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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Urban Sociology

Winter Semester 11/12

Here is an overview about the programme of the Think&Drink Colloquium in summer term 2011. On monday from 6 till 8 pm, the colloquium takes place in room 333 of Universitätsstraße 3b.


Monday, 17.10.2011: Dr. Marco van der Land, VU University, Amsterdam.

Vigilant Citizens and the Dutch Police

I will talk to you about a new research project I started recently at out chair of Safety & Citizenship that deals with unsatisfied, but active vigilant citizens. In many areas, mainly in the US and UK, but also on the continent, groups of citizens survey and patrol the neighbourhood in order to prevent crime and increase safety. Many are indeed aimed to prevent violence, others (claim) to use force if needed. The police sometimes stimulates and incorporates such forms of informal social control and self-help, but has difficulties to deal with these citizens who are distrustful against police and who will not shy away from vigilante behavior. I use the case of vigilant citizens to illustrate and discuss changes in the relationship between the state and citizens and between citizens in urban areas, to try to understand changes in public governance and the increased importance of safety in popular and political debate.


Monday, 24.10.2011: Prof. Talja Blokland, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Beyond Blaming (either the poor or the middle classes): A relational approach to urban marginalization
Various critical theories have been developed against the mainstream popularity of either the thesis of the culture of poverty or the explanations based on rational choice models to understand urban marginalization. This paper identifies a gap between these theories and qualitative studies of everyday life of the poor. Due to a lack of the connection of the various scales of such studies, the intellectual fight against the blaming of the poor may easily slide into a blaming of the middle classes, an undifferentiated and broad label. We hence have difficulties understanding how neoliberal regimes and policies that punish the poor actually are becoming social realities indeed. Methodologically, their empirical claims show limitations just as the mainstream theories do, as demonstrated through the presentation of a small ethnographic tale. This paper maintains that a relational sociology of urban marginalization may help to overcome this, and therefore strengthen critical theory.
Monday, 31.10.2011: Dr. Wenda Doff, TU Delft, Niederlande, dz. HU Berlin
Puzzling out neighborhood effects

Like other West European countries, the Netherlands are facing a growing uneasiness about its changing demographics. It is within this context that animated discussions concerning immigrant neighbourhoods dominate. The general opinion is that living in such neighbourhoods hinders the integration' of (im) migrants into Dutch society. Scholars are increasingly studying such ‘neighbourhood effects’, but are faced with several hallenges in estimating the ‘independent’ effects of living in certain neighbourhood contexts. In this session I will discuss one of them – the issue of spatial selection – and show how seeing residential choice, neighborhood selection, and neighbourhood impacts in a mutually interdependent way will enhance the scientific and societal debate on residential segregation.


Monday, 07.11.2011: Dr. Christine Hentschel, Humboldt‐Universität zu Berlin

Postcolonizing Berlin: What can we learn from the Southern turn in urban studies when studying Berlin?
What does it mean to theorise processes of change in a city like Berlin from the perspective of the global South? Critical urban scholars have expressed their unease with the division of urban studies into cities of the global north (“world cities”, breeding grounds of theory) and the global South (“megacities”, where urban theory fails). By working through some new, mainly anthropological, writings (i.e. from Ananya Roy, Maliq Simone, Aihwa Ong, Sarah Nuttall) on African and Asian cities, I identify methodological and thematic threads that can enrich our views on urban transformation in Berlin. The site for this experiment is Neukölln.
Monday, 14.11.2011: Dr. Andreas Heilmann, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Movie night: “Entre moros e favelas – zwischen Mauern und Favelas”
Der Film wird ca. 1 Stunde dauern und in brasilianischer Sprache mit deutschen Untertiteln gezeigt. Thema sind die sozialen Konflikte zwischen Bewohnern, staatlicher Ordnungsmacht (Polizei) und Drogenmafia in vier sog. illegalen Stadtquartieren (Favelas) in Rio de Janeiro aus der Perspektive von Bürgerrechtsakteuren und Favelabewohner_innen. Der Film greift exemplarisch die Problematiken von Land-Stadt-Migration, Armutsquartieren, sozialer Ungleichheit und Segregation, gewaltförmigen sozialen Konflikten am Beispiel der aktuellen Situation in einem BRIC-Land auf – und Formen zivilgesellschaftlichen Widerstands. Ähnlich gelagerte Dynamiken in europäischen Städten erscheinen anhand der brasilianischen Situation wie unter einem Brennglas in vergrößerter und verschärfter Optik.
Monday, 21.11.2011: Dr. Agata Lisiak, Independent scholar
The Making of (Post)colonial Cities in Central Europe: The Case of Warsaw"

