Exploring Belgrade - Theory x Discipline x Method
The summer school 2016 focused particularly on the Serbian capital Belgrade. Core aims and components of the programme were the scientific exploration of a city like Belgrade and the productive tension of different theoretical perspectives on and methodological approaches to study urbanity and urban life.
Report by Marina Klyshko
The summer school, held at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Belgrade, brought together the Ph. D. students of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies, students of the Honours Master’s Programme East European Studies from Munich and Regensburg, students of the University of Belgrade, of the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg as well as of the CEU Budapest.
The participants formed three study groups, which addressed different questions and disciplinary approaches. While the group "Everyday life" observed commonplace practices at the Slavija square and at a refugee settlement aiming at the detection of underlying social and political patterns, the participants of the group "The past: history and memory" explored the ways in which the past shapes the urban space and how both are influenced by present perception. The purpose of the latter group was to explore narratives contained within the collective memory of Belgrade’s citizens, especially in respect to the monuments of the city. The third study group "Public sphere: local politics and urban planning" analysed political life of the city and conducted interviews with representatives of political and non-governmental organizations in Belgrade.
The intense program was completed by public lectures that covered a wide spectrum of topics about city history, architecture and public sphere. Excursions to important cultural and political sights such as the Museum of Yugoslav History, the mountain Avala south of Belgrade as well as to different urban districts provided insights into local peculiarities of Belgrade.
Especially the urban development project "Belgrade Waterfront" evoked a controversial discussion among the participants. Meetings with the responsible company and local protesters unveiled opposite opinions regarding the project that is supposed to transform Belgrade’s district Savamala into a luxury district.
Belgrade turned out to be a heterogeneous place where various cultures and histories cross paths. Exploring the city means to leave the typical tourist routes and to pay attention to ordinary and "unobservable" things. Even when the interdisciplinary approach sometimes proved to be a challenge for the participants, it contributed to a better understanding of the city and opened up new perspectives on individual research areas.