Olga Sezneva, Anastasiya Halauniova, and Giselinde Kuipers demonstrate new analytical possibilities that research on urban aesthetics brings. Such notions as historicity, authenticity, ‘modern-ness,’ and Europeanness of urban built environments appear at the frontstage of negotiations over what, indeed, deserves care, emotional investments, and financial resources. Drawing on the results of their case-studies in cities that underwent total population transfer and occupation after the WWII, Olga, Anastasiya, and Giselinde address urban professionals’ and inhabitants’ preoccupation with architectural aesthetics and examine how the appeal of some of urban spaces — their perceived ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ — turn to acquire its immediate relevance for people. In the presentation, they foreground methodological and theoretical intricacies of studying people’s practices of evaluating and substantiating their aesthetic claims in order to call for the scholarly attention towards the growing role that aesthetics plays globally.
Sociological perspectives in Urban Studies, it is argued is enmeshed in evolutional theory, from rural-agrarian to urban-industrial. It also equates urbanization with the spatial form of the city. Consequently, the study of cities becomes studies of urbanization and of modernity. Alternatively, the study of cities in the South become studies of slums. In what way does the postcolonial and decolonial perspectives help to deconstruct and present alternatives to such social theorising?
After distinguishing between the postcolonialism and decolonial perspectives, this presentation will use the Indian case to argue how postcolonial deconstruction opens up a new way of thinking of categories of ‘rural’ and ‘urban’. It suggests that scholars have not given enough attention to comprehend the uneven processes of urbanization that occur in the periphery of the world system wherein the ‘rural-agrarian’ combines with the growth of low-end service economies within towns and cities to provide informalized employment for a large mass of the population.
It raises the question whether studying cities/slums in the periphery helps in understanding urbanization and if not, what does one study? I will argue the study of labour may help to comprehend both global capitalist connections, unevenness and stagnation that occur today. This presents a challenge to the field of urban studies which needs to be interdisciplinary and examine the urban at it moves through many geographies. I give examples from India to explain the above points.
What if we could easily offer our education and research output to a much wider audience? What are possible pathways to support people around the world with structured courses? And how can we generate more visibility for our research and teaching products? With those questions in mind, we have started to develop so called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the Coursera platform in the last two years.
At first, we thought that we needed to find the funds to develop well-designed content. But after months of trying to find financial support, we decided to make a MOOC based on open access materials: academic articles, newspaper items and YouTube video's. We spend our own time mostly in curating this into a consistent course and in adding assignments, MC quizzes and short introductions (in on-street interview style).
In 2020 that resulted in running three MOOCs with a similar setup: Unravelling the Cycling City, Reclaiming the Street, and Alternative Mobility Narratives with now over 11.000 students from more than 130 countries and received high ratings. This year we will develop a fourth one (Smart Cycling Futures) and we have now secured some support and funding to further work on supervising and supporting the community. Also, we look for ways to use the MOOCs to enrich our on-site teaching. During our talk, we will give you a view behind the scenes and hope to inspire you to also think about such development.
Common mental health disorders (depression and anxiety) are a worldwide epidemic and there is no evidence that the epidemic is subsiding. Depression is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease (WHO). Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression. Psychological and pharmacological treatments are effective treatments but only for half of treated patients. Further, relapse rates in depression after remission are unacceptably high.
Evidence for leading theories that explain the onset and maintenance of depression is fragmented. Whereas, depression is seen as a disorder that is caused by interplay of mental-, biological, stress related- and societal factors that can change over time characterised by large individual differences. One of the main research challenges is to understand the causal interplay between these factors in order to explore new targets for prevention and treatment. In this talk a multidisciplinary project is presented on how complexity modelling tools successfully can be applied and explored to understand the onset and maintenance of common mental health disorders like depression in order to explore new targets for prevention and treatment.
Since 2018, a group of Amsterdam Zuidoost expert-citizens are collaborating with municipal partners to produce a 55 HA urban food forest in already designed parcels of public space greens. Amidst contestation and unclear routes to institutional mandate, this institutionally diverse community of practice is co-establishing an experimental governance infrastructure driven by multispecies interrelations that give primacy to care for the ‘natural world’.
In Urban Dialogue #5 Debra Solomon describes this case study project and her PhD research which enquires how producing an urban food forest can contribute to extending the right to the city as a right to urban natures. Based on this case study – and a decade-plus of critical spatial practice, Solomon is developing 'multispecies urbanism' as a research terrain. Proposed as a means to survive ongoing crises of democracy, planetary climate catastrophe and uneven resource distribution, multispecies urbanism proposes methods, values and domains that centre ‘more-than-human’ inhabitants – and engage human inhabitants in multispecies communities.
This new urban planning and urban design paradigm is only now beginning to take shape in municipal practice and in long-term action research projects such as the Amsterdam Zuidoost Food Forest. Short bio Debra Solomon is an artist-researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam in the department of Urban Planning and with the PhD group Designing Urban Experience.
Both Solomon's critical spatial practice and academic research ask how to produce urban natures for and with the people that require them and how groups from civil society might collaboratively engage in the production of a democratically landscaped public space. In 2019 she introduced the term multispecies urbanism to describe urban development driven by multispecies interrelations that give primacy to the care of the 'natural world'. Solomon’s PhD research is supervised by professors Caroline Nevejan (Chief Science Officer Municipality of Amsterdam, Cultural Sociology) and Maria Kaika (Dept. of Urban Planning, director of the Centre for Urban Studies) at the University of Amsterdam's AISSR.
Currently, the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most important indicator of the performance of the economy and employment. However, this indicator says little about what economic growth or decline means for our society. Moreover, it stimulates an urban economy in which more growth instead of human wellbeing is central. Even in periods of growth (as well as in decline), inequality has been increasing for decades.
