CARE – Cities. Action. Research. Education:
International Urban Studies Conference


The Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning of TU Wien in Austria and the Centre for the Future of Places at KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm in Sweden invite participation in the International Urban Studies Conference on Cities Action Research and Education.

With the focus on action, research and education, the conference will explore mutually formative relations between cities and care. We aim to discuss ambivalences inherent to care in regard to achieved progresses and ongoing struggles as well as to reflect on the power of caring practices in shaping solidary urban futures. The conference will pursue a more systematic integration of a plurality of empirical, methodological, theoretical and ethical approaches to care in urban studies, and invites different disciplinary perspectives, including social sciences, humanities and the spatial arts.

While the struggles for egalitarian society have gained a momentum promising to reshape inter-personal geographies of inequality, processes of capitalist urbanization continue to bear their extractive, perverted and dispossessive features. The concept of care allows for connecting the early modern focus on (factory) workers as the realm for urban resistance with late modern interest in the urban population as a key agent for change in order to rethink the relation between labour, habiting and care in contemporary times. Particularly neo-Marxist, feminist, poststructuralist and postcolonial approaches have engaged with the scales, dimensions and practices of care to accentuate ‘other’ realms of labour (no paid, low paid, underpaid) and underrated forms of political organization of resistance (non-movements, quiet encroachments, fragmented mass activism) that play out in the public and private realms of contemporary cities, as well as across their divides. Endeavours that call for an ethical engagement with urban citizens, communities and collectives trigger a care debate that challenges and enriches the focus on spatial justice and urban rights. In this context, this conference aims to ‘map’, ‘sketch’ or ‘engage with’ analytical dimensions of care by emphasising everyday life as a dazzling, yet ambivalent interface for intersectional research of multiple notions of care.

The goal of the conference is to forward thoughts about care in three themes: (I) socio-spatial (in)equalities and the work of care; (II) struggles and contestations around care and (III) new care arrangements and civic innovation. 


The conference was organized into three sessions:


Session Chairs: Nir Cohen and Sabine Knierbein

Care work has long been socio-spatially unequal. Not only has it traditionally been the work of ethno-racialized, classed and gendered minorities (e.g., women, slaves, and labour migrants), but it has been predominantly relegated to marginal, primarily privatized, spaces and places, marking it largely a problem of ‘idiosyncratic individuals’ rather than a social concern. Also, spatial inequalities play out significantly when it comes to local access and rights to resources. The panel invites papers that attend to the discourses and practices of care, through which these and other processes of social and spatial unevenness have been (re)-produced, negotiated and at times transformed. We welcome papers that advance our understanding of inequalities that undergird everyday spaces of (urban) care like hospitals, shelters, and homes but also those taking a more institutional and policy-oriented perspective on care giving, receiving, and highlighting the ways through which they unfold at – and unevenly impact – the urban landscape. We wish to encourage researchers working in different geographical, social and historical contexts and employing a wide range of theories and methodologies as well as an ethics of care.


Session Chairs: Kim Trogal and Tihomir Viderman

Care labour is essential in sustaining our societies and indeed is economically fundamental, yet it is work that is often disavowed, as are the very real material dependencies performed through care and care work. We recognise the longstanding ‘crisis of care’, which today manifests itself in the dismantling of the welfare state and the increasing externalisation and commodification of care. This can be more generally understood as the ways in which capitalism destroys its own conditions of possibility. This panel invites discussions and investigations into the range of struggles and contestations taking place around care, waged or unwaged. In these conditions, when people cannot actually re-produce and maintain the society in which they live, what responses and different forms of struggle are emerging, including not only progressive movements, but also conservative and reactionary backlashes? What resources or relations enable capacities to resist? How are these struggles connected to other related struggles and how might those forms of resistance or protest become actualised at the level of the neighbourhood or city?


Session Chairs: Angelika Gabauer and Henrik Lebuhn

With the restructuring of the welfare state including the dramatic housing crisis, the restructuring and reorganization of the labour market, and the rearrangement of family structures including the weakening of the traditional nuclear family model, the care sector has been undergoing major changes in recent decades. New transnational business models have emerged that specialize in exploiting regional inequalities, the precarisation of labour and il/legal forms of outsourcing and subcontracting. Struggles for care and recognition have given rise to new cross-actor solidarity movements and civic innovations such as forms of migrant care worker activism, multigenerational housing projects and queer parenting models. These, in turn, are often quite ambivalent themselves and torn between being integrated into neoliberal forms of self-responsabilisation, biopolitical self-optimization and collective resistance. This panel invites contributions that tackle dimensions between individualization and de-solidarisation on the one hand, and new forms of solidarity and collectivization on the other hand. It is interested in new arrangements and civic innovations in the field of care and asks specifically how these arrangements play out in the urban realm and how they relate to spatial conditions of in/justice in the city.


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Scientific Conference Committee

Nir Cohen, Dr., Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography & Environment, Bar Ilan University, Israel, KTH & TU Wien Visiting Professor 2019

Angelika Gabauer, MA, University Assistant, Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space, TU Wien, Austria

Tigran Haas, Dr., Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Urban Design, Director of the Center for the Future of Places (CFP) at the ABE School at KTH Stockholm, Sweden

Sabine Knierbein, Dr., Associate Professor of Urban Culture and Public Space, Head of Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space, TU Wien, Austria

Henrik Lebuhn, Dr., Assistant Professor in Urban and Regional Sociology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, KTH & TU Wien Visiting Professor 2019

Kim Trogal, Dr., Lecturer in Architecture History and Theory, UCA Canterbury, UK,KTH & TU Wien Designated Visiting Professor 2020

Tihomir Viderman, DI MSc, Research Assistant, BTU Cottbus, Germany and Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space, TU Wien, Austria