Ordinary Cities in

Exceptional Times

24 - 26.8.2022


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NTUA ( Patision complex )
Ceremony Hall

Convener: Carmel Rawhani, Nadine Appelhans

Abstract: The abundant proliferation of multilateral international ‘development’ frameworks highlights a particular set of universal seemingly ordinary catchwords and elevates them to the status of ubiquitous norms. Inclusivity, justice, cohesion, solidarity, sustainability, and many others which have been left behind as respective concepts gain or lose popularity. These normative concepts are to be reproduced at the regional, national, provincial, and local levels. When we pause that reproduction, it becomes clear what is hiding behind this ubiquitousness: the assumed innocent neutrality of these powerful terms. But how neutral are they? What do they mean? And to what effect? Without this confrontation, we leave the experience of everyday life vulnerable to the unacknowledged and potentially problematic qualities of these ideas. In African cities in particular, the urban everyday reveals that we cannot assume this neutrality where years of doing so have produced tangible complexities that are far more nuanced than achieving or failing to achieve a set of development targets. The problem is that urban development has been constricted by a framing which imposes particular concepts onto Africa’s cities based on their assumed innocent neutrality, when the everyday experience of those cities indicates these norms to embody powerfully problematic dichotomous hegemonies hiding behind the label of what is simply ordinary.The ‘extraordinary times’ we live in have opened up questions across multiple disciplines, the urban among them, about what the ‘new normal’ will look like. What will be ordinary? We posit that these discussions assume the previous existence of an agreed-upon ‘normal’, captured within the various ubiquitous norms we label as problematically neutral. We argue that a disruptive critique of these normative concepts, grounded in the African everyday, opens up space within which to dismantle this assumed neutrality, laying a foundation for providing actionable suggestions for change, and it is this exciting task which we take up for discussion in this roundtable.We invited participants to provide provocations and contributions on the disruptive powers of the urban African everyday to urban development thinking.

Participants:  Oluwafemi Olajide, AbdouMaliq Simone, Mercy Brown Luthango

NTUA ( Patision complex )

Convener: Angeliki Paidakaki (KU Leuven)

Abstract: This roundtable discussion aims to reconstruct the concept of “resilience” and “housing justice” by shedding light on the political and institutional agency of housing non-profit/non-governmental organizations (NPOs/NGOs) and their alliances to introduce, improve and deliver “housing-for-all” policy aspirations and, in turn, co-produce more egalitarian post-crisis recovery outcomes. It will specifically focus on political claims, actions and strategies of these organizations and their umbrella organizations in their interactions with policy and decision-makers to:

  • leverage support and funding for affordable and adequate housing for all;
  • correct dysfunctional governance arrangements (e.g top-down, pro-market, exclusive decision-and-policy making arenas);
  • address socio-spatial injustices (e.g. gentrification, nimbyism, housing exclusion) and inherent biases within housing policies (e.g. structural racism)
  • widen the range of housing options for needy populations (e.g. minorities, no/low-income, homeless, asylum applicants, refugees, immigrants).

The discussion will facilitate exchanges among housing practitioners (New Orleans and Athens) and urban scholars working with NPOs/NGOs on both sides of the Atlantic (University of Illinois at Chicago and KU Leuven) to (i) co-develop a new and deeper transatlantic understanding of the resilient and just city and its governance in times of “normalcy” and “crisis” (natural disaster, refugee crisis, public health crisis), (ii) facilitate transatlantic exchanges on the nature of NPOs/NGOs’ political engagement and enduring challenges to co-build more open, democratic and bottom-linked modes of governance and fitting the housing system to the needs of all; and (iii) reflect on the urban researchers’ potential in enhancing their professional’s long-term societal and spatial impact in and through their interactions with NPOs/NGOs and other civil society organizations in the field.

Invited speakers: Andreanecia Morris (Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance), Flozell Daniels (Foundation for Louisiana), Lazaros Petromelidis (Greek Housing Network), Nefeli- Myrto Pandiri (ARSIS), Nik Theodore (University of Illinois at Chicago)


Conveners: Bianca Freire-Medeiros & Deborah Fromm

Chair: Deborah Fromm 


"Big politics, marginal histories and power regimes in the urban margins", Nicholas Pope

 "From surveillance cameras to street banners: on different scales of technopolitical devices since São Paulo, Brazil", Janaína Maldonado Discussant: Gabriel Feltran 

