Decolonising the City


Decolonising the City: co-designing a participatory arts-based research toolkit with migrant communities in Athens, Greece

Small Group Project 2022-23

Recent calls to decolonise academic knowledge agree that this has been too insular and inward-looking, and needs to be co-produced with the communities it addresses, in ways that are inclusive, relevant and useful to them. Meanwhile, in the urban realm, recent migration means the previously largely uncontested idea of “urban belonging” is changing rapidly. In this moment of dual transition, migrants settle in European cities while receiving societies are faced with the legacies of their own colonial past. 

We propose a series of small-scale field-based interventions aiming to reimagine, together with migrant communities, what “decolonising” urban citizenship means in practice. Our aim is to generate a participatory arts-based methodological toolkit, co-designed with migrant communities. We will focus on migrant communities of African descent in Athens, Greece. Specifically, we will collaborate with UWAO, Ubuntu and Anasa: three cultural organisations representing the Afro-Greek communities active in central Athenian neighbourhoods. Our methodological toolkit will be constructed around this very knowledge, via an interdisciplinary, decolonial, intersectional feminist and participatory approach, together with the communities on the ground.

DtC focuses on Athens for two reasons. First, the city is both at Europe’s periphery and centre: the “birthplace of civilisation” in European imaginaries (Gourgouris 1996; Stenou 2019) is nevertheless at the continent’s edge – geographically, culturally and politically. Athens is therefore both an epicentre of the imagined geography (Said 1979) that gave birth to orientalism, and itself at the receiving end of ensuing colonial and post-colonial transformations. Second, Athens has accommodated thousands of migrants who are unable to move further across the continent, settling in a city itself rattled by more than a decade of consecutive crises (from debt to migrant reception and now Covid-19). In these two ways, Athens exemplifies how colonial imaginaries and legacies intertwine with urban exclusion today.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].