Sara Nikolić Off the beaten track – ethnography applied in urban planning

Our neighborhoods are crammed with hidden stories. Some of them can be unlocked by talking to locals, allowing the threads of their narratives to plot alternative maps and discover shortcuts. Some other stories take us by surprise while we wander around smelling linden blossom, wonder what neighbors are cooking or turn in our bed sleeplessly, detesting the traffic noise and the heat of asphalt. Ethnographic research listens to each of these stories. This lecture is conceived as a presentation of the results of the quarterly ethnographic research in Poznań (Poland). The specific methodology inspired by sensory ethnography and the works of Tim Ingold, interlaces memories, urban legends and oral presentations about the neighbors with their sensory aspects – in order to achieve a deeper and more complex understanding of the city. A detailed (alternative) map created by overlapping and crossing the paths, stories, memories and senses of different teller, precisely because it resembles a palimpsest, allows us to see the city in its diversity, as it is, how it lives and how it is actually used on a daily basis, not how it was sterilely designed. The effectiveness of such map as an artifact, but also as a source, is reflected in its ability to raise the question whether the adoption of such and similar ethnographic mapping practices can open up space for interdisciplinary cooperation and the application of ethnography / anthropology in urban planning.

Sara Nikolić is a PhD student at the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade) where she has obtained Bachelor and Master of Arts diplomas as well. In the very focus of her scientific interest are urban anthropology, economical anthropology and the new studies of material culture, thus within her thesis she is researching transformation of dwelling culture, conception of home and social relations after privatization of the housing stock in New Belgrade. Besides her academic engagement, she is the author of the exhibition “Commercial – A Frame for The Portrait of Contemporary Women”, held in Ethnographic Museum (Belgrade) and Museum of Jadar (Loznica) during 2016.