B1 Level -1

Prof. Claire Colomb, University College London, Bartlett School of Planning
Prof. Yuri Kazepov, University of Vienna, Department of Sociology
Dr Sonia Arbaci, University College London, Bartlett School of Planning

This round table will discuss the relevance of the concept of ‘European city’ and the legacy of the European scholarship of the past 25 years in the context of the internationalised field of “comparative urban studies” (Le Galès and Robinson, forthcoming). In the 1990s and 2000s, scholars from different European countries (many active in RC21!) produced seminal work that built on Weberian ideas to argue about the distinctiveness of ‘European cities’ in a globalising and neoliberalising world. This was partly a critique of the (then prevalent) application of North-American theories and concepts to explain what was happening in Europe, as well as an attempt at better recognising the diversity of linguistic and disciplinary traditions within the European continent. Several books exemplify this, e.g. Bagnasco and Le Galès (2000), Le Galès (2002) and Kazepov (2005), which have shaped the thinking of subsequent generations of European urban scholars. In the context of broader processes of decentralization of powers to sub-central levels of government, post-Fordist economic restructuring and state rescaling (Brenner 2004; Kazepov 2010), those authors emphasized the importance of considering the political dimension and role of the state as a key analytical entry point in understanding the distinctiveness of European cities. To an extent those debates continue today, as illustrated by critical analyses of ‘neoliberalism’ as an explanatory framework for urban change (Le Galès, 2016; Pinson and Morel Journel, 2016; Gentile and Sjöberg, 2020). The first aim of the round table is thus to reflect on the contribution and continued relevance of this body of work two decades on, in a globalised world that has been mired by multiple crises: economic (e.g. the post-2008 crisis); environmental (e.g. the climate change emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic); geopolitical (the rise of new global powers such as China; the refugee ‘crisis’; the war in Ukraine…) and social (the increase in inequalities in European countries and related spatial inequalities).
Besides, over the past two decades, powerful critiques inspired by post- and decolonial approaches have emerged, in social sciences, which call for the ‘decentring’ of Europe and the reinvention of urban theory from the ‘Global South’. In that context, the huge diversity of ‘Northern’ or ‘Western’ urban research is often simplified into a big ‘black box’. Yet voices from Europe’s ‘South’ and ‘East’ have challenged the dominance of North-Western European scholarship to underline key differences within Europe as well as to quasi-colonial or uneven development relations within the urban “West” (Tulumello 2021). The second aim of the round table is thus to reflect on the contributions from Europe’s ‘South’ and ‘East’ to European (and more broadly, to global comparative) urban studies. Southern European scholars have, for example, stressed the specificities of countries that had recently emerged from authoritarian regimes, had weaker welfare states and more patrimonial, family-oriented forms of capitalism marked by a large informal sector, illegality, and acute territorial divides (Allen et al. 2004; Maloutas 2012; Leontidou 2009; Arbaci 2019; Chiodelli and Gentili 2021; Tulumello 2021). Besides, after the fall of Communist regimes in Central and Eastern European countries in the 1990s, the rapid shift to market economies led to a variety of processes of transition in cities, which were inadequately captured by dominant theories from the USA or North-western Europe (Andrusz et al. 1996; Ferenčuhová 2016; Ferenčuhová and Gentile 2016; Tuvikene 2016; Gentile 2018). The diversity of voices, comparisons and theory-building within European urban studies was consequently greatly enriched by scholars from the ‘South’ and ‘East’ of the continent, on important themes such as socio-spatial and ethnic segregation, informality in the built environment or ‘shrinkage’.
Finally, we will conclude the round table by reflecting on how European urban scholars can/should learn from the postcolonial call to ‘decentre Europe’, while continuing to make a meaningful yet humbler contribution to global comparative urban studies.

- Introduction
Prof. Claire Colomb (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), Prof. Yuri Kazepov (University of Vienna), Dr Sonia Arbaci (UCL Bartlett School of Planning)
- Is there (still) such a thing as the ‘European city’?
Prof. Patrick le Galès (Sciences Po Paris / CNRS) reflecting on his book European Cities (Oxford University Press, 2002), twenty years on
- Enriching European urban studies from “the South”
Prof. Thomas Maloutas (Harokopion University of Athens)
- Enriching European urban studies from “the East”
Dr Slavka Ferenčuhová (Czech Academy of Science, Institute of Sociology)
Dr Anna Zhelnina (University of Helsinki, Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies)
- The post-/decolonial critique and the call for global comparative urbanism: what does it mean for scholars of European cities and how should they engage?
- Questions and debate with the audience