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European Rivers and Towns

Rivières et métropoles européennes

Creation, development and perspectives of a (re)newed conquest: Tourism, Leisure, Heritage

Invention, développement et perspectives d’un espace de (re)conquête : tourisme, loisirs, patrimoine(s)

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Published on Thursday, February 18, 2016


This conference aims to elucidate the many ways that city dwellers have striven to appropriate rivers and riverbanks for leisure purposes from the 19h century to today: how were new practices, which one assumes connected the individual to the town, created ? How did full-fledged citizens make their voice heard in the same place where industrialization altered riverside landscape, the place where “free ground” embankments were sometimes made concrete by public authorities or made private by riverside residents, thus obliging the stroller to move away or simply forbidding access ?


Organized on July 1rst and 2nd at the Sorbonne


The entertainment aspect of urban and suburban rivers (the banks of the river Marne and the river Seine in Paris and in the Paris region, the banks of the Thames, of the Amstel, the Danube, etc.) have, since the 19th century, generated new social norms and cultural dynamics.  A certain “art de vivre” (the art of living) and ways to relax first appeared with the urban middle-class and the railways which facilitated transport. This then progressively spread to the urban working-class population.

This phenomenon of appropriation of the waters edge and the “conquest of leisure” concerns several major European cities, each with their own specific style and signature and other features they have in common. From this time on, a true and dynamic interrelationship between the different cities and places devoted to leisure has been set up. This can be found within the towns themselves or a few kilometers away connected to the center via the different means of transport. Pro-social behaviour, actions and practices bring about meetings and encounters between different class groups and people (people living beside the waters edge and people living in urban areas attracted by new leisure activities).

Over time, river cities and their riverbanks, once considered as havens, have since witnessed a change in their economic, urban and social structure with the arrival of new profile residents and new generations. The transformation of outskirts and suburbs, the industrialization and urbanization of river banks, all have contributed to changing the role of leisure activities and to promoting social and cultural diversity.

Urban and suburban riverbanks in Europe are today emerging as the founding places of a new urban sociability, with new tourism and leisure activities and a new “art de vivre” (art of living). This is happening in European cities that, all through the 19th and 20th centuries, experienced radical changes whether they be spatial, economical, cultural and social.

Today, these rivers located in metropolitan areas are confronted with new challenges. Ecology and heritage are two of the challenges that local residents wish to highlight in order to preserve an urban and cultural landscape. Public and private policy recommendations aim to recreate material and immaterial links between town and river to reinforce the attractiveness of a territory. These transformations have of course an impact on citizens and riparian areas in the context of city constructions and using the towns differently.

The sociology of tourism and leisure, territorial ecology, industrial history, the history of popular leisure activities, a mediological reflection, geography… all make us question the re-appropriation of riverbanks for these leisure activities and the development work involved.

Depending on the territory, this could mean water-related activities such as canoeing, rowing, canoeing-kayaking, or simply swimming, fishing or walking. The festive dimension is equally important whether it be for activities associated with music, dance or even gastronomy in places set up along the water’s edge (guinguettes) or for private functions. The study of representations of landscape, infrastructure and their general arrangement are crucial to understanding both the economic and social challenges of tomorrow.

Between heritagization and testamentary values, environmental issues, planning and development, what place do rivers promoting leisure activities have in a metropolitan area ?

What kind of activities took place here before and by whom and what is the situation today ?

How are past-time water-related activities reinterpreted and adopted (dances and guinguettes, nautical festivals, sailing regattas, etc.)?

The conference European Rivers and Towns : Creation, development and perspectives of a (re)newed quest : Tourism, Leisure, Heritage aims to explore these questions within the framework of European cities. The objective is to highlight this European fundamental belief of the right to leisure activities and the right to acquire new ones. This is in relation to the increased leisure and free time given in society yesterday and today in the context of urban rivers.

This international meeting aims to elucidate the many ways that city dwellers have striven to appropriate rivers and riverbanks for leisure purposes from the 19h century to today: how were new practices, which one assumes connected the individual to the town, created ? How did full-fledged citizens make their voice heard in the same place where industrialization altered riverside landscape, the place where “free ground” embankments were sometimes made concrete by public authorities or made private by riverside residents, thus obliging the stroller to move away or simply forbidding access ?

How are present and future issues defined concerning the protection, heritagization or the modernization of water-related activities? How are modern-day conflicts and demands defined (in front of legal regulations, against privatization of riverbanks, for the preservation of the environment and biodiversity, the quality of water, for the safeguard of a certain “art de vivre” (art of living), for the acquisition of surface space on or beside water for leisure-based activities)?

The goal-perspective approach to the conference will be a pluridisciplinary task, seeking to understand the complex circumstances that intersect with several areas and disciplines (the right to leisure ; history and sociology of leisure activities ; tourism ; tourism marketing ; social dynamics ; urbanism – spatial development and planning ; environment – nature, landscape and environment ; water sports – riverside fun activities ; environmental psychology).

