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Seed Grant Projects

Centre for Urban Studies

The Centre for Urban Studies is pleased to announce the projects that have been awarded a Seed Grant or Seed Grant XL for 2021. The awarded projects foster transdisciplinary dialogue, contribute to the CUS’ strategic focus on the urban commons and/or contribute to original research in the field of Urban Studies.

Please find a summary of the awarded projects below. For more information about the Seed Grants and Seed Grants XL, please go to our Grants & Funding page. Click on the links below for an overiew of all previously awarded Seed Grants and Seed Grants XL. 

2021-2022 Round 2

  • Latinx perspectives on slow disasters: Rethinking the relationship between urban inequality and environmental change (Seed Grant)

    Valentina Carraro, Karen Paiva Henrique, Fabio de Castro

    The proposed workshop brings together urban scholars across the social sciences and humanities to examine the multiple and intersecting conditions that accumulate to produce disasters in cities of Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC). Many cities in the region are characterised by stark levels of socio- economic and environmental inequalities, driven by historical patterns of extractivism, dispossession, indebtedness, marginalisation, and underinvestment.

    The linkages between structural inequalities and environmental problems are the subject of intense debate, fueled by dramatic events such the Mariana mining disaster in Brazil (2015), hurricane Maria in the Caribbean (2017), and the recent Callao oil spill in Peru (2022). While these discussions foreground one-off, dramatic occurrences, disaster studies scholars highlight how disasters are best understood as 'slow' processes with deep historical roots and long-lasting consequences. Notions such as 'slow disaster'1 and 'slow emergency'2 helpfully underscore that disasters are neither exceptional nor unexpected, but, rather, the logical outcome of specific modes of urbanisation, governance, and economic development.

  • Cruising (Seed Grant)

    Fernando Schrupp, Carolina Sepúlveda and Juan Carlos López

    Cruising is a series of open-hearted conversations between art space producers from the global south and north that seeks to generate a critical view of the art industry in a post-pandemic and war-ridden world. By exploring the many meanings of cruising, such as the gay practice of purposeful search for intimate encounters in public spaces, and the pleasurable journey by boat, cruising aims to establish polyamorous and open meetings between art spaces located in metropolitan and peripheral cities. If art exhibition and production spaces already function as places of affection and receptivity, cruising looks to enrich these bonds and dive into the individual experience of the producers behind these places of art. Cruising is a metaphor for art-driven radical action to produce new practices collectively.

  • A creative and natural urban commons with youth: an international toolkit (Seed Grant)

    Francesca Ranalli, Jade Mandrake and Eileen Moyer

    In the diverse and changing urban areas of Western European, North American, South African and East Asian cities, teenagers have no apparent right to co-modify public spaces and find their spatial dimension. Combining ethnographic, design and artistic approaches, the project introduces an interactive toolkit for adolescents to build an inclusive and creative environment from the bottom-up. Through engagement with nature and art-making, youth will build their own safe spaces; opening up and developing their voice in relation to their local urban environments.

    The toolkit is open-ended and replicable for use in changing peri/urban areas around the globe. The sites will be green spaces in two pilot contexts, Almere Poort, the Netherlands, and the Bronx, NYC, and second, in Amsterdam, New York, Johannesburg, South Africa, and Taipei, Taiwan. In the context of a globalizing world, having the tools to co-create a commons - defined here as a space that is mutually used and governed, within temporary arrangements, changing conditions, and diverse contexts, means empowering youth at a critical stage of development for sustainable futures. The project includes workshops and a podcast, while also being funding by the Isaac Roet Prize and local Dutch public institutions, such as the Gemeente Almere and StrandLab.

  • Retrofitting the city green and blue (Seed Grant XL)

    Jochem de Vries, Robert Kloosterman

    Making cities greener is one of the great challenges of our age. It is widely acknowledged that adding green (and blue) is a critical component in establishing climate-resilient, livable and ecologically diverse urban environments. Multiple purposes are currently attached to urban greening, including: leisure, water management, the urban heat island effect, air quality, noise pollution, urban farming, community building, environmental justice, bio- diversity, gentrification, creative cities and city marketing. 

    There is an urgent need to reflect from a social-spatial science perspective on how green and blue spaces can be created, maintained and protected within urban environments to ensure well-being for all. In addition, urban greening can only be understood well and done well, by applying a multi-scalar perspective. Individual pieces of green and blue areas are part of ecological networks and water systems that extend across large areas. Individual projects together have an aggregated effect on the city(region) level as a whole. This aggregated effect determines the extent to which cities become climate-resilient, sustainable and just.

