Nikolaos Katsikis, Dimitris Poulios and Thanos Andritsos.

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*Photos of the event by Eleni Karanicola

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