Themes addressed

  • History of the development and promotion of leisure activities alongside urban rivers during the 19th and 20th centuries
  • History of the appropriation of riverbanks for tourism and leisure during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries
  • Cultural waterscape in the cities and their conversion
  • Real and imaginary representations of riverbanks in the city
  • Relationship between nautical activities and other uses (industrial, navigation, etc.) of riverbanks in the city
  • Environmental issues and an ecological re-appropriation of banks and rivers in cities
  • Growing awareness of political and legal positions (planning development versus leisure)
  • Societal challenges in these « interface » regions situated on the outskirts of the city
  • Place and role of urban rivers in the restructuring of cities
  • Development of the relationship between rivers and users, residents and authorities
  • Tensions old and new on riverbanks or on water
  • Heritagization and enhancement of riverbanks, between tangible and intangible heritage

NB. The list above is not exhaustive. The participants must however propose topics that address the urban or suburban context in urban cities, in priority European ones.

Abstracts submission

Proposals for papers (in English and French) are expected before

March the 5th 2016

to: cchowah@tourisme-valdemarne.com / maria.gravari-barbas@univ-paris1.fr / sebastien.jacquot@univ-paris1.fr

Proposals for papers must include:

  • Paper title in English and French
  • Name(s) of the author(s) and Institutional Affiliation(s)
  • Abstract (700 words) (in English or French)
  • A short bio (100 worlds)

Registration fees

The fee is 150€. It includes documentation, lunches, coffee breaks and simultaneous translation (french – english).

The registration fee for Master and PhD students is 50€.


Participants will be invited to discover the Marne riverbanks during a boat cruise on Friday July 1st , inthe evening.


  • Camille Chowah, Val-de-Marne Tourism Board Policy officer for Culture
  • Michel Cotte, MCC Heritage Agency Director
  • Maria Gravari-Barbas, IREST Director, EIREST
  • Sylvie Guerra, MCC Heritage Agency Consultant
  • Séverin Guillard, Lab Urba, Université Paris Est
  • Sébastien Jacquot, IREST Lecturer, EIREST
  • Hélène Sallet-Lavorel, Val-de-Marne Tourism Board Director

This conference contributes to the collective discussion to create a European network that could be certificate as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe. The network topic should be the development of leisure in European metropolis riversides.

For more information, please contact Camille Chowah, cchowah@tourisme-valdemarne.com

Scientific Board

  • Barton Susan, International Centre for Sports History and Culture, De Montfort University
  • Basa Lia, Université de Sciences Appliquées Budapest Metropolitan
  • Blanc Nathalie,Géographe, Laboratoire Ladyss
  • Brochot Aline,Géographe, CNRS
  • Brodie Allan, Historic England
  • Carré Catherine, Géographe, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Cotte Michel, Historien, expert du patrimoine mondial
  • Cottet Marylise, Géographe, Chargée de Recherche CNRS
  • Cousin Saskia, Anthropologue, Université Paris Descartes
  • Csergo Julia, Historienne des pratiques sociales et culturelles, UQAM / Lyon 2
  • Delaive Frédéric, Chercheur, membre associé au CERHIO Université de Rennes 2, UMR 6258 du CNRS
  • Fée Philippe-Denis, Chargé de mission au Secrétariat Général du ministère de la culture et de la communication
  • Gravari-Barbas Maria, Géographe, IREST, EIREST, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Guillard Séverin, Lab Urba, Université Paris Est
  • Guillerme André, Ingénieur et Historien, chaire d’histoire des techniques au CNAM
  • Jacquot Sébastien, Géographe, IREST, EIREST, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Mariotti Alessia, Géographe, Université de Bologne
  • Pagès Dominique, Communication, Celsa, Université Paris IV-Sorbonne
  • Pattieu Sylvain, Historien, Université Paris 8
  • Rauch André, Historien, Université de Strasbourg
  • Reihnold Castensson, Geographer, Linköping University
  • Robinson Mike, Dicteur de l’Ironbridge Institute
  • Romain Fanny, Paysagiste DPLG, Ecole du Paysage d’Angers
  • Seidl Martin, LEESU,  École des Ponts ParisTech
  • Servain-Courant Sylvie, Géographe, INSA Centre Val de Loire, UMR CITERES
  • Tresseras Jordi, Université de Barcelone
  • Valette Philippe, Géographe, Université de Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès
  • Verlaine Julie, Historienne, Centre d’histoire sociale du XXe siècle, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
  • Wenham Simon, Historien, tutor panel of Oxford University


  • Paris, France (75)


  • Saturday, March 05, 2016


  • rivière, tourisme, loisir, patrimoine, métropole


  • Maria Gravari-Barbas
    courriel : maria [dot] gravari-barbas [at] univ-paris1 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Séverin Guillard
    courriel : severin [dot] guillard [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« European Rivers and Towns », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, February 18, 2016, https://calenda.org/356873

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