The Urban Studies Institute organises workshops, in which a diverse range of texts, projects, plans and ideas are presented and critically examined. The emphasis is on networking, exchange of ideas and confrontation with different perspectives. The format is adapted to the subject matter.

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USI lunch seminar by Marius Pieterse and Maheshwar Singh on the right to the city – access to health, water and housing in a global context

Wednesday 23 November 2022, 12 - 2 p.m.
University of Antwerp, S.E.122 - Lessius room


Two visiting international professors, Prof. dr. Marius Pieterse (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) and Prof. dr. Maheshwar Singh (National Law University, New Delhi, India), will give this seminar co-organised by the Urban Studies Institute, the Research Groups Law & Development, Government & Law and the Metropolitan Legal Lab. The seminar will examine whether the concept “right to the city” has any added value in urban policy debates or whether it could play a role and if so, which role. We will focus specifically on access to health, water and housing in a global city context with examples from South Africa and New Delhi, but invite the participants to discuss the implications and lessons learnt in different governance contexts.

About the seminar: Marius Pieterse - Advancing the right to the city through rights to housing and health: South African examples

Prof. dr. Marius Pieterse is a professor of law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he teaches constitutional law and human rights law. His research focuses on the public-law dimensions of urban governance, and particularly on how socio-economic rights work in urban contexts. For more info, see

Abstract: Prof. Pieterse will present his ongoing research regarding the right to the city linked to housing and health. One of the most effective ways of advancing interests associated with the right to the city, and to achieve SDG11’s interrelated goals of safe, inclusive, sustainable and resilient cities, is through the enforcement and mainstreaming of socio-economic rights at local government level. He will first examine the usefulness of legal concepts and standards frequently associated with socio-economic for advancing interests associated with the right to the city and SDG11. He will illustrate this using examples of different right-to-the-city campaigns in South African cities, that have leveraged the rights to health and housing as recognized in the 1996 South African Constitution.

About the seminar: Maheshwar Singh - Ground water depletion and water crisis in Delhi

Prof. dr. Maheshwar Singh is a Professor of Political Science at the National Law University (NLU), New Delhi (2009-present). He holds a doctoral degree in diplomacy and international security from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prof. Singh has been teaching Political Science & International Relations for nearly two decades and has published in the areas of water law, disability law & policy and development induced displacement. Prof. Singh is also the Director of Centre for studies in Disability and Law at NLU. He has been a visiting professor at a number of universities in Europe and also works as a consultant to prominent institutions of the government. For more information, see:

Abstract: Prof. Singh will discuss a recent publication and ongoing research regarding access to water using New Delhi, which is encountering a serious water crisis, as a case study. Ground water governance entails the synergetic acts of political, legal social, economic and administrative systems in order to ensure that the resource is distributed equitably and managed efficiently. It involves the formulation, establishment and implementation of water legislation and policies, and the creation of institutional framework for water administration. New Delhi has a very complex governance structure. Prof. Singh will explain the evolving legal regime on ground water, the policy framework and institutional structure as well as the role of the courts to manage and regulate the ground water situation in the city of Delhi. Despite the efforts of multiple agencies, existence of models bills, acts and regulations for the management of ground water, the rapid depletion of ground water in New Delhi is the fundamental reason for water scarcity in the city. There is a need to think about incentives to discourage people from abstracting ground water.

USI lunch seminar by Massimo Porcari on urban semiotics: The amphibious life of the port of Antwerp

Tuesday 29 November 2022, 12.30 - 2 p.m.
University of Antwerp, room S.M.104


Massimo Porcari, PhD student at University of Bologna, will give this seminar on urban semiotics, exploring how the sense or the meaning of the port of Antwerp is produced through the relationship between the disposition of its spaces and the practices of the subjects that are passed through it.

About the seminar: Urban semiotics - the amphibious life of the port of Antwerp

The seminar will be about how the sense or the meaning of the port of Antwerp is produced through the relationship between the disposition of its spaces and the practices of the subjects that are passed through it. The main assumption of the seminar will state that we do not have just one port, or rather that there is not one precise definition of what the port is, for this definition is constructed through various practices that can always change the meaning of the port. We will use the world “amphibious” not only to describe the relationship that the port creates between the land and the sea- that will also be important in our work-, but also to address the question of how a port, and the port of Antwerp in particular, put in question the categories that we usually use in order to describe a space. These categories are put in question also by the subjects that inhabit the port, therefore we will also address the question of the identity of these subjects, and more broadly the question of the identities in an urban space. Indeed, we will see that the same amphibious nature connects the port and its subjects, and this assumption will lead us into a broader reflection about the definition of a urban space.

USI lunch seminar Joshua Eykens on interdisciplinarity

13 December 2022, 12.30 - 2 p.m.
University of Antwerp, room s.R. 212


New doctor Joshua Eykens will give a talk on interdisciplinarity, based on his recently defended PhD dissertation on disciplines, specialization and interdisciplinarity in the social sciences and humanities. The seminar will explore textual approaches to mapping interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity of research specialisms in Flanders, the evaluation of interdisciplinarity, and how interdisciplinarity may soon be measured under the BOF key.

About the seminar: Interdisciplinarity and research evaluation

Interdisciplinary research (or IDR) is gaining a lot of attention both in science studies and higher education policy. It is commonly believed that interdisciplinarity is a necessary condition to solve some of the most complex societal problems, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Large research funding organizations, like the European Commission and the European Research Council, the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) all share this idea and give high priority to interdisciplinarity, for example by developing specific financing opportunities. In Flanders too this line of thought has reached policy circles. The Flemish government decided upon the instalment of a new funding parameter taking into account IDR for the distribution of government block funding over the five Flemish universities from 2024 onwards.

During this seminar, we will first discuss the function of disciplines in academia today and how interdisciplinarity can be perceived in this context. Next, we will reflect on a definition of interdisciplinary research proposed by the National Academy of Sciences. In a second part, I will present the results of two empirical studies of disciplinary specialization and interdisciplinarity in the Flemish Social Sciences and Humanities. Following from the insights derived from this empirical work, I briefly sketch out a knowledge systems approach to understanding science. In a third part, we discuss research evaluation practices and how to take stock of IDR. The indicator which has been proposed to measure IDR in light of the BOF-key will be discussed and reflected upon together with the audience.