  • Digitalizing Urban Drug Markets (Seed Grant XL)

    Rivke Jaffe, Carolina Frossard and Jelke Bosma

    This research proposes to study the digitalization of urban drug markets, focusing on micro- transactions in illicit drugs in Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro, two cities with established local drugs markets but contrasting socio-spatial configurations. The project asks: How are digital technologies changing everyday urban geographies of crime? Its goals are to: conduct pilot studies in each city to demonstrate feasibility; organize workshops in each city, presenting and collectively analyzing research results and developing full-length research proposals with external experts; co-author a research article.

    The project’s focus on illicit micro-transactions between consumers and low-level suppliers, rather than on wholesale supply-and-distribution, reflects the fact that digital technologies (smartphones, instant-messaging apps) are rapidly changing the spatiality of this part of the drugs commodity-chain. This digitalization shapes dealers’ spatial risk assessments, territorial practices and mobilities. Such socio-spatial shifts have important implications for where illicit economies can flourish, where drugs are consumed, and where residents feel safe.

  • What’s queer here? Exploring same-sex intimacies in urban northern Ghana (Seed Grant XL)

    Colette Santah, Rachel Spronk and Sruti Bala

    After hosting the Africa Regional Conference of the World Congress of Families in November 2019, the National Coalition for Proper Human Sexual Rights and Family Values in Ghana wrote a private members’ bill largely characterized as anti-LGBT* legislation. The proposed law was discussed in Parliament in December 2021, stirring a nation-wide debate with a small group of academics, journalists and lawyers opposing the bill and a large amalgam of political, religious and customary authorities promoting it.

    The proposed legislation has also led to a public display of virulent homophobia in which “homosexuality” and “LGBT*” have come to be discussed and described in ever more hysterical ways. While the reactions to it seem uniquely of the moment, they are in fact not new. There has always been space for gender and sexuality non-conforming behaviour and persons known as kojo-besia, the Twi term for effeminate men and obaa-barima, the Twi term for masculine women. This paradox - an openness for non-conforming gender and sexuality, and a virulent homophobia – makes Ghana a fascinating case for further scientific investigation. Particularly in Ghana, queer people are very careful not to be associated with activism and are therefore not studied in research on non-conforming gender and sexuality.

  • Repurposed infrastructures in the Unequal City: Occupation, repair, and alternative futures in Brazil and South Africa (Seed Grant XL)

    Suraya Scheba, Nate Millington, João Tonucci, Gediminas Lesutis, and Christien Klaufus

    Informal occupations of land and buildings are a challenge as well as an opportunity for cities, of the global south and north. For many cities, difficulties in providing adequate housing and infrastructure in the context of extreme poverty and inequality continue to shape citizen’s living conditions and opportunities in profound ways. This research explores practices of infrastructural repurposing through engagements with building and land occupations. To date, these have primarily focused on São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Cape Town, South Africa.

    They are especially interested in the practices and possibilities of urban occupations. They consider how occupations can be recognised not merely as expressions of housing injustice but rather as integral features of urban landscapes that indicate repararative possibilities for reimagining and repurposing existing infrastructures in more democratic ways.

    This project specifically focus on the repair of existing urban landscapes. This funding will support an in-person workshop that brings together key participants and collaborators. The workshop will take place in September/October 2022 in Cape Town, with 1-2 virtual workshops held in the leadup to clarify project goals, thematic focus, meeting agenda, and primary outcomes.

2021-2022 Round 1

  • Investigating the Entrepreneurial State in Contractual Governance

    Prof. Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok Dr. Champaka Rajagopal

    In a Public Private Partnership contractual framing, the state and the private firm defy traditionally recognised institutional boundaries. In a bounded PPP company, the state anomalously supports profit making of the same private partner that it regulates. At the same time its private partner is charged with working in public interest. This project explores the unusual nature of the state engaged in a PPP arrangement, while tracing the evolution of debates on the entrepreneurial state since the Fordist crisis. Urban and regional infrastructure projects across different political regimes in the global North and the South serve as cases in point. Webinars and a seminar culminate in a special issue on the 'entrepreneurial state' in a PPP arrangement.

  • Social cohesion, urban change and stress in the Kolenkitbuurt (Seed Grant)

    Karoline Huth (Psychological Methods, UMH, AMC) & Eline Hansen (CUS, UvA)

    Social cohesion as a political project can often overlook, and sometimes undermine how social connections organise themselves in the everyday, particularly in neighbourhoods which are understood as being ethno-culturally diverse. The Kolenkitbuurt in Amsterdam is undergoing a second phase of urban renewal, during which social connections and feelings of security in your future are often disrupted. Simultaneously, encouraging social cohesion has been front and center of urban renewal policy in the neighbourhood for the last twenty years.

