Plenary 01 | Ash Amin

Space/Subject: Vernaculars of Endurance in Delhi's Slums and Streets

P01 | WEDNESDAY 14 JULY 16:30-17:45 CEST

This lecture is on how subjectivity is made in the dwelling of places. When habitat is acknowledged as an influence on personhood, it is often seen as an external force affecting body and mind. Based on an ethnography of mental health in a slum and among the homeless in Delhi, the lecture argues that place - in its design, atmosphere, habitat, sensorial qualities, built form - enters into subjective experience and identity through how it is intimately dwelt. Conceiving place as internal and integral to the rhythms of human endurance - in this case of poverty - has important implications for how urban identities are conceptualized and how the granularity of place could help improve states of mental health.

Ash Amin is Professor of Geography at the University of Cambridge and the Swedish Research Council's 2021 Olof Palme Visiting Chair at the University of Uppsala. His latest books include Land of Strangers (Polity, 2012), Arts of the Political (with Nigel Thrift, Duke 2013), Seeing like a City (with Nigel Thrift, Polity, 2016), and Grammars of the Urban Ground (ed. with Michele Lancione, Duke, in press). He is currently writing a book Frames of Coexistence, which considers biopolitical alternatives to xenophobic nationalism in Europe.

Semi-Plenary 02 | Friederike Landau

Infrastructuring Activism: On Political Difference in Public Art

P02 | THURSDAY 15 JULY 12:00-13:30 CEST

In this plenary lecture, I push for a conceptual framework to understand the political implications of art projects in the public realm. By interweaving the theoretical trajectories of infrastructuring and political difference, I seek to conceptualize how contingent constellations of people, places, (hi)stories and things create new moments or movements of ‘the political’. With help of the trope of infrastructuring, rather than infrastructure, I attend to the myriad of practices, politics and poetics that arise from exchanges between bodies and objects that are differently imbued with power and (im)mobility. Via the lens of political difference, I differentiate (however, not neatly or definitively) between ‘politics’ and ‘the political’. From this, I propose to conceptualize the conflictual claims to spatial justice, belonging and cultural (re)presentation in public art projects as political difference in public art. Within this ever-oscillating difference, materializing in both contradictions between and interpenetrations of politics and the political, the infrastructuring of artistic activism can emerge as modality of the political.

Drawing on my pre-pandemic fieldwork from 2019, I present an empirical vignette from recently commissioned public artwork in Vancouver’s historically marginalized neighborhood of Chinatown. By tracing processes of temporary commissioning, street art interventions, and community engagement, I unpack the temporal and spatial ‘politics’ and ‘the political’ of murals. This political difference of public art is nestled between complex urban cultural politics of reconciliation, multi-generational legacies of racism, discrimination and hardship on the one hand, and contemporary challenges of rising property prices, place-branding and policing of public space on the other. It arises between the logistical, bureaucratic, sanctioned ‘politics’ of public art, and its uneven, dislocatory counterpart of ‘the political’ of public art - for example, in the form of graffiti. The analytic of political difference, I argue, helps to empirically and conceptually navigate and possibly also (re)activate always-already lingering antagonisms in the urban cultural fabric.

Dr. Friederike Landau is a political theorist and urban sociologist. Currently, Friederike is an Assistant Professor in Cultural Geography at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Her research focuses on political and spatial theories of conflict, artistic activism, affective politics and contested public spaces such as museums and monuments. Her dissertation Agonistic Articulations in the 'Creative' City - On New Actors and Activism in Berlin's Cultural Politics was published with Routledge in 2019. 

In 2021, the edited collection [Un]Grounding - Post-Foundational Geographies, was published with transcript. The volume addresses the role of conflict, contingency and political difference in human geography and urban studies. To cope with the ongoin pandemic, Friederike has founded #PoeticAcademic, an ongoing series of poems:

Semi-Plenary 03 | Sonia Arbaci (IJURR Plenary)

Paradoxes of segregation: housing, welfare, and the production of urban inequality in (Southern) European cities

P03 | THURSDAY 15 JULY 15:45-17:15 CEST

This IJURR lecture challenges reductive notions of (ethno-racial) segregation that dominate theory and policy, and view spatial concentration as an indicator of social division attached to poverty, or equate desegregation and mixing with integration and upward mobility. I argue that segregation is an embedded product of - and should be understood in relation to - the broader organisation of society, and that the debate should be recentred on the role of the state-market(-family) nexus in the production of urban inequality.​

