Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Urban Sociology

Research Topics

Her PhD, published in a revised version in English as Urban Bonds (Cambridge, Polity 2003) focused on peoples sense of community, the role of the relationships of neighbours for community and the way in which a sense of community has been  changing over the past century. She used an empirical study of a neighbourhood in the Dutch city Rotterdam to develop a theoretical frame to understand the meaning of community and the special role of neighbours for community.

Her next research project (2000-2005) was entitled Does the urban gentry help? This investigates the social consequences of gentrification, in particular with regard to collective political action. This research was funded through the Royal Academy, Netherlands Scientific Organisation research grants and the Wenner Grenn Foundation for anthropological research.
The empirical part of this study consists of two case studies, one in the New Haven, CT, USA and one in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, that are used to compare how the particular political decentralised system of local politics in the USA resulted in different patterns of collective mobilisation on the neighbourhood level in gentrified neighbourhoods than it does in the Netherlands. This study aims to contribute to the theoretical debate on space and conflict, cooperation and competition, as well as to the debate in Dutch society on `mixed neighbourhoods´,  in which it is often assumed  that the presence of people with a high level of social capital will improve the quality of life in the neighbourhood since those people are better equipped to make neighbourhood-related problems known to politicians and policy-makers. A number of papers has been published on this project and Blokland is currently finishing its book manuscript.

With support of the Dutch Ministry of Housing and Built Environment (VROM), Blokland engaged in another project (2006-2007) that developed her thoughts and interests in community, space and place making with a particular focus on the nature and workings of public familiarity through an empirical research into the sense of home and safety of residents of four neighbourhoods in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In the book, published in Dutch, on this theme, Oog voor Elkaar: Veiligheidsbeleving en Sociale Controle in de Grote Stad (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2009). Blokland starts with the premise that areas with a variety of facilities like houses, offices and shops seem to be an important strategy to improve the safety of a neighborhood, conform the thesis of „eyes on the street“ by Jane Jacobs. More people on the streets will increase social control, this strategy of diversification assumes. But do people on the streets have consideration for each other? And if so, when?  This book develops a theory on built environment, public familiarity and trust in contemporary Western cities.
Blokland has further published articles in Dutch and English on race and ethnicity, memory and built environment, and social cohesion.

With professor Mike Savage, she co-edited a volume on social capital and space, entitled Networked Urbanism (Ashgate, 2008). Despite considerable interest in social capital amongst urban policy makers and academics alike, there is, Blokland and Savage argue in this volume, currently little direct focus on its urban dimensions. Here, urban researchers from the Netherlands, the UK, the USA, Australia, Italy and France explore the nature of social networks and the significance of voluntary associations for contemporary urban life.

Networked Urbanism recognizes that there is currently a sense of crisis in the cohesion of the city which has led to public attempts to encourage networking and the fostering of 'social capital'. However, the contributors collectively demonstrate how new kinds of 'networked urbanism' associated with ghettoization, suburbanization and segregation have broken from the kind of textured urban communities that existed in the past. This has generated new forms of exclusionary social capital, which fail to significantly resolve the problems of poor residents, whilst strengthening the position of the advantaged.

In publications for a wider, non-academic audience and in Dutch, Blokland has published on middle classes in the city, race and ethnicity in the inner city,community development and community action, and public safety in urban areas.