Concepts and critique of the production of space: Social Inequalitites and New Urban (Im)Mobilities

Link: TISS 280.394

SE Seminar / Semester hours: 2.0 / ECTS 4.0

**This course will be offered by City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2016 Dr. Sybille Frank (TU Berlin) and by Ass. Prof. Sabine Knierbein**

i. Aim of the course

This seminar will critically investigate old and new forms of social inequalities and solidarities in present European cities, and it will ask how they affect and benefit from cities’ public spaces and how they interrelate with public life. The seminar aims to (1) acquaint students with the most important social structural categories that define one’s place in society and produce social inequalities, (2) analyze how these categories have shaped both the idea of the European City as an ideal type city and the fabric of, as well as life in, ‘real’ European cities, (3) trace how the European city model has been received by and criticized from, for example, non-Western perspecives, and (4) discuss how new spatial mobilities by certain groups of people, as well as the immobilities of others, challenge our ‘traditional’ thinking about urban social inequalities and urban everyday cultures and regarding established measures of urban planning in this area. Issues of intercultural and performative place-making that understand space as relational (counter) space might indicate a recent change in urban planning at the interface of planning practice and theory.

ii. Contents of the course

This seminar will introduce students to the ‘classic’ social structural categories that shape European societies such as social class, urban milieus, lifestyles, gender, and ethnicity. These categories are rightfully called ‘structuring’ because they impact not only on the built and social spaces of European cities but also on the potentialities of specific groups of urban dwellers to (make) use (of) these urban space(s) for their own purposes. With this background students will be asked to analyze and discuss current urban phenomena such as gentrification, marginalization, new and contested ‘cultural’ planning approaches, as well as gendered and postcolonial spaces. Moreover, we will discuss how new spatial mobilities of socially-upward mobile groups (such as urban tourists, or members of the so-called creative class) and of groups being threatened by or exposed to socially-downward movement (such as labour migrants, refugees, homeless people), challenge traditional categories of social structural analyses as well as the character of urban inequalities. Students will also occupy themselves with counter-measures in urban planning that may help to sustain new solidarities in order to prevent new and ‘classical’ pitfalls and aporia that come along with using social classifications both in planning and sociology. That we, we follow a thought Bourdieu (1984) has coined that “the fate of groups is bound up with the words that designate them”.

“Introduction“ (Seminar Unit 0, Sybille Frank / Sabine Knierbein)

After students have been volunteering for topics in groups of two or three (depending on number of participants) already during the obligatory module kick-off/doodle registration for course topics (place, date tbc), this first seminar unit serves as an introduction to the seminar work and an explanation about the team-based dialogical way to organize a seminar in a different format. Each group will choose a seminar unit topic and prepare a 20minutes presentation on selected texts, resulting in three questions for further discussion. While students have already started to snooze into these documents before this seminar kick-off meeting, instructors will offer help and supportive questions to those groups that will present in one of the next units.

General Course Reading:
1. Eckardt, Frank (2015): City and Crisis. Learning from Urban Theory, in: Frank Eckardt and Javier Ruiz Sánchez (eds): City of Crisis. The Multiple Contestation of Southern European Cities. Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 11-29.
2. Tyler, Imogen (2015) Classificatory struggles: class, culture and inequality in neoliberal times. The Sociological Review. Vol. 63, Issue 2, Pp. 493-511.

“The European City as Gendered Space“ (Seminar Unit 1, Sybille Frank)

In this seminar unit we will revisit the concept of the European City with a view to gender relations. Even though gender is one of the most powerful categories of social structuring, it is rarely taken into account by architects and urban planners when they are designing urban spaces. The seminar unit will shine a light on how old and new gender relations have shaped urban spaces in both the public realm and the private domain of the home.

1. Spain, Daphne (2002): What Happened to Gender Relations on the Way from Chicago to Los Angeles, in: City & Community 1 (2), S. 155–169.
2. Barbara Zibell (2013): The Model of the European City in the Light of Gender Planning and Sustainable Development, in: Inés Sanchez de Madariaga and Marion Roberts (eds.): Fair shared cities.The impact of gender planning in Europe. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 75-88.

“Post-Fordist and Neoliberal Restructuring“ (Seminar Unit 2, Sabine Knierbein)

This unit connects to the lecture unit on urban restructuring, public space and the European City. While neoliberalism is usually coined as a US American project that surged especially in the course of the global oil price shock 1973 (text 2) and finds its first political expressions particularly in Reaganomics (USA) and Thatcherism (UK), we will broadly discuss Foucault’s findings on the initiation of the German neoliberal project in the course of national state restructuring after WWII. To what extent does this historical analysis of historic and recent trends of capitalism contrast or connect to Siebel’s ideal-type understanding of the European City?