Through an international comparative research, I examine patterns, processes and causes of ethnic urban segregation in Western Europe, with a particular focus on eight Southern European cities (Lisbon; Madrid, Barcelona; Rome, Milan, Turin, Genoa; Athens) since the early 1990s. The complex links between production of inequality and segregation processes are explored in relation to welfare regimes (social-democratic, corporatist, liberal and familistic), housing systems, immigration waves, and the cities’ socio‐spatial structure. I found that segregation is essentially about redistribution. The redistributive arrangements of welfare regimes and their pillars – their degrees of (de/)re -commodification, especially of the housing system and respective land system - and local urban policies play a fundamental role in shaping patterns of ethnic residential segregation and socio‐ethnic divisions. Urban inequality is not (necessarily) manifested through ghettoisation but through peripheralisation and dispersal; I advance a new metaphor of ‘urban diaspora’ to capture systemic processes of (forced) expulsion and conceptualise this (not so new) geography of inequalities.

Dr Sonia Arbaci is Associate Professor in Spatial Planning at the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London. She worked as an Architect and a Planner across Europe and the USA, prior joining academia. Her research draws on European comparative studies, with a particular attention to Southern European cities, and focuses on ethnic residential segregation, and the role of welfare regimes, housing systems, and urban policies in the production of urban inequality. Her recent book "Paradoxes of Segregation”, published in the Wiley’s Series on Studies in Urban and Social Change, brings together 20 years of comparative research.

Semi-Plenary 04 | Desmond D'Sa (SDCEA, SA) & Manu Claeys (stRaten-generaal, BE)

Contesting urban infrastructure projects: experiences from the Antwerp Oosterweel link and the Durban port expansion projects 

P04 | THURSDAY 15 JULY 20:00-21:30 CEST

This plenary session is concerned with the multiple ways in which urban infrastructure projects are contested by civil society actors. Civil society actors, their mode of operation and embedding in urban societies vary greatly across time and space, resulting in different forms of politics. In this session we want to discuss the politics of urban civil society actors by looking at two vastly different cases of civil society contestation of urban infrastructure projects, taking place in two very different social and institutional contexts, namely Durban (SA) and Antwerp (BE). We will do this through the eyes of two key players in urban civil society in these respective cases.  

Desmond D'Sa is a South African environmentalist who received the 2014 Goldman Prize. He is known for protesting Environmental justice issues in Durban, South Africa related to access to greenspace and pollution. The region around the city is known as a "Cancer Alley" because of the 300+ industrial facilitates around the city. To address this he found the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance. That network has been successful at opposing other polluting sites, and is advocated to prevent expansion of the Port of Durban. In 2011 his house was firebombed for his advocacy. Raised in the Apartheid era, he was inspired to integrate environmental and social justice issues in his activism. For his work he received an honorary doctorate from the Durban University of Technology. 

Manu Claeys (1964) is a writer (non-fiction books, essays) who lives in Antwerp. He studied Philology and Literature at the University of Leuven and the University of Minnesota. He is president of the citizens’ association stRaten-generaal (‘Streets General’). The association was awarded the Prize for Democracy in 2010 and co-signed the Covenant for the Future (Toekomstverbond) with the Flemish government, the city of Antwerp and the citizen movements Ringland and Ademloos. 

In 2005, from within stRaten-generaal & with architect/urban designer Peter Verhaeghe, he launched an alternative to a planned highway through the city of Antwerp. This initiative led to a broad and long-term public debate about mobility, city development and political participation by citizens. In 2017 he became laureate of the Georges Allaert Personality Award 2017 granted by the MORO Foundation (University of Ghent) for his contribution to the interaction between mobility and spatial planning.

In May 2018 he published Red de democratie! – waarom het systeem hapert en wat we eraan kunnen doen (Save Democracy! Why the System is Broke and How to Fix It). The book outlines how the political narrowing of citizenship to votership has weakened the democracy and, paradoxically, even puts democracy at risk. Contours for a way out are found in the creation of space in governance for active citizenship, focusing on various citizen identities in the practice of democracy, both within (participation) and outside of (activism) the formal procedures.

Semi-Plenary 05 | Saheed Aderinto, Nadine Machikou, Edgar Pieterse, Kingsley Madueke, Vanessa Watson, Liza Weinstein & Nik Theodore

Presencing and publishing Urban Studies from Africa

P05 | FRIDAY 16 JULY 14:00-15:30 CEST

With Jennifer Robinson (University College London, UK), Laurent Fourchard (Sciences Po, Paris), Julie-Anne Boudreau (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Walter Nicholls (University of California, Irvine)

While in "international" northern-based journals publishing the work of African based scholars seems to remain a challenge for editors, African scholars have organised many dynamic venues for publishing urban and African studies research. We have invited African-based scholars who have been involved in leading these initiatives to share their experiences; and editors working on Western-based journals to respond.

