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"Right to the city": experience of analysis of courtyard communities from the position of critical theory (by the example of Minsk)

Research Article

Elena V. Lebedeva Candidate of Sociology, Associate professor,
Belarusian State University, Minsk, Republic of Belarus
ORCID ID=0000-0002-3138-337X
"Right to the city": experience of analysis of courtyard communities from the position of critical theory (by the example of Minsk).
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 1. P. 44-66

Дата поступления статьи: 26.10.2021
This Article is downloaded: 40 times
Topic: Modern Belarusian Sociology

For citation:
Lebedeva E. V. "Right to the city": experience of analysis of courtyard communities from the position of critical theory (by the example of Minsk). Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2022. Vol. 13. No. 1. P. 44-66
DOI: https://doi.org/10.19181/vis.2022.13.1.775


Traditionally, the Soviet courtyard was presented in urban studies as a sphere of attraction for the interests of most neighbours. However, the changes in the post-Soviet period (the commercialisation of public space, the stratification and segregation of citizens) significantly weakened the activity of courtyard communities. Recently, under the influence of a number of factors (the Covid-19 pandemic, the growth of socio-political activity), cities, on the contrary, are experiencing a significant civic upsurge, the traditions of spending time together in residential courtyards are gradually being renewed. The revival of the activity of courtyard communities actualises the study of issues related to the perception of citizens of their "right to the city", the boundaries and possibilities of its practical implementation, as well as the influence of communicative factors. The neo-Marxist interpretation of critical theory (A.Lefevre, D.Harvey, D.Mitchell) has been used as the methodological basis for the analysis of courtyard communities. The empirical materials collected in the course of the study (results of a questionnaire survey, supplemented by the analysis of the content of neighbours chats) revealed a number of fundamental differences between “new” courtyard communities and traditional (“Soviet”) ones. In the "Soviet" courtyard communities, urban participation was not so much the realisation of the "right to the city" as an example of communal (rural) cooperation (a form of grassroots self-organisation to achieve the set goals at the lowest cost). In the case of the "new" courtyard communities, the driving force is "urbanity" as the ability to define oneself as a city dweller, the desire to leave one's mark in the urban environment. At the same time, the "right to the city" goes beyond its utilitarian understanding (as the improvement of the urban environment) and acquires the features of symbolic self-determination, becomes the right to produce one's own identity. Courtyard communities formed on the basis of the realisation of their own “right to the city” are characterised by the ability to reach a compromise and develop generally accepted rules of communication. If such trends continue, the “right to the city” will be closely correlated with such concepts as “communication”, “public sphere”, “forum”, and its practical implementation will be less and less tied to the direct “reconquest” of physical territories and will increasingly begin to unfold in the communicative plane.


urban environment, urban participation, "right to the city", self-government, neighbourhood communities, communication, critical theory

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