Focus: Social Space and Diversity – International Urban Studies Perspectives on Public Space

SE Seminar / Semester hours: 2.0 / ECTS 4.0

TISS-Course: 280.764

***Prof. Dr. Sabine Knierbein, Visiting Professor in Urban Studies 2021 Dr. Marie Glaser, Prof. Dr. Setha Low, Elina Kränzle MSc , with further guest inputs by Prof. Dr. Barbara Schönig and further colleagues (tbc)***

Aim of the course

After successful completion of the course, students are able to…

  • Present and discuss their doctoral projects in the fields of public space research in particular and/or urban studies in general with international peers and supervisors;
  • Engage in an informed academic exchange with colleagues from other disciplines and academic backgrounds, while discussing a diverse set of situated research and field work practices in cities in different parts of the globe;
  • Trace professional histories of global urban studies scholars working in an inter-, trans- and postdisciplinary field of urban studies.

Subject of the course

Approaching the field from variegated professional biographies, public space researchers around the world have recently engaged in a more systematic exchange with each other in a community of scholars having worked for decades in cross-disciplinary fashion: Disciplines like urban anthropology, urban and cultural sociology, human, social and cultural geography, political science, yet as well disciplines pertaining to the fields of the spatial arts (architecture, planning, urban design, landscape architecture, fine arts, …) have all contributed diverse bodies of knowledge, both conceptual and methodological, to the field of urban studies. With a focus  on an analysis of lived space and urban everyday life in relation to changing patterns of urbanization, different study programs/centers have emerged in the recent decade(s): Two research groups – one in urban anthropology and the other in environmental psychology –  at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA with a focus on public space research and broader aspects of urbanization (Prof. Dr. Setha Low),, the Institute for European Urban Studies at Bauhaus Universität Weimar with a special expertise at the intersection of urban studies and housing studies (Prof. Dr. Barbara Schönig), and further institutions (tbc) with an emphasis on architecture, social infrastructure and informal settlements as well as the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Technische Universität Wien in Vienna, Austria (Prof. Dr. Sabine Knierbein), among others. The seminar aims to bring doctoral students affiliated with TU Wien in contact with peers and supervisors of these universities. Through realizing a range of e-colloquia, we will set a focus on the study of urban everyday life and lived space, on public space and urban studies, in connection to the relating expertise and emphasis at these universities. In a concerted effort, we will exchange views, discuss approaches, share passions about cities, and learn from one another about current challenges of urbanization (during and beyond pandemic times), seen through the prisms of public space, housing, social infrastructure and everyday life. In lively and creative bilateral conversations, supervisors will jointly reflect on their ways of how they found themselves working in the field of urban studies.

The course contents will be provided by interweaving two approaches: (1) In each of the planned doctoral exchange encounters between two (or more) institutions, supervisors will engage in a moderated introductory dialogue about contemporary challenges of urbanization (before, during and beyond the pandemic) with emphasis being placed respectively at public space, housing, social infrastructure and everyday life. (2) Throughout the course, participating doctoral students will present, discuss and improve the narrative of their thesis projects as regards their diverse individualresearch interests, motivations, designs and strategies, and concerning approaches to collective work that help them find relevance and robustness in their research. Bringing both supervisor perspectives and students particular themes to the fore, the seminar aims at creating a vivid dialogue between motivated researchers in different cities and countries.


The seminar benefits from peer-to-peer coaching when it comes to doctoral thesis project presentations and feedback, including commentaries on written exposés. Supervisors and the teaching team will offer sufficient space for conversations between the groups and institutional approaches, as well as within and beyond US-centric and Euro-centric perspectives in urban studies. Through a range of previous meetings, students will be prepared to present their doctoral topics to an internationally informed professional audience. 

Examination modalities

– at least 80% e-participation in the course
– submission of a proper thesis project (4-6 pages) exposé 10 days prior to the respective e-symposium
– commenting prior to the e-symposium to exposés of peers in written
– presenting the project during the course and successive colloquia
– participating in joint preparation, realization, reflection and documentation of the symposium