We will hear from 4 African based urban scholars for 10-15 minutes each, and then from 3 editors of urban studies journals to make short responses. 


Edgar Pieterse is founding director of the African Centre for Cities (ACC) at the University of Cape Town and holds the South African Research Chair in Urban Policy. He publishes different kinds of text, curate exhibitions, as well as difficult conversations about pressing urban problems.

Saheed Aderinto is Professor of African History at Western Carolina University in the United States. He is author of numerous works, including 'Animality and Colonial Subjecthood in Africa: The Human and Nonhuman Creatures of Nigeria (Ohio University Press, 2021)' and 'When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism, and Politics in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1958' (University of Illinois Press, 2015). Winner of the 2016 Nigerian Studies Association's Book Award Prize for the 'most important scholarly book/work on Nigeria published in English language.' Aderinto is the Founding President of the Lagos Studies Association.

Nadine Machikou is professor of political science at the University of Yaoundé. She is co-editor of the journal Politique africaine and member of the review Global Africa. She is also Director of seminars at the International War College of Cameroon and Director of the Center for Study and Research in International and Community Law (University of Yaoundé II) and Vice-President of the African Association of Political Science since march 2021. Her work focuses on the practical and symbolic expressions of violence, the political and moral economy of emotions, public policy and community integration in Africa. 

Dr. Kingsley L. Madueke earned his PhD in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He has a Master’s in Conflict Management and Peace Studies from University of Jos, Nigeria. His research interests center on urban conflict, collective violence, extremism and peacebuilding. He was a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (2014-2015) and an Urban Studies Foundation Visiting Fellow in the department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, University of California, Irvine (2020). Dr. Madueke’s article on armed rioters in Jos won the David and Helen Kimble Prize for best academic article published in Journal of Modern African Studies in 2018.

Vanessa Watson is Emerita Professor of City Planning in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics and a founder member of the African Centre for Cities, both at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She holds degrees from the Universities of Natal, Cape Town and the Architectural Association of London, and a PhD from the University of Witwatersrand, and is a Fellow of the University of Cape Town. Her research and publications have been on urban food security, planning theory, African cities and urbanisation, and currently on planning and corruption in Africa. More recently she has followed the new economic forces re-shaping African cities, in particular the private-sector driven property development initiatives. Watson is Global South Editor of Urban Studies and an editor of Planning Theory.

Liza Weinstein is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Northeastern University, and is an editor at the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Her research and teaching focuses on urban political economy and the politics of informality with a regional focus on India. Her current book project, By the Bulldozer: Demolition, Dispossession, and Resistance in the Governance of India’s Cities, analyzes the shifting politics of “slum” clearance and anti-eviction activism across urban India. She is also leading a National Science Foundation-funded study on the intersection of legal exclusion, embodiment, and territorial stigma in non-notified communities in Mumbai.

Nik Theodore is Professor and Head of the Department of Urban Planning and Policy, as well as the Director of the Center for Urban Economic Development, at the University of Illinois Chicago. Nik’s research focuses on neoliberal urbanism, the interscalar dynamics of policy mobilities, and economic informality and the restructuring of employment regimes. His research agenda is motivated by core commitments to understand how processes of urbanization are remaking and entrenching social inequalities, patterns of uneven development, and modes of political-economic exclusion. He currently is Interventions editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research and past editor of Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography.

Semi-Plenary 06 | Hillary Angelo, Christopher Otter and Jens Lachmund

Urban History and Urban Theory: A Boundless Dialogue?

P06 | FRIDAY 16 JULY 15:45-17:15 CEST

In sustained attempts to describe and capture the socio-spatial processes that make and unmake cities, urban theorists are tirelessly generating new concepts. The problem arising now is that the connection between conceptual advancement and urbanization as an empirical process becomes ever more difficult to assess and that, as a consequence, the political and societal relevance of urban theory is ever more difficult to justify. If we aim to take the urban seriously as a privileged site to foster answers to the extensive societal challenges of our times, we should avoid urban theory becoming a free-zone where everything goes and re-embed it in solid and sustained empirical analyses of concrete socio-spatial practices and contexts. This Round Table will therefore address the relationship between urban theory and empirical research in a discussion between urban theorists and historians. With the aim of critically examining the value added of urban theory to urban history, and vice versa, discussants will explore and question the need for more theoretically engaged empirical research and empirically informed theory-making to extend the scope, and even more so the societal relevance, of both urban history and urban theory.

