Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Urban Sociology

Winter Term 19/20

You can dowload the full semester programm here!


Monday, 21.10.2019

Petr Vasat, Czech Academy of Sciences

From Exclusion to Expulsion: The Emergence and Development of Homelessness in Post-Socialist Czechia


Homelessness is a relatively new phenomenon in post-socialist cities. Whereas it did exist under the communist regime, it fully manifested itself in Czech cities with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the democratisation of society and the early 90s integration in the global economy. Since then, the dominant narrative about homelessness has been that it represents a result of individual and/or societal causes and homeless people are socially (spatially) excluded. The goal of the paper is to explore the emergence and development of homelessness in post-socialist Czechia. In the paper, I argue that contemporary Czech homelessness is not a form of exclusion but - referencing Saskia Sassen - rather expulsion. In doing so, I first examine it in the framwork of Peter Marcuse's political-economic analysis, as emerging at the intersection of unequal distribution of income, conservative (neoliberal) political reforms and gentrification. Then I move beyond the political-evonomic approach and demonstrate how homelesseness in post-socialist Czechia materialises through a complex assemblage of not only political-economic processes such as transformation or globalisation, but also the specific accompanying dynamics and logics based on the cultural, institutional or affective conditions typical of Czech cities and society in general. Taken together, the paper seeks to better understand the particularities of homelessness in the post-socialist context and beyond. 




Monday, 28.10.2019

Stijn Oosterlynck, University Antwerp

Exploring alternatives to neo-assimilation: looking for solidarity in diversity, here and now

Stijn OosterlynckNational and to a lesser extent urban diversity policies in Europe have recently been taking a turn towards neo-assimilationism. This turn is often justified by referring to the perceived failure of multiculturalist policies and widespread concerns that formal and informal solidarity mechanisms are challenged by increasing ethnic and cultural diversity. In this lecure, I address the question of solidarity in diversity and explore how group loyalty and the sharing of resources can take place across ethnic-cultural lines. I briefly explain how, due to the intricate interweaving of nation-state building and welfare state construction in the 20th century, in our current understanding solidarity is grounded in the spatial boundedness of territorial state and the intergenerational continuity of supposedly culturally homogenous nations.
This leads me to the argument that our historically developed understanding of solidarity should be complemented and enriched with an in-depth knowledge of solidarities developing in an entirely different spatiotemporal frame, namely that of the everyday places and practices in which people engage across ethnic and cultural boundaries. I will support this argument for a place- and practice-based perspective on solidarities in diversity with a number of case studies in which people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds have nurtured solidarity in diversity by taking joint responsibility for the places in which they live, work, learn and play in super-diversity. The case studies will both highlight the potential of place-based practices of solidarity in diversity as well as some limitations, e.g. the importance of scale for redistribution. 



Monday, 04.11.2019

Liza Weinstein, Northeastern University

Contesting India's World Class City Evictions:
Place Difference, Path, Dependencies, and
Local Character of Anti-Eviction Activism


LWeinsteinSince the early 2000s, local governments across India have carried out large-scale demolitions in informal settlements and “slum” communities, evicting hundreds of thousands of marginalized urban residents, justified by the stated need to make India’s cities “world class.” While these evictions have been characterized in academic and popular accounts as part of a global land grab and rooted in the logics of capital accumulation under contemporary global capitalism, this paper is part of a larger effort to historicize and localize India’s “world class city” evictions. This paper highlights, in particular, the distinct ways that evictions are being contested across India’s major cities and aims to explain why distinct movement forms emerge in different localities. Based on interviews, ethnography, and historical research in the Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, the paper identifies four ideal-typical models of anti-eviction contestation prevalent across urban India: legal activism, protest politics, political party advocacy, and civil society influence in local administration. In order to explain the city-specific character of these contestations, this paper draws on sociological theories of “place distinction” (Molotch et al, 2000) to develop a framework for explain how locally-specific movement forms emerge through cities' historical developments.



Monday, 11.11.2019

Adolfo Estalella,
Complutense University of Madrid

Property,The City and The Law

Adolfo EstalellaProperty is under dispute in the city. Institutions with a long history in certain countries like tenants unions or housing cooperatives based on the right to occupy have been extended to new geographies while urban commons are emerging all around the world. In all these initiatives, urban dwellers are defying Western conventional property relations (in all its expressions: private, public, and collective). Participants in these processes learn the technicalities of the law, produce material arrangements and explore social relations to produce novel arrangements of property relations. This talk pays attention to the subversion of urban property in the city to tentatively propose a program aimed at exploring the deep relation between the law and the city: How the law shapes the city? Could the city be described as a legal landscape? If the emergence of the modern citizen is tied to the creation of public institutions (like libraries, schools, etc.), we could ask what kind of political subject is brought into the city by new forms of property relations.