If we accept—as Edward W. Said and Gayatri Spivak, among others, argue—that the Soviet Union was a colonial power, then the cultures that remained under its economic, political, and ideological influence can be described as colonized. The four decades of Soviet rule irrevocably transformed Central European metropolises leaving visible traces until this day. The renaming of streets in compliance with the official communist ideology, the demolition of architectural remnants of the previous "imperialist" systems, the creation of Moscow-controlled political apparatuses and secret services, and the enforcement of a centrally planned economy are only some of the proofs of the Soviet rule's colonial nature. It is only logical to conclude that together with the collapse of communism in 1989 and the official retreat of the Soviet colonizer, Central Europe automatically became postcolonial. At the same time, another important process was underway, namely the colonization through Western (and later "global") culture, capital, and politics. This new form of colonization began in 1989 and, in an arguably milder form, prevails to this day. Consequently, Central European cities are characterized by political, cultural, social, and economic tensions rooted in being postcolonial and colonial at the same time. In my paper I will discuss the (post)colonial condition of post-1989 Central European cities with particular focus on the urban landscapes of Warsaw.

Monday, 28.11.2011: Dr. Emma Jackson
Place-making and place maintenace: The middle classes and the doing of place

This paper presents an argument for recognising the role played by the practice of place within middle-class residents’ relationships to their neighbourhoods.  We explore how claims to belonging are performed, introducing understandings of place as dynamic, performative and in continual process into discussions of the intersections of class and place attachment. The paper draws on qualitative data drawn from research with middle-class residents in two different types of neighbourhood in and around London, in an inner urban, socially-mixed neighbourhood (Peckham) and commuter belt villages (West Horsley and Effingham). Through this comparative empirical focus, the article argues that (1) the practice of place is key to understanding the processes by which middle-class residents lay claim to belonging and (2) ways of ‘doing’ neighbourhood must be understood within the context of other circulating representations of these spaces. As the article
demonstrates, in these two locations there are significant differences in the practicing of place, leading to two possible possible ways of conceptualising practiced forms of neighbourhood belonging. While our respondents in the inner urban neighbourhood appear to be strongly invested in place-making, performing place in ways which variously work with and against prevailing discourses about their place of residence, for residents of the commuter belt, the middle-class valorization of rural idyll does a great deal of work for them in legitimising their residential choice, and they invest in subtle processes of place maintenance.

