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Panel 17. Socially engaged arts, neighbourhoods and housing


  • Peer Smets, Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Email:
  • Paul Watt, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics, England, Email:


Interventions to improve urban living conditions in neighbourhoods are widespread, but here we are focusing on the role of arts and artists, including in relation to housing. Socially engaged arts deal with different kind of urban space in neighbourhoods. They can focus on mobilizing sites, creating urban images, representing various perspectives, and seeing possibilities in specific places which can facilitate or obstruct the creation of multiple images (Olson, 2018). In the city, socially engaged art is often understood via Lefebvrian and neo-Marxist critical theory which include the physical environment and the creation of imaginaries and meanings in a material and immaterial way. (Re)thinking of what is taken for granted can encourage re-articulation of dominant urban narratives that challenge the construction of communities and the creation of solidarity.  Experiments with (re)framing can facilitate transformative and critical experience that goes beyond the present. The urban spaces we want to focus on include neighbourhoods which can be characterized by different income groups, and ethnic backgrounds. Contributions from the Global North and Global South are very welcome. 

Topics of interest are listed below, but other suggestions will be taken into account.

  • Artists in the neighbourhood 
  • Artists working with specific urban groups (e.g. the elderly and youth)  
  • Wall paintings
  • Development of relational links supported by artists 
  • Food as an instrument of bringing people together
  • Climate change 
  • Interventions in everyday life
  • Housing conditions of the poor and local interventions
  • Artists and urban regeneration
  • Artists and gentrification  

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

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