Professor Christopher Otter is a specialist in the history of technology and the material world, the history of food, the history of health and disease, and British history. He was educated at the Universities of Oxford, Exeter, and Manchester in his native UK, before moving to the US. After positions at the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University, he moved to OSU in 2007.

Jens Lachmund is a sociologist and lecturer in science and technology studies at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. His has published widely on themes of the historical sociology of medicine, and of the (urban) environment. In his recent work, he has sought to connect perspectives from science and technology studies, environmental sociology, and urban planning history. His books include Greening Berlin. The Co-Production of Science, Politics, and Urban Nature (Boston, 2013). He is also co-editor of Science and the City, OSIRIS 18, 2003 - together with Sven Dierig and Andrew Mendelsohn -, and of Spatializing the History of Ecology (New York/London, 2017) - together with Raf de Bont.

Hillary Angelo is an urban and environmental sociologist and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her work offers a social-theoretical perspective on socio-ecological questions through historical and contemporary research on urban greening, sustainability planning and policy, infrastructure, and climate change. She has published in leading social science and geography journals and her new book, How Green Became Good: Urbanized Nature and the Making of Cities and Citizens, was published in 2021 by the University of Chicago Press. Before completing her Ph.D., she worked for five years with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, primarily on issues of participatory design, immigration, and public space use.

Plenary 07 | Ayona Datta and Rob Kitchin

P07 | FRIDAY 16 JULY 17:30-19:00 CEST

Prof dr. Ayona Datta | “Our stories, our voices”: A feminist toolkit for decolonising the digital and urban margins

Despite a ‘decolonial turn’ in critical geography, much remains to be understood about the praxis of decolonising the digital and urban margins. Drawing upon a series of activist and archival digital tools used by young millennial women living in urban peripheries, this lecture will present a toolkit for decolonial storytelling that develops the capacity for speaking without fear and creating safe spaces in a digital public sphere. Decolonial praxis involves breaking away from the limits of digital space as subjects of state patronage, to develop the capacity to ‘compose-with’ as well as ‘learn-with’ the realities and constraints of space, technology and power. It highlights new forms of literary ‘innovation’ in the digital-analogue margins, by underlining the affective and resistant potential of data through the anger, joy, freedom and despair that emerges therein. The lecture will argue that in the digital information age, self-authorship in online spaces can transform everyday stories of urban marginality into political artefacts, thus profoundly changing the social nature of digital space and its potential to shape feminist urban futures.

Ayona Datta is Professor of Human Geography in University College London, UK. She works in the intersections of postcolonial futures, gender citizenship and the politics of urbanisation, focusing on new configurations of gender power relations in the digital-territorial margins. Her research is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant, Swiss National Science Foundation, ESRC, AHRC and British Academy. Datta is the author of ‘The Illegal City: Space, law and gender in a Delhi squatter settlement’ (2012), and co-editor of ‘Mega-urbanization in the global South: Fast cities and new urban utopias of the postcolonial state’ (2017) and ‘Translocal Geographies: Spaces, places, connections’ (2011). In 2019, Datta was awarded the Busk Medal from Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for her work on smart cities in the global south. She is currently a member of the Research Excellence Framework 2021 Geography subpanel in the UK.

Prof dr. Rob Kitchin | The Right to the Smart City

This talk provides a critical reflection on the idea and ideals of the smart city. It considers a number of political and normative questions relating to ethics, governmentality, citizenship, sovereignty and social justice, and how these are conceived and operationalized within smart cities, illuminated through a number of empirical cases. The final part of the talk explores the notion of ‘the right to the smart city’ and how this might be used to recast the smart city for citizens in emancipatory and empowering ways.

Rob Kitchin is professor in Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute and Department of Geography. He was a European Research Council Advanced Investigator on the Programmable City project (2013-2018) and a principal investigator on the Building City Dashboards project (2016-2020). He is the (co)author or (co)editor of 31 academic books and (co)author of over 200 articles and book chapters. 

He has been an editor of Dialogues in Human Geography, Progress in Human Geography and Social and Cultural Geography, and was the co-Editor-in-Chief of the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. He was the 2013 recipient of the Royal Irish Academy’s Gold Medal for the Social Sciences.