Urban Ethics

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Moscow: Urban Ethics of Protest and Violence of Ethics (2015 - 2018)

«Вы нас не представляете!» shouted the protesters in 2011 in Moscow on one of the largest demonstrations in post-Soviet Russia. On the one hand, this posed the question of political representation ("You do not represent us!"), but it also signified the threatening new power of street protests (the sentence can also be understood in the sense of "You cannot imagine what we are capable of"). Another slogan heard again and again was "Это наш город" ("This is our city"). The debate about the city and political representation has often been and often is negotiated as a matter of ethics: A newspaper article appeared in 2013 with the title "The struggle today is not about politics, but about ethics" („Борьба сегодня идет не за политику, а за этику“). Ethics has of course always been for the protest movement an important means of calling state power into question, as it had for many movements previously, but it also serves as a way of differentiating activists from the passive, manipulated народ (people) that support the system.

In our research, we ask,
... how the protest activities and the associated social creativity transform the city of Moscow and notions of good and proper ways of living urban lives. After the first big wave of protests, in the context of strong repression and, later, war, municipal institutions seemed also to have discovered the participatory, "good" city as an aim. We therefore also investigate the creation of new participatory projects, citizens' initiatives, parks, bike paths, etc. How are projects for a better Moscow defined by various actors? Who is intended to be activated by whom and how are these offers appropriated?

... which meanings are connected to the figure of the "active citizen". In our view, this figure is to a certain extent defined by an ethical self-image. Which effects arise from this emphasis on ethics, urbanity and activity? What limits and exclusions are may thereby be simultaneously generated?

With the help of ethnographic participant observation and discourse analysis, we attempt to understand the complexity of the practice of the protests and their connection with urban life in Moscow. With a focus on ethics and violence, we hope also to contribute to discussions on dominance relationships.