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From: Etienne Henry, France
Category: Category 2
Date: 6/20/00
Time: 7:23:18 PM
Remote Name:


Subject: Re: FRHS E-CONFERENCE: 2nd PHASE Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 23:32:46 +0200 From: Etienne HENRY <> To: CC: Emile Le Bris <>

Dear Colleague,

We are working too about: a) the Istanbul+5 Preparatory Conference held in Nairobi from May 8th to May 12th;

Our team can be better known at

City & Policy.

The city is an essential element in the understanding of the world's development. Its contents have evolved throughout history and in the different regions of the world. As its geographical and sociological boundaries are growing blurred, the city is now mostly defined by its political contents. In keeping away from a sort of urban planning optimism, such a reading is putting forward all the powers and tensions that are exercised in an empirical reality, now considered as critical.

This research unity pretends to federate, to guide and to arouse research actions which define the city through its relations with the powers of the state, of socioeconomy, either institutional or deviant.

Its leading-off questions are such as those enunciated by common sense or formulated by politics. The city crisis, in more technical or general registers, postpones to the crisis of its services, structures, transports, districts, finances, representations, and other phenomena directly linked to the evolution of society. The spreading of this crisis in metropolis and megalopolis also applies to centers, born out of a rapid and massive urbanization which did not take into account the economical correlate which prevailed in the transition from rural to urban systems in industrialized countries. The understanding of the different scopes aims at elucidating the elements which enable to act upon the territorial fragmentation, the fading away of social actors and the emergence of diverse types of urban violence. In this way, several entries are converging towards a political focus, and define a polysemous and polymorphic entity. Its systemic analysis completes the propositions which privilege other urban entries (focusing on mobility, environment, economy and globalization), in the context of major questions dealing with national construction, citizenship affirmation, exercise of democracy and of their social and identifying avatars. This Research Unit confronts the locally administered type of government and the asepticized vision of city management with its adverse tendency to deregulate social and political institutions, technical and cultural networks, and economical and spatial circuits. A precise study of the multiform emergence of the city can help to understand the new modalities of local regulation and their remoteness from some canonical recommendations. The basic hypothesis of that process is that the heterogeneous and divergent strategies of a growing number of actors concur to a tendency to urban fragmentation, on a divided and submitted territory. Potential vectors of change can emerge from that. It is possible to evaluate it by finding the proceedings of confrontation and negotiation in the community instances, municipal areas and other institutions at a higher level. Some of them would be susceptible of playing a role which would integrate particular concerns and national policies, and of leading the course of decentralizing, deregulating and privatizing options, induced by the reform of the State which is coming into general use.

The global features of the city are deduced from the evaluation of these policies and from the vertical interventions on the city as much as from its own regulating rules and power which is exercised by antagonist forces of disaggregation. It is performed in some contexts which are noticeably different from those known up till now.

The fields of research are Latino-American and African, with some Asian and European references. Two main centers, one in Brazil and the other in the West of Africa, are helped by fundamental works in Mexico, Northern Africa and China, and exploration in other places. The attention of about thirty full research workers - either scientific or academic people - and as many partners in the investigated countries, is focused on the same field of research in about fifty urban districts in 25 countries. Their network is coordinated by the Ile de France IRD research center, which is connected with a group from Toulouse, used to the local treatment of the same type of information.

Moreover, the work of research is made more dynamic by the participation of an association of experts, specialized in this area and who valorize the project. Finally, the respective laboratories of the full and associated members put together the interventions of French and foreign research workers. From its main core, the unit of research also works within a network, by the mean of telecommunication and in organizing local, sectorial and global meetings. This enforces a comprehensive analysis of the city, tackled through diverse enquiry procedures, with a qualitative character, a treatment of quantitative data and a permanent looking out in an observatory.

Without requiring an urban politology, several contributions bring together humane studies, such as sociology and political economy, geography and history, anthropology and law, as well as technical disciplines linked to town-planning and services. Empirical researches are focused on by a scientific protocol which delimits the field of relations between the city and politics, and decline it according to three categories - actors, institutions and territories - which lead to six main themes (regulation, innovation, sociability, desocialization, alternative and delit powers). Thanks to the inheritance of former experience, the accent on the long term is put on the main historical tendencies, confronted to ancient and recent paradigms. It is the same process concerning the political area, organised locally on a daily basis, but understandable when referring to global systems of domination; the same for the city, which undeniable empirical reality would be called into question today by centrifugal logic from external origins. What about the Southern part of the planet and its urban majorities, or city-dwellers?

--------------------------------------------------- Etienne HENRY 1 villa Violet F - 75015 PARIS Tel. 33 (0)1 45 75 82 74

Last changed: March 13, 2002