The assumption that economic growth automatically has positive consequences for all kinds of groups in society has not proven true for years. To pursue an economy in which the wellbeing of everyone is the goal, we need to rethink our economy, governing frameworks and other measuring ‘tools’ that monitor the development of a wider range of indicators. These indicators need to be integrally connected to the municipal budgets and instruments. If not, alternative indicators will not be used in the daily practice of urban policy and planning. To that end, this projects aims to develop a wellbeing index – and an accompanying “dashboard” that can be used to guide and monitor policy. It is embedded in an integrated trade-off framework and new vision of the economy. More specifically, it aims to develop indicators (at the level of households, individuals, neighbourhoods and the city) that are in line with daily practice and urban policy, audit institutions and citizen perceptions, and; provides a broader set of indicators for government, businesses and civil society to look ahead and back.
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
GPIO : Governance and Inclusive Development
In the third edition of the Urban Dialogue Series, David Evers presented the ESPON project ‘Sustainable Urbanization Practices in European Regions’ (SUPER). This project sought to measure land use changes in Europe and provide recommendations on how to make this more sustainable.
It used mixed methods for this: quantitative analyses of land cover data for 2000-2018, land-allocation modelling for the 2050 scenarios, surveys to collect examples of interventions and their effects, and eleven in-depth case studies to understand land development practices. In addition to the evidence base, the project also produced a Guide to sustainable urbanization for policymakers, which is now being applied in Lithuania and Croatia. Finally, SUPER wishes to reframe the European debate through its use of concepts and terminology: using ‘urbanization’ instead of ‘land take’ and by viewing urban form as a continuum from compact to diffuse rather than (not) sprawl.
European cities call for improved connections between science and policy as they are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on their cities. As global urbanization continues, the role of cities in tackling today’s global challenges also grows.
Cities call to improve the relevancy of European research for their challenges, ranging from health to climate and socioeconomic issues. An extensive report called ‘City Science for Urban Challenges’, based on the experiences of 35 cities collaborating within the European City Science Initiative, published on behalf of the City of Amsterdam and 5 leading cities, describes the needs that cities have to make better use of available research. One of the findings of the report is that public administrations and science do not always effectively collaborate.
Cities ask for more support in translating the findings of European research into applicable solutions. Cities also have issues with the availability of data. The absence of attention in the EU for local data on COVID-19 is just one example where the lack of data is seriously impacting the possibility to make fact-based policies. This is especially important in times of crisis. The cities call for stronger supporting instruments to improve cooperation between themselves, universities and the Commission and to improve the uptake of research on the local level. Find the report here.
Charalampos Tsavdaroglou and Maria Kaika bring to the fore two parallel processes concerning the refugees’ housing situation in Greece, during the covid-19 pandemic. On the one hand they critically reflect on the state policies of campization that involve hyper-isolation and neglect for refugee housing. On the other hand they explore commoning practices of self-care by refugees who claim their right to adequate housing. Contextualizing these two conflicting and interrelated processes, they propose the notion of refugees “carescapes” against state policies of fencing and marginalization.
Hidden among the mountains north of Beijing, a Wild West-themed gated community promises to deliver the American dream to its several thousand Chinese residents. In Americaville, Annie Liu escapes China’s increasingly uninhabitable capital city to pursue happiness, freedom, romance, and spiritual fulfilment in the town; only to find the American idyll harder to attain than what was promised to her. A documentary about Chinese suburbanisation and the move back to the countryside. Tonight we'll speak about this and the documentary with a.o. director Adam Smith James.
In Americaville, we spend an eventful 2 years in Jackson Hole with characters who set out to live their interpretation of the American dream, only to find it fraught with unexpected complications. After widespread criticism from the Chinese media and feeling pressure from new breeds of nationalism radiating out from both the Chinese and American governments, the community becomes split between those who cling to the American dream and those who seek to reclaim their Chinese national identity within this idyll.
Adam James Smith is an award-winning, US-based filmmaker originally from the United Kingdom. His films focus on the expression of identity in urban China and include The Land of Many Palaces (2015) co-directed with Song Ting, on the “ghost city” of Ordos, Inner Mongolia and his first solo-feature, Americaville (2020) on an American Wild West-themed community in Beijing’s suburbs. Adam holds degrees from Stanford and Cambridge, the latter of which he is currently an Affiliated Filmmaker at the university’s Visual Anthropology Lab.
Tjalling Valdés Olmos is a PhD Candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam (UvA). His research within the ERC-funded project ‘Rural Imaginations’ examines how the US rural is represented across popular culture, and which effects of globalization are made in/visible in these imaginations. His work specifically engages questions surrounding the politics of representation, and pays particular attention to imaginations that entail the queer rural, the black rural, and the indigenous rural. What are his observations on Americaville?
Youqin Huang received her Ph.D. in Geography UCLA in 2001. Since then she has been a member of the Department of Geography and Planning and a Research Associate of Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA) at University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY). Her main research interests are housing, migration and urban development in China. She is interested in understanding the unprecedented market transition and its impact on Chinese people and places. Tonight we will talk with Youqin Huang about Chinese (sub)urbanization. What is happening? And what drives people to move to places like Americaville?
Thijs Jeursen is assistant professor at the University of Utrecht. In 2019 he defended his PhD dissertation on safety & citizenship in Miami, a research based on long term ethnographic research in the city. His research focuses on policing, institutionalized racism and urban inequalities. Thijs is writing a book on vigilant citizenship, publishes articles in academic journals and writes opinion pieces for Dutch newspapers like De Volkskrant and NRC.