1. Michel Foucault (2008 (2004)) The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures 4, 5 and 6. German neoliberalism I, II, III, Usefulness of historical analyses for the present, How is neoliberalism distinguished from classical neoliberalism. Pp. 78-91, 94/95, 101-121, 129-150.
2. Aron Tauss (2012) Contextualizing the Current Crisis: Post-fordism, Neoliberal Restructuring, and Financialization. Colombia Internacional. no.76 Bogotá July/Dec. 2012. URL: (latest access 04/02/16).

“The European City as Ethnicized Space“ (Seminar Unit 3, Sybille Frank)

This seminar unit is dedicated to reflecting on racial and ethnic divides in current European cities. First, using the example of ‘heritage’, it becomes obvious how strongly European cities still rely upon a ‘Western’ and ‘white’ cultural heritage, even though they have been shaped by massive immigration flows in the past. Second, the seminar unit will discuss the perception and spaces of non-European migrants in the European City, and it will revolve around ideas on how a ‘post-national’, cosmopolitan heritage of the European city could look like.

1. Hall, Stuart (2000): Whose Heritage? Un-settling ‘The Heritage’, Re-imagining the Post-nation, in: Third Text 49, pp. 3–13.
2. Cancellieri, Adriano and Elena Ostanel (2015): The Struggle for Public Space. The Hypervisibility of Migrants in the Italian Urban Landscape, in: City. Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 19 (4), pp. 499-509.

“Between Privilege and Austerity: Governing the European City“ (Seminar Unit 4, Sybille Frank)

In this unit we will discuss how the global financial crisis was both ignited in, and impacted upon, cities. It will trace how the economic crisis paved the way for an urban politics that, on the one hand, increasingly integrated the private sector in genuine public fields of political action that were judged to be potentially profitable in an economic sense, while, on the other hand, those fields of political action that could not be made profitable in this way were submitted under a regime of austerity, undermining both political participation and public autonomy.

1. Donald, Betsy, Amy Glasmeier, Mia Gray and Linda Lobao (2014): Austerity in the City: Economic Crisis and Urban Service Decline?, in: Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 7, pp. 3-15.
2. Michel, Boris and Christian Stein (2015): Reclaiming the European City and Lobbying for Privilege: Business Improvement Districts in Germany, in: Urban Affairs Review 5 (1), pp. 74-98.

“Embodied space and performative urbanism“ (Seminar Unit 5, Sabine Knierbein)

While much of urban writing on the public and private space has been influenced by conceptions of space that built especially on the discursive construction of space, this unit will offer an entry perspective into conceptions of space that discuss social relations through aspects of body, performance and action. Recalling on Lefebvre’s urge to centre praxis as any point of departure for further theoretical reflection, public space is thereby reconstituted as a sphere where praxis and theory meet, and where oldfashioned trenches in architecture and planning that seek to isolate practical from theoretical forms of generating knowledge shall be overcome.

1. Dirksmeier, P./ I. Helbrecht 2010: Intercultural interaction and ‚situational places’: A perspective from urban cultural geography within and beyond the performative turn. In: Social Geography 5, S. 39-48.
2. Low, Setha Embodied Space(s) Anthropological Theories of Body, Space, and Culture (2003) Space and Culture February 2003 vol. 6 no. 1 9-18.

“The power of urban lifestyles: Consuming the European City“ (Seminar Unit 6, Sybille Frank)

European cities have long changed into landscapes of consumption – not only for their own dwellers, but also for people from other places. In this seminar unit we will discuss the consequences of the so-called ‘recreational turn’ for European cities, specifically directing our attention to those groups who may move freely through the city and use its diverse spaces to their advantage, as compared to those groups who become involuntarily mobile in the sense of being displaced, or those who become more and more immobile in the sense of getting stuck.

1. Zukin, Sharon (2008): Consuming Authenticity. From Outposts of Difference to Means of Exclusion, in: Cultural Studies 22 (5), pp. 724-748. DOI: 10.1080/09502380802245985.
2. Füller, Henning and Boris Michel (2014): ‘Stop Being a Tourist!’ New Dynamics of Urban Tourism in Berlin-Kreuzberg, in: International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38 (4), pp. 1304-1318. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12124.