Monday, 05.12.2011: Prof. Yuri Kazepov, Universitá di Urbino, Italien
The New (territorial) Boundaries of Citizenship in Europe
Rescaling social policies and the new role of local welfare arrangements
The territorial dimension of citizenship arrangements has for long been a neglected perspective in comparative social policy analysis. The same is true for the role of cities and local welfare arrangements. Scholars took-for-granted that policies defining inclusion and exclusion were national policies and almost all comparative work, which has been done after World War Second, based comparisons on national data. At the same time, the nation state strengthened its identity and legitimation thanks to the redistributive capacity of welfare policies within its national borders. 
Since the end of the 1970s, the deep structural changes that occurred kicked-off processes of territorial re-organisation of social policies undermining the functioning of national welfare institutions. The need of institutional changes has been met by an intense reform activity which covered in the last two decades most policy areas and their territorial organization. The picture which emerges is complex and not always easy to disentangle even though two trends are clear: rescaling and governance. 
Scholars started to reconsider the territorial dimension in their analytical frameworks taking it not anymore for granted, but as a privileged perspective to understand how citizenship systems change. In particular the processes of social policy re-organization and reform redraw the boundaries of citizenship. This reorganization of regulative powers at the different territorial levels – most prominently at sub-national levels – has also been accompanied by a multiplication of actors involved in designing, managing and implementing social policies. 
I have called the combined effect of these two processes the subsidiarization of social policies because the concept of subsidiarity captures well the new concept of citizenship underlying European countries and the two processes of change by addressing both the vertical (i.e. the territorial reorganization of regulatory powers) and the horizontal dimension (i.e. the multiplication of actors) of the processes at stake, pointing to multi-level governance solutions. The relationship between territorial rescaling and the spread of new governance arrangements becomes evident in the involvement of civil society in the policy making process justified with the need of “getting closer” to the citizen. 
The spread of the subsidiarity principle as a legitimate basis for new citizenship arrangements provided ground for an increasingly complex picture with new forms of inclusion and exclusion. The aim of the presentation is to explore this complexity, attempting to highlight how citizenship arrangements are changing and the role of different territorial dimensions (cities, regions, states, supranational bodies,…) in building new boarders of citizenship. In particular, I will show that despite the commonalities these two processes share in all countries, differences are relevant as well in understanding the directions of change and their differentiated impacts.



Monday, 12.12.2011: Prof. Jennifer Robinson, University College London, UK

Cities in a World of Cities: Traces of elsewhere in the making of citiy futures
Under conditions of globalisation, city futures are imagined in the context of a wider world of cities. Policy making for cities is profoundlyinternationalised and in the wake of vast changes in where urbanisation istaking place across the globe scholars must now theorise the contemporary urban condition with reference to a world of diverse cities. Both require new vocabularies and new ways of working with traces of elsewhere as city futures are re-imagined for policy makers to operate at the complex interface between circulating policies and local political contestations, and for scholars to revitalise and invent comparative and international ways of doing research.
Monday, 09.01.2012: Prof. George Galster, Hilberry Professor of Urban Affairs, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA
Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in Motown

Detroit is the international icon for a once-thriving industrial powerhouse transformed within half a century into a dysfunctional metropolis.  George Galster’s Driving Detroit paints a stunning portrait of Metropolitan Detroit through an eclectic application of urban planning, economics, sociology, political science, geography, history, and psychology.  But Driving Detroit is also partly a self portrait, wherein Detroiters paint their own stories through songs, poems, and oral histories.  This remarkable mix of scholarly disciplines and media of communication make the book distinctively insightful, accessible, and memorable.  Driving Detroit is uniquely powerful because its portrait not only helps the reader clearly see the subject but, more importantly, understand why Metropolitan Detroit’s social, cultural, political, institutional, commercial, and built landscape has been transformed.  Though appropriate for graduate and undergraduate courses in urban studies, geography, planning, social sciences and history, the book should be of interest to the general public, both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Driving Detroit contends that Metropolitan Detroit can be understood as two dimensions of tensions, capital vs. labor, blacks vs. whites.  It documents the region’s geo-political environment, evolving economic and population patterns, and longstanding inter-class and inter-racial struggles.  It shows how geography, local government structure, and social forces created a regional housing development system that perpetually produces sprawl at the fringe and abandonment at the core.  Driving Detroit breaks new ground in urban studies by drawing upon psychological principles of human fulfilment to diagnose the region’s ills.  It argues that the region’s automotive economic base and housing development system have chronically frustrated the populations’ quest for “respect:” basic physical, social and psychological resources.  These frustrations generated the extreme adaptations that distinguish the region: distrust, scapegoating, identity politics, segregation, unionization, and jurisdictional fragmentation.  Unfortunately, these individually rational adaptations have proven collectively irrational, positioning Metropolitan Detroit in an uncompetitive, unsustainable position.
Monday, 16.01.2012: Dr. Oleg Pachenkov, Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR), St. Petersburg, Russia
Flea market within a city context:for geography matters (case of Berlin)
The academic discussion about the flea market as a social phenomenon has been dominated so far by the eco nomists and consumer behavior researchers. They mostly present the flea market as an example of the mixture of “economic and festive dimensions of marketplace behavior”, i.e. as a set of market activities which should not be reduced to economic – because culture, values, morality and emotions are to be taken into consideration too. Yet, sharing this view, I will try to show that the flea market could be also approached within geography of the city. 
In my presentation, based on the results of the field work I have undertaken in Berlin in 2006-2007 and in 2010, I place the flea market in the context of the urban life, and approach it from two perspectives. I show that, while on the one hand, the flea market serves a ‘mirror’ reflecting the economic, social and cultural processes taking place in the cities and societies accommodating it, on the other hand, it is itself a significant part of such processes, shaping the cultural, social and economic life of the city. This twofold function of the flea market within the city context is very well represented in its location and spatiality. As the case of the Berlin flea market scene demonstrates, flea market should not only be treated within the socio-geographical context of thecity, but it could be at the same time central to, and indicative of, urban change, including gentrification processes. 