    We believe during the change process, social cohesion as known in the  community is at risk due to external influences which aim to undermine it/shape it in a different way. Therefore, using the CUS seed grant, the immediate goal of this project is to start a conversation around social cohesion, mental health and urban change through the co-production of a short film. Using interviews, common dialogue and surveys, we aim to capture the current status of social cohesion and its association with perceived stress of youths in the neighborhood. In the long term this project tries to develop a dialogue between researchers and local and national stakeholders around this issue.

  • Hacking Urban Boundaries (HUB): An international toolkit for a creative and ecological urban commons with youth (Seed Grant)

    Francesca Ranalli (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA), Jade Mandrake (visual artist, poet, and artistic researcher) & Eileen Moyer (Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body, SSGH, UvA).

    In the diverse and changing cities of The Netherlands, The United States, and South Africa, teenagers have no apparent right to co-modify public spaces and help shape community spatial practices. The aim of our project is to work with youth in a spirit of ownership and creativity to connect them to local, urban spaces and encourage a sense of belonging and awareness about the roles they can play in their cities.Through engagement with nature and artmaking in a series of workshops, youth from Almere, Amsterdam, New York and Johannesburg will learn to develop their own voice in relation to their local urban environments and learn to design a project within the provided budget. In this way, the project aims to improve the mental, physical, and emotional health of this group.

    The project consists of different phases, but the CUS grant will be specifically used to develop a podcast on youth-centred approached to urban spatial practices and it will involve CUS members, policy-makers and community members. Ranalli, Mandrake and Moyer received the Isaac Roet Price from the Amsterdam University Fund and the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, worth 5000 euros.


  • Wellbeing in Amsterdam (Seed Grant XL)

    Nicky Pouw (Governance and Inclusive Development, CUS, UvA) & Hebe Verrest (Governance and Inclusive Development, CUS, UvA), with research assistance by Jennifer van Beek (Research Master Urban Studies, UvA)

    Contemporary cities are confronted with the challenge of creating inclusive and sustainable communities under conditions of mounting and compounding social, economic, cultural, environmental and spatial inequalities. In attempts to better understand and address this challenge, scholars and urban professionals are looking for new sets of wellbeing criteria- beyond a narrow set of economic growth indicators - to value city performance and reflect ambitions for a new urban paradigm (Gupta et al., 2015; Pouw, 2020). The City Doughnut (Raworth, 2020), and the Brede Welvaartsmonitor (OIS, 2020) are recent examples of indices aiming to capture a broader understanding of the quality of urban life. However, such alternative indices often find restricted or contested usage in urban policy and governance (e.g. Uitermark 2014). One reason for this is the mismatch between the wellbeing perspective expressed through the available data and the perspective that is lived and experienced at the level of communities, households and individual residents (Curtis et al., 2020).

    This project aims to address this issue by bringing a household and community-level perspective on wellbeing in conversation with that expressed at municipal level. It aims at a. understanding wellbeing as lived and perceived by households and community groups in an ontwikkelbuurt (Venserpolder) in Amsterdam; and b. analysing the extent to which this perspective matches (or not) the data and instruments that are collected and used at city-level to present urban wellbeing. The research design adopts a sequential qualitative design, consisting of interviews with residents of Venserpolder (n=15), key informants (n=5) and participatory methods with community groups in Venserpolder to develop a local perspective on well being, and analysis of existing primary and/or secondary datasets (see Table A.3 in Annex) to identify gaps and similarities. In this project we work together with Fearless City, Najah Aouaki (urban strategist) and community groups in Venserpolder

  • Levelling the Playing-Field of Urban Planning: Co-producing and Commoning Property Market Knowledge (Seed Grant XL)

    Andre Legarza (Research Master Urban Studies, UvA), Sara Özoğul (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA) and Tuna Taşan-Kok (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA)

    Property market actors play important roles in shaping built urban environments. But in-depth, empirically-driven research that investigates how these actors make decisions within urban space remains missing within urban scholarship and municipal policy decisions. The diversity of sources and knowledge accumulated in property markets are often overlooked. This gap is explained by lacking transparency within the property sector, making it difficult to collect systematic and reliable data (Haila, 2015). Property market research and data is expensive and protected by strong privacy regulations – making it inaccessible to most urban scholars. Similarly, planning practitioners and scholars seldom attend property conferences or publish in academic finance and property-related journals. In this proposal, we argue that the gap between urban (planning) and property scholarship can be bridged by creating dialogue between property market actors, planning experts, and scholars. We want to initiate this dialogue through coordinating the following activities to bring different 'universes' together, co-producing property market knowledge for urban planners, and commoning the results:

    1. Research platform: the platform will host the webinars and connect planning and property experts to work on the textbook, other publications, and long-term education projects.

