Enlivened City: How Disability Arts and Culture Can Inform the Livable Cities Movement
Aimi Hamraie, Vanderbilt University
Aimi Hamraie, assistant professor of Medicine, Health, and Society and American Studies, and director of the Mapping Access Project at Vanderbilt University, talked about a new urban development projects and how, while understood as serving the common good, are also transforming the fabric of cities, introducing new obstacles and barriers to accessibility and ultimately framing some bodies as undesirable urban citizens.
Since the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, mayors of global cities committed to addressing climate change via urban-scale projects aimed at promoting livable, sustainable, and healthy communities. New development projects incorporating greenways, parks, public art features, and exercise-promoting infrastructures are believed to enhance livability through wellness, weight loss, and “human-powered transportation.” But while these projects are typically understood as serving the common good, they are also transforming the fabric of cities, introducing new obstacles and barriers to accessibility and ultimately framing some bodies as undesirable urban citizens. In this talk, I will analyze urban design, public art, and building certification frameworks to discuss transformations in contemporary cities. Drawing on concepts and practices from disability studies and the Mapping Access project, I will show how disability arts and culture can reframe the “enlivened city” as a place that celebrates and sustains, rather than eliminates, embodied difference. Ultimately, this new framework offers urban planners and inhabitants—both those who imagine the city’s future and dwell within it—alternatives to normative public health frameworks for desirable life.