Learning from Barcelona: Discourse, Power and Praxis in the Sustainable City



In the 2004 Forum for World Cultures, Barcelona politicians and intellectuals situated sustainability as a key issue for global and local debate. This event also distilled historical experiences of place, contact and conflict that have shaped Barcelona as a global city, while subsequent discussions illuminate the complexities of the creation of an urban culture of sustainability as contemporary urban social practice. Reading sustainability as myth and practice in both spatial and temporal contexts reveals the extent to which ecological commitments combine changes in urban policy, rhetorical statements, positioning within more general competitions for urban branding and citizen responses. Drawing on archival and cultural analysis as well as longterm ethnography, this paper examines Barcelona's search for social ecological policy and the complications of multiple visions and practices of sustainable development.