Crafting Future Urban Economies

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A research project at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

General introduction: What is the potential of craftsmanship and making locally to support a paradigm shift towards more circular forms of urban manufacture? Making, customizing and reusing things and working with your hands is becoming ‘cool’ again, a meaningful and selfexpressive activity, as a way to manage resources responsibly, and as an alternative to mass production and big corporations. Maker fairs, Fab Labs and makerspaces are popping up in cities around the world. But to what extent can this renaissance of craftsmanship help tackle two related challenges: strengthening local economies in postindustrial cities building on their unique local histories, while supporting their transition to more circular and sustainable forms of production and consumption? Taking a European comparative approach, this project uncovers how the values and practices of making and crafting locally (e.g. symbolic, societal, economic) can be harnessed by cities to support their transition to more circular forms of production and consumption. The main research question is: how is making articulated, safeguarded and valued in post-industrial cities?

Specifically the project aims to study: 1) how is the urban legacy of craft skills put to work in new forms of local (digital) making, reuse and recycling? 2) what are the resource implications of circular making? 3) what policy options and consumption practices harness local making? The project applies a multi-method design including: (a) interview and participant observation data with makers, consumers and policy makers; (b) analysis of policy and practitioner texts; (c) and of longitudinal data on the development of selected craft scenes in European cities (Athens, Lille, Turin, Rotterdam, Warsaw). The project generates new theory on making as a pillar of circular urban economies. It advances on previous studies with its internationally comparative approach that is attentive to local historical context, global interconnections and multistakeholder perspectives.