I’m a Senior Lecturer in cultural sociology at Brunel University, UK and my university homepage is here: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/people/monica-degen
You can also find me on twitter: @MoniDegen
Before I joined Brunel I worked in the department of geography at the Open University after completing my PhD in the sociology department at Lancaster University, supervised and influenced by scholars such as Deidre Boden, Rob Shields, Bulent Diken and John Urry.
Having lived in a range of cities I’ve always been fascinated by the distinct atmospheres that their public spaces exude and the diverse feelings that cities evoke through the complex entanglements of built environment and social life. Drawing mainly on cultural and urban sociology, cultural geography and anthropological approaches, I am particularly interested in the role the senses play in framing daily urban life: how do the senses structure and mediate our everyday experience in the city? And, how are sensory experiences being consciously produced and adapted to market and brand urban places?
Hence, in my conceptions of place and space, embodiment and sensory experience are central. While I’ve done some abstract theorising on sensory urban experience, mainly drawing from Lefebvre, I’m more comfortable researching particular places and spaces in order to understand how people interact with these. I have examined how urban regeneration is implemented and works through the organisation of sensory experiences in Barcelona and Manchester; how people experience the centre of two very different mid-sized towns in the UK – Bedford, a market town, and Milton Keynes, a modernist town; and more recently, I have examined how architect’s visualisation practices and imaginations of places in Doha, Qatar, are being transformed through their use of computer generated images.
For my British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship I want to develop the temporal aspects of my work in more detail. The senses operate within spatial and temporal dimensions and I hope to understand better how a multiplicity of temporal narratives, practices and ideologies underpin urban change, operating at different speeds and intensities to produce a particular sense of place.
The making of urban space is in many ways a materialization of the passing of time, reflecting and reifying social power relations and social dynamics of any given time in the built environment. We only have to think of the way churches, monuments or other institutions represent their social meaning through their physical presence. Similarly, people using the city create their own timeframes through everyday practices such as commuting, the school-run or shop opening times, all of which produce and contribute to particular urban rhythms. Moreover, individuals also have their own subjective temporal experiences in the form of memories which might reflect, contradict or synchronise with institutional times.
Existing research on urban regeneration has tended to focus on a specific period in time within the remaking of a neighbourhood and to draw conclusions about the impact of the regeneration from this time-frame. My study which draws on longitudinal research on the regeneration of el Raval in Barcelona (from 1996-2014), is concerned with urban change as a process and with place-making as a temporal practice. The aim is to explore temporal and sensory features as a crucial dimension in shaping power relations and how these shape the making of places.
The findings of this project will be shared in two public events in London on the 29th of November 2016 and in Barcelona on the 12/13th of December 2016.