    2. Webinar Series: the webinars will inform future academic outputs and provide a space for scholars, policymakers, and property market experts to network and co-produce solutions to urban challenges. Planning master and graduate students will be invited to assess the lucidness of shared knowledge.

    3. Textbook: the textbook will share actionable project findings with urban planners, informed by the research platform, webinars, and outside research activities.

    Each activity aims to link contemporary planning questions with property scholarship and practises, providing a transparent and comprehensible property market knowledge basis for urban planners. This project builds on the ongoing research project WHIG.

  • Conference: Claiming the Streets. Using th Past to Challenge the Present and Imagine the Future of Urban Public Spaces (Seed Grant XL)

    Luca Bertolini (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA), Danielle van den Heuvel (History, ACUH, UvA) , Gamze Saygi (History, ACUH, UvA), and James Symonds (Archaeology, AHM, UvA)

    This conference brings together scholars from different disciplines as well as policymakers, artists and other Amsterdam-based stakeholders to tackle questions of in- and exclusivity in the city, by looking at the street as quintessential site of contestation and emancipation, where the contrasting dynamics of ‘enclosing’ and ‘commoning’ most overtly collide. We aim for the conference to be an encounter between hitherto separate enquiries into the past, present and future of city streets as social spaces, and between academic enquiries and practical experiences. We aim to provide inspiration and spin-offs for future collaborations in which the UvA (CUS, ACUH, AHM) plays a central role. The conference will focus on academic exchanges, and on exchanges between academia and society. We will mix more standard presentations of academic research with more free-flowing sessions in which academics and stakeholders discuss current and future challenges related to access to and control over the city street. Next to in-house sessions the aim to include outside activities in urban public space.

  • Towards an urban degrowth (Seed Grant)

    Federico Savini (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA), and Angelos Varvarousis (Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Autonomous University of Barcelona)

    The Seed Grant supports the organization of a one half-day international symposium on urban degrowth and the recording, editing, and curating of a video on degrowth and urbanization, using the excerpts of this symposium. The overall aim of the project is to bring together scholars in urban degrowth and degrowth planning, from multiple disciplines that include political-ecology, planning, urban studies, urban sociology, political science, and governance studies. The symposium will be publicly streamed.

  • Greenhouse Futures: an ethnography of a complex socio-ecological system (Seed Grant)

    Rebeca Ibáñez Martín (Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body, CUS, UvA)

    Attending to greenhouses’ economic expansion, this research will ethnographically study the socio-ecological effects of greenhouse horticultural production in order to characterize critical debates around the Anthropocene. In Europe, the hotspots for horticulture production are the Netherlands and Spain. Both draw on similar infrastructures (greenhouses), and deal with water, waste, crops, and labour as resources to be managed. Living organisms, like plants or resources like water, appearing in the past in the margins of ethnographies are now taken to the centre of our enquiries, providing a new focus on the complex milieu of infrastructures as a multispecies encounter. This project thinks further multispecies conviviality and the value of food within greenhouses ecologies. The Seed Grant supports the organization of a workshop with scholars from multiple disciplines, as well as preliminary fieldwork.

  • The routes of “post-pandemic gentrification” in Amsterdam and Lima (Seed Grant)

    Mirtha Lorena del Castillo Durand (Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation, UvA)

    This project sheds light on the ways in which patterns of accumulation of housing and/or urban space are being reoriented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. By comparing Lima and Amsterdam, we ask where and how a new round of post-crisis urban restructuring is taking place to get a better grasp of what we may call “post-pandemic gentrification”. We look to answer the following questions:

    • What investment strategies are real-estate markets developing to overcome the post-pandemic crisis?
    • What narratives are used to drive the post-pandemic housing accumulation?

    The Seed Grant supports the organization of a workshop with experts on European and Latin American Cities (Most notably Amsterdam and Lima), and tand the presentation of the results of the project at the “IASC 2021 Urban Commons conference”.

