#0 Time is of the essence

Launch of BSI Position Papers

Translation: Jane Corrigan

Le temps presse

De tijd dringt

“The city is a human environment in which strangers encounter one another.”1 The restrictions associated with the political handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have reminded us of the scope of this definition of the city. While the rapid growth in the use of information and communication technologies during the lockdowns has favoured the deregionalisation of certain exchanges, it has not erased the need for face-to-face interactions. It has even fuelled this need. And it is precisely from this that the city draws (or should draw) its strength: by concentrating a great diversity of people and activities, it has the capacity to organise the coexistence of different yet complementary individuals and groups, and to make occasional and unscheduled encounters possible, leading to dialogue, friction, creativity and innovation. 

It must be said that Brussels, more than other regions, has suffered from the restrictions imposed on exchanges due to policies to combat the virus. As one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Brussels has made exchanges its speciality, which makes it all the more vulnerable: regional, federal and international capital, major congress city, large cultural centre, biggest student concentration in Belgium, host city, tourist destination, service city, etc. At the same time, the health crisis has also highlighted the significance of the crises (social, environmental, housing, etc.) which existed before the pandemic began, and the extreme dependence of Brussels on manufacturing production now located mainly outside the city limits, and even outside Europe.2

In this context, Brussels Studies and the Brussels Studies Institute (BSI) could not remain simple onlookers. Although the idea had existed for some time, the decision to create a new collection – the BSI Position Papers – became obvious in view of the many challenges and emergencies facing Brussels. The articles in the Brussels Studies general collection, the BSI synopses and the fact sheets are already valuable tools for analysing the reality of Brussels. But we wished to take things further: to go beyond the necessary observations, provide an opportunity to reformulate certain debates and outline courses of action. However dramatic it has been for certain sections of the population and for the many activities which have suffered, this crisis has shown the potential of Brussels society for innovation and solidarity. The BSI Position Papers therefore aim to open up ways to emerge from this crisis, to prepare ourselves to face future crises (environmental, health, social and others) and to think about the future.

Instead of presenting the fragmented views of experts, this new collection of BSI Position Papers will favour a multidisciplinary, inter-university and inter-community approach which is at the origin of the Brussels Studies Institute. Each position paper will therefore be written by authors from different disciplines, universities and linguistic backgrounds, as well as from both academic and non-academic fields. In order to ensure the widest possible readership, this collection, like the other Brussels Studies collections, will be published in three languages: French, Dutch and English. 

The first BSI Position Paper is clearly in keeping with the above perspective. Written by Filip Keymeulen (non-profit organisation Diogènes), Andrea Rea (ULB – GERME), Elisabetta Rosa (UCLouvain – LOCI-CREAT) and Mauro Striano (Bruss’help), it points out the situations of extreme precariousness which a growing number of Brussels residents have suddenly had to face in recent months to the point of becoming homeless. The policy of generalised lockdown has, however, been an opportunity to experiment with new ways to approach this problem: they invite us to reconsider the diversity of emergency situations and to accelerate the implementation of more permanent solutions.

The BSI Position Papers editorial team

Nele Aernouts
Marion Berzin
Simon Boone 
Patrick De Boosere
Stefan De Corte
Myriam De Spiegelaere
Tatiana Debroux
Bernard Declève
Margaux Hardy
Michel Hubert
Dimokritos Kavadias
Joost Vaesen
Jessica van de Ven
Emilie Van Haute
Benjamin Wayens
Galaad Wilgos

  1. Sennett R., 1979. Les tyrannies de l’intimité. Paris: Le Seuil, p. 42 [Original title in English: The Fall of Public Man, 1974]. []
  2. IBSA, 2021. Perspectives économiques régionales. Available at: https://ibsa.brussels/themes/economie/perspectives-economiques-regionales []

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