Urban and Urbanization

Improvising urban spaces, inhabiting the in-between

This paper discusses improvisation as a liminal practice of inhabiting the in-between that marks urban spaces from squats and brownfields to communal gardens, from infrastructural maintenance and urban living labs to political protest and solidarity in times of crisis. It shows how improvisation emerges in the interstices between uncertain flux and ossified rigidities to construct in-between spaces of ambiguous political openings even in ostensibly formal, rigid contexts. To that end, it draws on documents, media reports, interviews and participant observation to analyse the multiple mutations of what eventually became the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre in Ekaterinburg, a cultural flagship in Russia’s third largest city. Morphed from an abandoned office block into a memorial multi-purpose complex, the Yeltsin Centre is the product of elites and ordinary people responding to conjunctural openings in seemingly inert structures. While highlighting the political openings made possible by improvisation inhabiting the in-between, the paper also underscores the ambiguous nature of this practice and its limits.

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Volume 38 Issue 4

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