Monday,23.01.2012: Dr. Tom Slater, University of Edinburgh, UK

The Myth of 'Broken Britain': Riots, Welfare Reform, and the Cultural Production of Ignorance.
In this paper I draw on Robert Proctor’s concept of 'agnotology' (the cultural production of ignorance) in an attempt to understand how contemporary policy elites and politicians ignore overwhelming scientific evidence that sits at odds with their reforms.  I trace the assault on the British welfare state by the current Coalition government back to the emergence of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank, founded in 2004 by current Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith following his short visit to a stigmatised district of Glasgow in 2002.
Despite wide-ranging social scientific evidence challenging the numerous policies on work, welfare and poverty that that have been set in motion by the Coalition (heavily influenced by the CSJ), a familiar litany of social pathologies (family breakdown, worklessness, anti-social behaviour, personal responsibility, teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock childbirth, dependency) is repeatedly invoked in a strategic deployment of ignorance with respect to alternative ways of addressing poverty and social injustice.  Following the English urban riots of August 2011, a single behavioural and cultural catchphrase for poverty – 'Broken Britain' – now dominates the government's domestic agenda, where 'troubled families' are now identified as the central problem to be tackled by the philanthropic fantasy of a 'Big Society'.
I argue that this 'neoliberal newspeak' can be challenged once it is recognised that the problem to be addressed is in fact a broken state - punitive-paternalist at the bottom of the class structure and laissez-faire at the top - and mending it requires serious analytical attention to the current relationship between information and power.
Monday, 30.01.2012: Prof. Erik Swyngedouw, University of Manchester, UK
“The Ground‐Zero of Politics: Musing on the Post‐Political Polis”

The city offers a privileged scale for dissecting the social body, for rummaging through the innards of our most intimate fantasies, desires, and fears; for excavating the signs of the city’s political condition. As the ancient Greek polis was for Aristotle and Plato the experimental site for the performance of civic and political life, the contemporary city also holds for us the key to unlocking the contours of the present political constellation.

It is indeed unmistakably so that the city has undergone radical change over the past two decades or so, most dramatically in its modes of urban governing and polic(y)ing. We shall argue that, while the city is alive and thriving at least in some of its spaces, the polis, conceived in the idealized Greek sense as the site for public political encounter and democratic negotiation, the spacing of (often radical) dissent, and disagreement, and the place where political subjectivation emerges and literally takes place, seems moribund. In other words, the ‘political’ is retreating while social space is increasingly colonised by policies (or policing). The suturing of social space by consensual managerial policies and the evacuation of the properly political (democratic) dimension from the urban -- what will described below as the post-political condition -- constitutes what I would define as the ZERO-ground of politics. The leitmotiv of this contribution will indeed be the figure of a de-politicized Post-Political and Post-Democratic city.

