The feminizing city? - by Marguerite van den Berg & Carmen Ferri
How are we to understand the contemporary urban gender revolution? Are cities feminizing as a result of changing patterns of production and reproduction? Or are we to understand persistent gendered poverty and violence statistics as signs of continuing patriarchal arrangements? Is there a way of talking about these issues without reproducing the languages associated with the Global South – Global North divide?
A feminist urban research agenda
To address these pressing issues, we invited Professor Linda Peake from York University, Canada to talk about her important work on feminism and urban geography in a public lecture and to engage in a lively workshop on May 18 2017. Scholars from varying disciplinary backgrounds, working on urban research in different parts of the globe, participated in the discussion, which was introduced by discussants Jess Bier (Erasmus University) and Willem Boterman (UvA/CUS). Both discussants referred to the ongoing challenges of urban studies to engage with a feminist perspective and raised important questions about how to bring a feminist urban research agenda further. For Peake these challenges are only to be met when we depart from a relational epistemological framework, which recognises the connectedness of places and people through transnational networks. She further stressed that besides a feminist critique, a post-colonial response to urban theory is necessary to challenge institutionalised hierarchies and geographic imaginaries such as the Global South / Global North binary. Peake critiqued in particular the influential Planetary Urbanism framework (of Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid) that is surprisingly devoid of the everyday, agency and women.
Feminist theory and gender studies have much to offer to urban studies, the workshop participants concluded: thinking about the urban through a feminist framework entails the questioning of binaries, a foregrounding of everyday reproductive labour, a focus on injustices and engagements with grass roots organizations which, as Linda Peake insisted, have much to teach us and can keep us grounded. Gender scholars can draw from urban theory to re-think the spaces and sites of oppression and dispossession. The urban is a crucial site for the formation of subjectivities and the site in which emancipation, of women in particular, materialises. We look back at this workshop as a fruitful first step of alliance-building that can help move both gender studies and urban studies forward.
The Amsterdam Research Centre for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS) and the Centre for Urban Studies (CUS) worked together in organizing this event that created a space for feminist urban studies with the support of a CUS Seed Grant. The event was also to launch Marguerite van den Berg´s `Gender in the Post-Fordist Urban. The Gender Revolution in Planning and Public Policy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)’