• Crafting the new city

This synthesising project focuses on the opportunities and challenges facing local making and crafts and their potential to support cities’ sustainable transition that is embedded in local histories and unique skillsets, yet forward looking and responding to urgent ecological challenges. in so doing, this project explores the role and place of manual skills in contemporary urban economies, with a particular focus on post-industrial settings. This sub-project will draw on a European comparative study, with empirical research in France, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands and Romania. Building on expert interviews with policy makers and practitioners and drawing on policy document analysis, this project looks at how different legal, institutional, planning, and educational set-ups shape how local making and crafts practices are pursued, as well as how their contribution to sustainable urban economies is understood and framed. Moreover, this sub-project asks what policy options and consumption practices harness making and consumption practices that are more sustainability oriented, supportive of goals of waste reduction and the responsible use and reuse of resources and materials.

Contact person: Amanda Brandellero

    • (Re-) making urban economies. Sustainability Beyond Capitalism

This sub-project focuses on making practices in contemporary urban economies and their potential to facilitate sustainability transformation beyond capitalism.

Making material things lies at the heart of climate change and inequality problems. At the same time, it remains central to human life and well-being and offers opportunities to reconcile the economy and the environment. By focusing on making, we join the debate on what kind of economy we want to become and what kind of social roles we ascribe to manual skill.

Small-scale craft and digital production have grown into makers movement with more than 2000 makerspaces worldwide. This type of making has the potential to be ecologically and socially sustainable: it improves subjective well-being, strengthens communities, cultivates post-consumer identities, supports learning and innovation, enables the use of locally-sourced materials. Due to these characteristics, makerspaces are sometimes seen as a prefiguration of degrowth, post-capitalist economy, i.e. an economy oriented towards solidarity and well-being of humans, non-humans, and nature. Makerspaces, however, have several shortcomings: they have a limited socio-economic impact, and sometimes fail to live up to the vision of altruism, sharing, and local embeddedness.

Existing research does not yet provide us with a holistic understanding of what features of makerspaces are alternative to business-as-usual practices, and under what conditions there features facilitate sustainability transformation beyond capitalism. In other words, how do makerspaces, practices within them, and attitudes of makers differ from the mainstream capitalist economy which drives environmental crisis? How can these practices and attitudes transform the unsustainable economic system?

Focusing empirically on makerspaces in Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Bucharest (Romania), this research will contribute to economic geography literature by systematically mapping diversity beyond capitalism in makerspaces (in terms of their values and motivations of makers, practices of making, knowledge production).  Cultural and industrial heritage will be investigated in the chosen locations to trace path-dependency and embeddedness of making practices.

One case study will be selected in Rotterdam to critically assess the potential of makerspaces to facilitate sustainability transformation beyond capitalism. A city-wide approach will be taken to explore how different social groups and processes might collectively participate in the urban economic shift. Finally, this project will identify transformative policies (i.e. policies that go beyond the growth imperative) that enable makerspaces to and constraint them from developing sustainable potential.

Taken together, this PhD research will address the under-researched topic of sustainability transformations beyond capitalism and will provide critical analysis of makerspaces as prefigurations of socially and ecologically just and sustainable economies.

Contact person: Olga Vincent

  • Makers of sustainability

Emanuela Naclerio’s postdoc project focuses on sustainable making practices among micro-entrepreneurs in Turin and France. She explores perspectives on work, identity and production among makers from a comparative perspective.

Contact person: Emanuela Naclerio

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