Monday, 18.11.2019

Bernd Belina,
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Where AfD is (not) strong: urbanization, provinciality, anti-politics


Bernd BelinaThe electoral success of the AfD is marked by three spatial patterns. It is stronger in east Germany than in west German, within east and west it is stronger in southern parts than in northern parts, and finally, it is stronger in municipalities with fewer inhabitants that in municipalities with more inhabitants. Making sense of the last pattern is at the center of this talk. Instead of referring back to the county-city-divide, it proposes to use the notions of urbanization (Lefebvre), provinciality (Adorno) and, finally, anti-politics, understood as a mode of making political claims that negates arguments, negotiations, and compromise and instead starts from absolute, non-negotiable positions. The talk argues that right-wing populism becomes a political project by, among other things, using anti-political subjectivations; that provinciality, understood as conscious or unconscious unreflectedness, is the opposite of the urban and therefore the breeding ground for anti-politics; and that the urban and provinciality both can be found in city and country alike, but that provinciality is more likely to materialize beyond metropolitain areas.



Monday, 25.11.2019

Margit Fauser, Hochschule Darmstadt

The Emergence of Urban Border Space


Margit FauserWhile state control borders, cities have been recognized as the sites where the inclusion of migrants "takes place". Notions such as of borderscapes draw attention to the multiplication of spaces where borders are now being located and negotiated and to the multiplicity of different actors involved. This had provided new perspectives into externatlization of the border and its control. Less attention has been given to the growing diversity of instruments of internalization and localization, and the institutions, mechanisms and agents that are turning cities into key sites of control too. In engaging with these debates and arguments I suggest a framework for the study of urban border spaces and present some first results from ongoing empirical research. This framework accounts for the need to capture the ways in which territorial and social differnetiation relate, bringing together border studies and sociological boundary debates; the inherent spatialization and spatial transformation of the border; the partly newer role of city and urban scale in these processes, not merely as subordinate unit in multi-level governance, and rather key to the multiscalar production of borders in face of state-urban rescaling; lastly, this also calls into question the external/internal-divide for the understanding of the complex forms of territorial and sociopolitical governance from the urban scale. 


Monday, 02.12.2019

Noa K. Ha & Kristina Graaff,
TU Dresden & HU Berlin

Street Vending in the Neoliberal City
A Global Perspective on the Practices and Policies of a Marginalized Economy


Book Cover Street VendingIn their talk, Kristina Graaff and Noa Ha discuss their coedited anthology Street Vending in the Neoliberal City which investigates street vending as a global, urban, and informalized practice found both in the Global North and Global South. The volume entails case studies from international scholars on cities as diverse as Berlin, Dhaka, New York City, Los Angeles, Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro, and Mexico City. The aim of this global approach is to repudiate the assumption that street vending is usually carried out in the Southern hemisphere and to reveal how it also represents an essential economic practice in urban centers of the Global North. After giving an overview of the anthology as such and discussing its relevance to Urban Studies, Kristina Graaff and Noa Ha will introduce their own case studies on New York and Berlin, placing a particular emphasis on urban informality and how it is changing due to the rise of neo-racism and far-right parties.





Monday, 09.12.2019

Antonie Schmiz, Freie Universität Berlin

Sari vs. Dim Sum. The branding of ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto.


Antonie SchmizUnder the umbrella of Toronto’s city motto, ‘Diversity our Strength‘,ethnically labelled Business. Improvement Areas (BIAs) have become the object of branding strategies. While these branding processes generate tourist places and multicultural neighbourhoods for the creative and cosmopolitan, they challenge social cohesion. Branding often leads to urban revitalisation and thus causes the displacement of diverse communities and migrant enterprises through rising rents. Furthermore, ethnic place-making and branding activity can create local conflicts around identity and urban images in which migrant agency plays a central role. The talk compares two ethnically-branded BIAs in a political-economy perspective to show that marketability between ethnic groups varies. It provides systematic analysis of urban policies towards the branding of migrant entrepreneurial neighbourhoods in Toronto. It further shows how heterogeneous power structures influence ethnic entrepreneurial neighbourhoods.


Monday, 16.12.2019

Stale Holgersen, Uppsala University

Class character of urban policy and planning: from urban neoliberalism to dark conservatism?


ståle holgersenInspired by state theory and in particular Nicos Poulantzas, Holgersen claims that urban policy and spatial planning should be seen neither as autonomous (subject) nor merely an expression of something else (thing), but rather grasped as a place for condensation of social relations. And the notion of dialectics (following e.g. Bertell Ollman) could be used in order to grasp relations between policy/planning and other aspects and social relations. From this, five theses can be oulined, claiming that policy/planning (1) is constituted by conflicts which are grounded in social relations, (2) is never a neutral place, (3) contains neither an inherent "dark" nor a "bright" side (as often argued in planning theory), (4) and is changing and being changed by the world and also that (5) political alliances should be made between planners/policy makers and movements outside the municiplaity who want the world to change in similar directions.
In his presentation Holgersen focuses on social class as a social relation, and discusses the class character of urban policy and plannig. He will do so by examining recent trends in Scandinavian urban policy/planning, where the liberal in neoliberal ideologies are arguably being replaced by conservative ideology - often in xenophobic and highly authoritarian versions. The implications such changes might have for class, for urban policy and for our cities will be discussed.