“Transforming everyday spaces and insurgent geographies “ (Seminar Unit 7, Sabine Knierbein)

The making of insurgent public space suggests a mode of city making that is different from the institutionalized notion of urbanism and its association with master-planning and policy making. Unlike the conventional practice of urban planning, which tends to be dominated by professionals and experts, the seminar will deal with recent debates in landscape design, planning theory and human geography that seek to understand spaces of insurgance.

1. Jeff Hou (2010) (Not) Your Everyday Public Space. In: Hou, Jeff (ed) Insurgent public space. Guerrilla urbanism and the remaking of contemporary cities. New York/London, Routledge. Pp. 1-18.
2. Maria Kaika and Lazaros Karaliotas (2016, forthcoming) Athens’ Syntagma Square Re-loaded: from staging disagreement towards instituting democratic spaces. In: Hou, Jeff and Knierbein, Sabine (2016/7 forthcoming) City Unsilenced. Public space and urban resistance in the age of shrinking democracy. Pp. Tbc.

“Silences, absences and the public articulation of critique in public space“ (Seminar Unit 8, Sabine Knierbein)

This seminar unit addresses what is not visible, palpable and (at first sight) analysable in public space. Where the first paper touches upon dimensions of (im)mobile cobble stones in the former Jewish Ghetto in Warsow which has now come under regeneration pressure, and follows the argument of the author defending the wholes and abscences of stones in public spaces which can by symbolically understood as a reference to the absent lifes of those who have lost their lives in the ghetto or during the holocaust. The second newspaper article touches another dimension of silence, that is, on passive resistance. By taking recent civic unrest in Turkey, it offers insights into the silent practices of the standing man, who became an iconic figure in the resistance against the neoliberal regime in Turkey. How can we develop a sense of care for what is abscent and silent in public space analysis and cultural research? And why is this important?

1. Jurek Elzanowski (2014) Monuments and Material Dislocation: The Politics of Commemoration in Warsaw, In: Ali Madanipour, Sabine Knierbein and Agalee Degros (eds) Public Space and the Challenges of Urban Transformation in Europe. London/New York. Routledge. Pp. 88-102.
2. Richard Seymour (2013) Turkey’s ’standing man‘ shows how passive resistance can shake a state. Guardian Online. URL: (latest access 05/02/16).

“Poverty and Marginality: Surviving the European City“ (Seminar Unit 9, Sybille Frank)

In this seminar unit we will seek to reflect on different strategies of European cities to cope with the crisis of the ‘European social model’ and to fight poverty. We will also discuss how new groups of ‘urban poor’ coming from the middle classes are a result of the crisis of the European model of regulation and welfare, and how they challenge traditional ways of thinking about, and fighting against poverty and their reasons. Moreover, we will discuss senses of (im)mobility of homeless people against the background of an increasingly mobile age.

1. Kaika, Maria (2012): The Economic Crisis Seen from the Everyday. Europe’s Nouveau Poor and the Global Affective Implications of a ‘Local’ Debt Crisis, in: City. Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 16 (4), pp. 422-430.
2. Kerr, Daniel (2016): ‘Almost like I am in Jail’. Homelessness and the Sense of Immobility in Cleveland, Ohio, in: Cultural Studies 2, DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2015.1113632.

“Staging equality and egalitarian claims“ (Seminar Unit 10, Sabine Knierbein)

While rising urban enquality has characterized European Cities since the 1970s already, urban scholarship has dealt in different ways with developing analytical tools to unravel patterns of uneven spatial development and social inequality. While class-analysis has been criticised in the course of a growing individualist reorganisation of (not exclusively) Western capitalist societies (e.g. Beck), more recent contributions from cultural sociology have reinstated class analysis and linked it back to the scholarship of (urban) inequality. On the other side, new ways forward have been sketched that heavily build on the notion of resistance for staging equality and egalitarian claims. The seminar will dive into these debates.

1. Erik Swyngedouw (2015) Insurgent Architects, Radical Cities and the Promise of the Political. In: Wilson and Swyngedouw (eds) The Post-Political and its Discontents. Edinburgh. Edinburg University Press. Pp.170-188.
2. Tyler, Imogen (2015) Classificatory struggles: class, culture and inequality in neoliberal times. The Sociological Review. Vol. 63, Issue 2, Pp. 493-511.