Taking my cue from recent urban transformations in the UK and elsewhere, I shall argue that urban governance at the beginning of the 21st century has shifted profoundly, giving rise to a new form of governmentality in the Foucaultian sense of the word, one that is predicated upon new formal and informal institutional configurations – forms of governance that are characterized by a broadening of the sphere of governing, while narrowing, if not suspending, the space of the properly political. Urban governing today is carried by a wide variety of institutions and organizations. It operates through a range of geographical scales, and mobilizes a wide assortment of social actors, including private agents, designers, architects, and planners, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, corporations, and the more traditional forms of local, regional, or national government. I shall characterize these new regimes of policing the city as Governance-beyond-the-State. It is a governance regime concerned with policing, controlling and accentuating the imperatives of a globally connected neo-liberalized market economy. This new ‘polic(y)ing’ order reflects what Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Rancière define as a post-political and post-democratic constitution. In other words, contrary to the popular belief that these new forms of neo-liberal urban governance widen participation and deepen ‘democracy’, I shall insist that this post-political condition in fact annuls democracy, evacuates the political proper – i.e. the nurturing of disagreement through properly constructed material and symbolic spaces for dissensual public encounter and exchange – and ultimately perverts and undermines the very foundation of a democratic polis. This regime exposes what Rancière calls the scandal of democracy: while promising equality, it produces an oligarchically instituted form of governing in which political power seamlessly fuses with economic might and a governance arrangement that consensually shapes the city according to the dreams, tastes and needs of the transnational economic, political, and cultural elites. Proper urban politics fosters dissent, creates disagreement and triggers the debating of and experimentation with more egalitarian and inclusive urban futures, a process that is wrought with all kinds of tensions and contradictions but also opens up spaces of possibilities and insurgent activities. Exploring these will constitute the final part of this contribution.

This lecture is a joint event of the Centre for British Studies and the 
Chair of Urban and Regional Sociology (and Georg Simmel Zentrum) at 
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and will take place at the 
Centre for British Studies, Mohrenstr. 60, 10117 Berlin. 
Monday, 06.02.2012: Prof. James Holston, University of California, Berkeley
Equality, Equity, and the Politics of Difference

In this presentation, I contrast equality and equity as principles according to which citizenships manage the differences they distinguish between citizens. One equalizes prior differences between people for certain purposes of membership in the political community, resulting in standard measures of treatment. The other compensates “priors” with special treatment for certain purposes, resulting in a legalization of difference-based privileges and a politics of differentiated citizenship. All regimes of citizenship use both principles to articulate differences in law, so that branding specific ones as “difference-neutral” or “difference-specific” is a false dichotomy. Rather, I argue that the key question is to investigate historically and ethnographically how a citizenship (or politics) problematizes the equalization and the compensation of prior differences and deals with the problems of justice and power that result.

The presentation does so by looking at the Brazilian formulation of differentiated citizenship as a telling historical example of a politics of difference based on a combination of universal membership and special treatment rights. I argue that by denying the expectation of equality and emphasizing that of compensatory equity in the distribution of rights, Brazilian citizenship became an entrenched regime of legalized privileges and legitimated inequalities. I suggest that in these historical circumstances –typical of many national citizenships – a politics of equality is a more radical means to overturn this regime than the recent policies of legalizing differences (especially racialized ones) that Brazilian local and federal governments currently promote as means to “right the wrongs” of access to education and health care. In such historical circumstances, the politics of difference is actually “business as usual.”

I use the Brazilian case to question the now wide-spread promotion of the politics of difference to address societal inequalities. I argue that when democratization destabilizes entrenched regimes of inequality (as in the contemporary Brazilian case), their reimagination should be based no more on a shallow critique of equality-as-sameness than on a naïve advocacy of compensatory equity in the articulations of citizenship to manage social differences.

Monday, 13.02.2012: Prof. Neil Smith, Graduate Center of City University of New York, USA