Unsettled – Urban routines, temporalities and contestations:
International Conference

TU Wien

29 March – 31 March 2017, Vienna Austria

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning, TU Wien, invites participation in the conference Unsettled: urban routines, temporalities and contestations. The conference aims to explore conditions and conceptions of the unsettled. Urban life is characterized by diverse manifestations of instability which continuously stretch or redefine the social order and community infrastructures of cities: everyday struggles related to the capitalist system of production, revolutions in political life and political system overthrows, quests for dominance and their oppositions in political, social, economic, ecological or cultural domains. These unsettling practices simultaneously challenge and nourish a variety of idea(l)s of the city as an inclusive place of liberation, cooperation, equal opportunities and shared (better) futures. The goal of the conference is thus to (1) understand the uncertainties, disturbances, inconsistencies, residuals and blind fields which constitute the urban both as lived space and the political idea(l), and (2) foster an inquiry into the socio-political potentialities of unsettling and re-settling urban routines, temporalities and contestations.


The conference was organized into three sessions:



Session Chairs: Sybille Frank and Tihomir Viderman

This theme puts urban routines centre stage for their intertwinement with both (settled) urban social order and (unsettling) revolutionary or subversive moments. Urban routines are constituted, conceived of, celebrated, contested, dismissed and curbed with regard to an infinite range of their respective material occurrences: from the ordinariness of everyday life, such as kids skateboarding in front of town halls, to grand historical events, such as disruptions of political celebrations by civil opponents. They are sets of doings, sayings, tasks and projects through which individuals, collectives and institutions tacitly or purposefully engage in the unsettled urban conditions. Urban routines also emerge as thought-through and consciously produced (institutional) practices. We may think of routines of how a city is governed and administered, how economies are organized and performed, or how performative acts shape public places. Urban routines could also be considered in respect of involved practices of arts producers, strategies and tactics of political activists or means of how the city is imagined, conceptualized and planned by professionals. All of these routinized practices may be unsettled. If unsettled, routines become reflexive. Acknowledging that routines are commonly established under reoccurring and reliable (thus settled) conditions, but can also be an adequate answer to continuous unsettlement (e.g. as routines of war or financial crisis), we invite contributions that investigate how urban routines are being unsettled, reintroduced or invented anew in conditions of unsettled.


Session Chairs: Sabine Knierbein and Ed Wall

The second theme will focus on relations between notions of unsettled and urban temporalities. In the contexts of constant construction and cyclical rhythms of redevelopment and everyday life in contemporary cities – accelerated, disruptive and faltering on one side, and stabilizing, routinizing and socialising on the other, we aim to explore narratives, conceptions and visions of what urban temporalities entail. Urban design, which aims to realise new plans, frequently dismantles historic forms and displaces activities. Ambitions to complete architectural spaces can be understood to restrict the necessary temporal conditions of public spaces as sites of contested discourse and action. In contrast, practices of unsettling can also open up moments for innovative ideas, spaces and ways of life to emerge. They can be employed to question existing power structures and nostalgic claims of urban order, territorial divisions and political hierarchies. Unsettling can provide the foundation of migrant narratives, departures, journeys and shared trajectories entwined with hopes for more stable futures. Yet unsettling through the use of the politics of time can be a tool for disruption, displacement and dispossession. We welcome contributions, which highlight the critical concerns for what is lost or gained through practices of unsettling that work with different, sometimes colliding, versions of speed, velocity, acceleration, break, pause, periodization and time in general.


Session Chairs: Elina Kränzle and Nikolai Roskamm

The city is a place of conflict and contestation, and as such, it constantly enters into conflictual and ambiguous – or unsettled –  relations with its institutional form. It is in the city, that unsettled publics have continued to contest power relations and hegemonic rule demanding economic, social and environmental equality, across various political spectres and scales. In the context of the economic crisis, urban movements called for their right to the city, against the imposition of the state’s austerity policies. City governments and citizens alike contest the rise of nationalist and racist sentiments that have come to the surface in recent national elections. In cities around the world, urban dwellers and citizens contest the on-going mega-development of increasingly segregated urban neighbourhoods in their struggle against displacement. Contestation, by definition political, emerges out of changing urban realities and opens the field of the possible. It may help to overcome latent crises and challenges hierarchies, centres of power, and static forms of bureaucratization. Looking at cities as the contact points for social and political transformations, the theme discusses the role of conflict in cities, and the continued negotiating and (un)settling of social order. In this third session we aim to stress forms of critical and reflexive contestation. Both, theoretical approaches (for instance, concepts of antagonism, agonism, violence, conflict, spontaneity) and reports from contested urban realities are welcome.


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Scientific Committee

Sybille Frank – Prof. Dr. for Urban Sociology and the Sociology of Space, TU Darmstadt, Germany, City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2016, TU Wien

Sabine Knierbein – Assoc. Prof. Dr., TU Wien; Head of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Urban Culture and Public Space, TU Wien

Elina Kränzle – Univ. Ass. MSc BSc, TU Wien

Nikolai Roskamm – Prof. Dr. phil. habil. for Planning Theory, Urban Design History and Sustainable Urbanism, FH Erfurt, Germany, City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2015, TU Wien

Tihomir Viderman – Univ. Ass. Dipl-Ing MSc, TU Wien

Ed Wall – Academic Leader Landscape, MUP, University of Greenwich, UK; City of Vienna Visiting Professor 2017, TU Wien

Sponsoring and Partners

City of Vienna (Visiting Professorship Programme), Vice Rectorate for Research and Innovation, TU Wien; Faculty for Architecture and Planning, TU Wien; Department of Spatial Planning, TU Wien; Architekturzentrum Wien Az W.