“Reinstating the European City“ (Seminar Unit 11, Sybille Frank)

In this seminar unit we will look at new urban protest movements and academic research that criticizes these protest groups for their self-reference and overt middle-class orientation. We will also look at urban development programs in Europe that increasingly focus on promoting cultural creativity and economic dynamism instead of fighting processes of social exclusion. Moreover, we will consider one of the most prominent social movements of the past years that called upon ‘traditional’ European ideals of democracy and participation: the movement to protect Gezi Park from capitalization. If urban social movements are pressing for reinstating some of the lost ideals of the European City, to whom are they talking, and for whom do they speak?

1. Mayer, Margit (2013): First world urban activism. Beyond austerity urbanism and creative city politics, in: City. Analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action 17 (1), pp. 5-19. DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2013.757417.
2. Inceoglu, Irem (2015): Encountering Difference and Radical Democratic Trajectory. An Analysis of Gezi Park as Public Space, in: City. Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 19 (4), pp. 534-544.

“Disenchanting public encounters. The case of Pegida“ (Seminar Unit 12, Sabine Knierbein)

While intellectuals on the left are currently heralding a new generation of state critique and the critique of (formal) politics in which ‘resistance’ and ‘dissent’ against the structural conditions are two core concepts of relevance, the empirical evidence of dissent and resistance in public space partly challenges the (sometimes romanticising) arguments of urban scholars promoting ‘agonistic’ proceedings in order to reclaim ‘real’ or ‘true’ democracy. While Europe is facing a new wave of ‘solidarity’ of racist, anti-eurocentric and anti-muslim parties and movements, critical scholars still need to come to terms with an analysis how post-political conditions can be further qualified in order to unmask racism and discriminatory action in public space that – in a shortened version – might make use of the plea for dissens and agonism without acknowledging what ‘the post-political and its discontents’ is particularly about. The seminar starts from a consideration of public spaces as sites of (dis)enchanting encounters and links to comments on recent racist movements in Germany, and beyond, that ‘appropriate’ public spaces as places of ‘resistance’ and ‘dissent’.

1. Sophie Watson (2006) City publics. The (dis)enchantments of public encounters. New York/London: Routledge. Pp. 1-19 and 159-173.
2. Claudia Chwalisz (2015) Pegida in a European Landscape. In: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (ed) Understanding Pegida in Context. Social Europe Report. March 2015. Pp.17-19. URL: (latest access online 05/02/2016).
3. Rene Cuperus (2015) Europe’s Populist Pandora’s Box. In: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (ed) Understanding Pegida in Context. Social Europe Report. March 2015. Pp. 20-21. URL: (latest access online 05/02/2016).

iii. Assessment of students’ performance

The evaluation of the course will be based upon the following activities:

40% oral presentation of texts, including prepared questions for discussion and moderation of seminar unit
40% position paper (Thesenpapier) that summarizes the lines of argument, theses and conclusions of the presented texts in a brief but structured way, and that presents a well-reasoned own position towards the unit’s theme (open format: text, poster, map, movie, blog, poem…)
20% participation in overall discussions including constructive feedback to one chosen group.

iv. Further information

The seminar (SE) „Social Inequalites and New Urban (Im)Mobilities“ is part of the module 11 „Urban culture, public space“ (consisting of three courses, VO 280.038, SE 280.394 and UE 280.393) which is offered during three five days intensive teaching blocks (ITB) by the Interdisiciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space (SKuOR). Module 11 compiles a set of integrated courses dealing with „Urban culture and public space“ at the interface of the fields of urban studies and urban design/urban planning. In 2016, the main focus will be on „Urban culture, public space and the present: Urban solidarity and European crisis“.

The courses mainly address master students (late Bachelor or early PhD), especially from spatial planning and architecture are invited to take part. Yet we explicitly welcome students coming from other Viennese universities in related disciplines, such as urban studies, urban design, geography, sociology, landscape architecture, cultural studies, … as well as ‚Mitbeleger‘.  The course language is English. We support students¿ active participation in debates and interactive teaching formats, and 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 (

Students interested in this course have to take part in the lecture (Tiss no 280.038) and are highly recommended to take part in the the exercise (Tiss no 280.393)

To take part in all three courses of the module 11 please register for module 11 until 3rd of March 2016 (14.00 pm) via TISS registration for the course, VO 280.038. Further course registration will be carried out directly at the kick-off meeting on 14th of March 2016 09:00, Karlsgasse 13, Seminar room 1.

Dates of the Module 11
The main body of teaching will be delivered during three intensive teaching blocks (ITB):
ITB 1.  14 to 18 Mar 2016
ITB 2.  9 to 13 May 2016
ITB 3.  20 to 24 Jun 2016