Projekt: Learning in the Postmigrational City

PR Project / Semester hours: 6.0 / ECTS 12.0

Link TISS: 280.506

**This course will be offered by KTH&TUW Visiting Professor in Urban Studies Dr. Henrik Lebuhn (Humboldt-University of Berlin), Prof. Dr. Sabine Knierbein, Dr. Amila Širbegović and Univ. Ass. Angelika Gabauer MA**

Aim of course

With European cities becoming rapidly more diverse, the recognition of difference and what this entails is constantly being negotiated. In this project we want to explore how diversity is being negotiated in various formal and informal learning settings in the city, and how maneuvering diversity plays out differently from site to site. Following the recent debate about “infrastructures”, our research will not only focus on relational aspects in the stricter sense, but also include the materiality of the built environment, how it expresses, facilitates or impedes intercultural encounters, and needs to be understood as part of de/constructing “the other”. 

Goals and set-up of the module: 

Over the course of the summer semester 2019, students will 

A) participate in a series of seminars and lectures imbedded in the workshop atmosphere that will give them the opportunity to discuss cutting-edge theories and to learn about recent debates at the intersection between urban studies and migration studies. Departing from the debate about cities in postmigrational societies, we will expand our discussion to the recent literature on encounters and borders, alter politics and citizenship and difference and (super-)diversity in urban space. We will contextualise these debates with wider debates on urban precarization and growing social inequality with the aim to include socio-spatial dimensions of social closure, authoritarianism and racism. 

B) develop empirical research projects to be conducted in Vienna. Projects will be carried out in small student groups and in partnership with local civil society organizations. Students will learn how to develop a research question and build a research design. Depending on the site and setting where research takes place, the framework of “postmigration” will have to be complemented by other concepts such as, for example, theories “geographies of encounter” of “social capital” or the notion of “differential inclusion”. 

C) learn how to translate research results into formats that can be communicated to the broader public. We will develop formats that will allow us to present our research at a public event and engage in a dialogue with a non-academic audience about “learning in the postmigrational city”, thus engaging with the tradition of participatory action research in public space developed at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space over the past years.

Subject of course

The issue about difference within European cities does not only concern urban policies, most importantly local integration, civil society institutions and anti-discrimination policies, but also the realm of cultural life and everyday encounters. Among the variety of settings, where difference is produced and where it is negotiated, spaces of learning are particularly important. They come with specific rules and regulations as well as material environments that shape “learning” as a process of acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills and values, which – in turn – allow us to make sense of our social world and to maneuver the changing city-scape and urban routines of post-migrational societies. Under these conditions, difference in language and culture and the construction of “ethnic“ identities, for example, can become either a resource and potential for vivid exchange among many equals or a means of exclusion among “us” and “them”, and they can reinforce or mitigate other social-structural categories such as class and gender (intersectionality). From an urban perspective, at least three different contexts are of relevance: 

First, cities provide a vast number of informal and only marginally institutionalized spaces where spontaneous encounters with unknown people happen, where people eventually meet and learn from each other and with each other (-they ‘rub along’, as Sophie Watson has put it), for example in neighborhood centers, citizens’ welcome initiatives, city libraries, but also childrens’ playgrounds, public parks and squares, or in supermarkets, airports and museum entrances. Interactions in these spaces are often fluid and behavioural scripts are relatively vage. A crucial question is, if and how processes of learning in these settings – not least in the sense of getting to know each other – contribute to the overcoming of prejudices, breaking down of symbolic borders between individuals and groups, discovering common grounds, and articulating shared interests in a city marked by super diversity and difference. 

Secondly, negotiating diversity is also highly relevant in formal institutions such as kindergardens, public schools and universities, as well as in continuous education and vocational training programs often tied to local welfare state agencies and job centers. This is especially true, since these institutions play a key role in the production and reproduction of social (in)equality by granting or restricting access to resources and certified qualifications later needed to pursue a higher education and/or enter the labor market. 

Thirdly, the built environment and particularly the material culture that is constantly producing urban cityscapes itself can be interpreted as a catalyst of difference, an action arena that teaches us about the city, its history and collective identities. Buildings and building designs are charged with symbolic meaning as well as public open spaces. Stories are being told, old narratives are being re-told through symbolic sites and institutions such as museums, monuments and public installations. But who is part of these public narratives? Which hi/stories are made in/visible? How are traces of past migratory narratives (e.g. of earlier journeys in previous generations) inscribed into the symbolic meaning of the city’s physical structure – or erased from it? 

Additional Information

The courses mainly address master students (and late bachelor or early doctoral students) from planning and architecture. We explicitly welcome students coming from other Viennese universities in disciplines relating to urban studies such as educational studies, migration studies, urban design, geography, sociology, political science, landscape architecture, cultural studies (‘Mitbeleger‘ at TU Wien). The course language is English. We support students’ active participation in debates and interactive teaching formats. We encourage you to bring in and develop your own ideas and critical perspectives. We seek to create an international level of debate and exchange and welcome students from all countries and cultures. Just contact us (

Course dates

Kick-Off Meeting: 4 March 2019, 9am

The main body of teaching will be delivered during three intensive teaching blocks (ITB):

11.03.19 – 15.03.19 

01.04.2019 – 05.04.2019 

20.05.19 – 24.05.19 

Course registration

Extended deadline for course registration: 9 March 2019. Please register via TISS or email to