Monday, 23.12.2019 and 30.12.2019 there will be no Think & Drink due to Christmas break.



Monday, 06.01.2020

Gareth Millington, University of York

Urban Infrastructures and Pentecostalism: Reflections from Lagos Kinshasa


Photo MillingtonFollowing recent research in Lagos and Kinshasa, this paper critically analyses examples of urban infrastructure financed and provided by Pentecostal organisations. These include electricity and water supply, bridges, as well as new homes, schools, universities and hospitals. The questions posed by this paper are: what is distinctive about this mode of urbanisation? How should we understand the ontology of religious urban infrastructure? And, what distinct kinds of urban social relations do these ‘infrastructural experiments’ result in? On a fundamental level, infrastructural projects delivered by religious actors challenge the assumption in urban studies that urbanisation has become a secular process, driven solely by relations between market and state. As such we consider the degree to which urban theory adequately makes sense of infrastructure that is understood by its providers and users to exist by ‘faith of God’.  Evocations of ‘lively’ infrastructures, the ‘poetics’ of infrastructure and ‘enchanted’ materialities go some way towards understanding these developments, but critical questions concerning responsibility for planning and infrastructural delivery, inclusivity and the imaginaries tied to these new infrastructures remain. This paper address these issues and more broadly, the novel ‘relation between things’ associated with a Pentecostal ‘alter-city’ that exists  within but also as an extension of/ in opposition to the mega-city.




Monday, 13.01.2020

David Kirk, University of Oxford

Home Free: Prisoner Reentry and Residential Change after Hurricane Katrina


Kirk photo color 001 cropMore than 625,000 individuals are released from prison in the United States each year, and roughly half of these individuals will be back in prison within just three years. A likely contributor to the churning of the same individuals in and out of prison is the fact that many released prisoners return home to the same urban environment with the same criminal opportunities and criminal peers that proved so detrimental to their behavior prior to incarceration. This study uses Hurricane Katrina as a natural experiment for examining the question of whether residential relocation away from an old neighborhood can lead to desistance from crime. For many prisoners released soon after Katrina, they could not go back to their old neighborhoods as they normally would have done. Their neighborhoods were devastated by a once-a-generation storm that damaged the vast majority of housing units in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina provided a rare opportunity to investigate what happens when individuals move not just a short distance, but to entirely different cities, counties, and social worlds. This study draws upon both quantitative and qualitative evidence to reveal where newly released prisoners resided in the wake of the Katrina, the effect of residential relocation on the likelihood of reincarceration through eight years post-release, and the mechanisms revealing why residential change is so important.  



Monday, 20.01.2020

Luděk Sýkora, Charles University Prag

Half-Life Cities: Capitalist Pasts and Socialist Futures


Ludek SykoraIn 1990, Ralf Dahrendorf in his “Reflections on the revolution in Europe” envisaged that sixty years are barely enough to lay social foundations of new society. Three decades since the Great 1989 we are half-life through the anticipated change. Where we are now in 2019? This presentation argues that “Transformation” is not finished project yet. While the social practices of firms, households, and governments under the conditions of expanding neoliberal global capitalism brought former socialist countries and their cities into the global mainstream, the ever-present legacies of communism are deeply embodied in everyday urban life. Struggling through the second round of transition, the urban development paths are shaped by volatile equilibristic of discursive, policy and financial games. Critical reflections of three decades of post-socialist urban transformations help to illuminate alternative development perspectives on cities in Central and Eastern Europe.




Monday, 27.01.2020

Tuba Cekic, HU Berlin

Perceived and Conceived Space: Ambiguity and insecurity in urban transformation in informal settlements


Tuba CekicThe speech will focus on the apathetic engagement behavior of the larger part of the population in an informal neighborhood in Istanbul in reference to the institutional environment of urban development. By telling the story of Okmeydanı, institutional ambiguities, and the associated uncertainties concerning the residents’ rights to land in that specific informal neighborhood will be presented. Contextual characteristic of public participation and civic engagement to an urban regeneration project in an informal settlement is significantly affected by the prevailing conditions of the land tenure system and governments’ past and present attitudes in urban issues, as well as citizens’ trust in institutions.



Monday 03.02.2020 there will be no Think & Drink!



Monday, 10.02.2020

Naika Foroutan, HU Berlin

East-Migrant Analogies - A Comparison of Stereotypes, Feelings of Devaluation and Ascension Conflicts


Photo: Rasmus Tanck
Significant parts of German society share experiences of decline, social inequality and political alienation. In addition to these structural disadvantages, two groups in particular are also affected by social, cultural and symbolical devaluation: Migrants - and within this group, the particularly salient, group of Muslims - and East Germans. With this talk I want to take a look at the parallels of recognition processes of these two social groups.