  • Housing Talks and Podcast (Seed Grant)

    Amber Howard (Geographies of Globalizations, CUS, UvA), Vera Vrijmoeth (Challenges to Democratic Representations, CUS, UvA); Junru Cui (Geographies of Globalizations, CUS, UvA), and Marieke van der Star, UvA).

    This project aims to organize a series of housing talks through inviting academics from diverse disciplines and stakeholders with different backgrounds to share their knowledge and discuss on big housing topics of the 21st century. In each event, at least one academic and one stakeholder from within the related field debate where problems lie and what potential solutions may be. Topics will include: housing wellbeing, housing and sustainability, housing ethics and justice, housing accessibility and affordability, housing financialization and its economic effects, and housing commons.

  • Food Commons seminar series (Seed Grant)

    Ciska Ulug (Institute of Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Ying-Tzu Lin (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA), Jannes Willems (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA), FoodCouncil MRA, Cascoland

    This project will bring together academics and stakeholders to build a dialogue around food commons along with an (inter)national network around this topic. Long-term, this project aims to build networks, strategies, and visions for food commoning in the city of Amsterdam.

    The collaboration with the FoodCouncil MRA, an organization working towards a sustainable and healthy food system in Amsterdam, and Cascoland, a multi-disciplinary team of creatives that uses art and design for creative sustainable solutions, will help this goal. Conclusions drawn will guide the FoodCouncil MRA’s organization and strategy for re-imagining the Amsterdam food system, towards one that is sustainable, healthy, accessible, and affordable. Therefore, we aim to, theoretically, re-imagine the food commons, while simultaneously collecting best-practices and building networks, to put the findings in action.

  • The Principle of Inequality: Social, Spatial and Legal Inequalities in the City and the Criminal Justice System (Seed Grant)
  • Debating platform urbanism (Seed Grant)

    Petter Törnberg (Urban Geographies) & Justus Uitermark (Urban Geographies)

    As platforms have emerged as a dominant feature of contemporary society, notions such as “platform society” and “platform capitalism” have become major focus of academic study. The concentration of prominent scholars and some commonalities among them have led some to speak of a “Amsterdam school of platform study,” referring to a number of influential scholars with a critical perspective on platforms. However, this appears more cohesive from afar, as these scholars are split between different research focuses, which have remained relatively independent, bar some occasional individual collaborations.

    This thematic convergence signals the opportunity in bring together different strands of scholars around the shared goal of developing an empirical, data-oriented approach to examining how platforms are transforming cities. This project seeks to invite and engage scholars from different communities to animating discussions around an empirical approach to actual existing platform urbanism.

  • Walking as Research Practice (WARP) Conference (Seed Grant)

    Francesca Ranalli (Urban Planning, CUS, UvA), Fenna Smits (Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference), Tânia A. Cardoso (Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, ASCA), Professor Alice Twemlow (History, Theory and Sociology of Graphic Design and Visual Culture)

    The WARP Conference is a two-day conference that involves scholars from different fields in the social sciences and humanities, including art practitioners, and that intends to bring a transdisciplinary dialogue to the table regarding the emergence of walking practices as research. Recently, walking became an agent for urban research and inspired a critical rethinking of traditional methodologies and perspectives on the field. With a growing interest in how walking practices can further experiment with the body, the senses, making place and becoming, the WARP Conference engages specialist and non-academic audiences with emergent urban issues in favour of a better understanding of the city and its urban practices through the use of creative practices.

  • Navigating and making urban physical and digital spaces in the Covid‐19 pandemic (Seed Grant XL)
  • Residential integration of immigrants: evidence from residential practices of highly-skilled Chinese in the Netherlands (Seed Grant XL)

    Qiong He (Urban Geographies), in collaboration with Xin Jin (Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Utrecht University) & Val Colic-Peisker (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne)

    Many postindustrial cities across Europe, including Dutch cities, are marked by increasing housing inaccessibility, inequality and segregation. The project aims to understand how international immigrants, especially those highly-skilled Chinese immigrants (that are the largest group of highly-skilled immigrants in OECD countries), strategize on their residential choices and strategies, and negotiate these social and spatial inequalities. Understanding this is increasingly important in countries like the Netherlands with a large number of immigrants and an increasingly liberalized housing market.

    Exploring how, why and when the highly-skilled Chinese immigrants manage to enter homeownership has important implications for understanding the structure of housing inequality and integration in Dutch cities.  Moreover, studying how they make trade-offs between the city centre and suburb sheds light on the nature and meaning of these (sub)urban spaces and on the processes of suburbanization and gentrification.

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