USF Seminar Series Awards

Events Funding Grants Awarded News 22nd January 2019

After a very competitive round of applications, the Urban Studies Foundation is delighted to announce the full list of awards for our 2018 Seminar Series Competition. Given a large increase in the overall number of applications, the USF has also taken the unprecedented decision to fund a total of 11 awards in this cohort—three more than expected. Over the coming two years, over 30 events are set to take place in a diverse array of global settings that range across Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, India, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, United Kingdom and the United States. More details for each forthcoming USF Seminar Series can be found below, and further announcements will follow during 2019.

Predicting neighbourhood change using big data and machine learning: implications for theory, methods, and practice

Host institutions: University of California at Berkeley (USA) and University of Sydney (Australia)
Dates: December 2019 (Berkeley) and July 2019 (Sydney)
Lead organiser: Prof. Karen Chapple (UC-Berkeley)
Team members: Prof. Nicole Gurran and Dr. Somwrita Sarkar (Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning)
Contact: Prof. Karen Chapple:

Advances in data science, particularly if informed by critical urban theory, offer the potential to add to our understanding of how neighbourhood change occurs. For instance, real-time data on activity patterns, such as geotagged tweets, can help overturn traditional conceptions of residential segregation. Using machine learning techniques, we can analyse existing patterns of neighbourhood ascent and decline in order to predict gentrification. This project will convene an international group of urban researchers with deep interests in data science in a seminar series to be held at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Sydney. The core members of this group have already been collaborating on a project working with big data to characterize neighbourhood change, particularly gentrification and displacement, in cities on four continents: Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. The seminar series in each venue will consist of day-long discussion focusing on theories and methods of researching neighbourhood change, connecting this group with data science researchers and critical urban stakeholders, followed by a day working with local stakeholders to examine research applications.

Urban metabolism in policy and practice: a global discussion

Host institutions: University of Cape Town (South Africa), Tsinghua University (Beijing, China), Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium)
Dates: May 2019 (Cape Town), July, 2019 (Beijing), October 2019 (Brussels)
Lead organisers: Paul Hoekman (Metabolism of Cities) and Dr. Aristide Athanassiadis (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
Contact: Paul Hoekman:

Urban metabolism is an academic field with significant potential to influence urban development and policy. Urban metabolism methodologies have long been used to better understand resource requirements and impacts in cities, for instance through material flow or ecological footprint analyses. With the surging interest in circular economy, urban metabolism (and other industrial ecology principles) may be able to play a pivotal role in providing a rigorous scientific foundation to sustainability transformations. However, a fundamental yet unanswered question is how urban metabolism principles can be translated to on-the-ground interventions, policy recommendations, or other tools that directly influence and improve urban sustainability.

In collaboration with local partners, and funded by the Urban Studies Foundation, Metabolism of Cities organises a three-part seminar series in 2019 to further the debate around the uptake of urban metabolism in policy and practice. The seminars will each be full-day events (1 day) and will take place in Cape Town (South Africa), Beijing (China) and Brussels (Belgium). Each event will be structured in a similar way and involve city officials, practitioners, and academics. The seminars will have a strongly local content, but lessons and insights from every location will be shared at each subsequent seminar.

Cities in their own right – southern urban planning theories and practices

Host institution: Ardhi University (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Dates: February 28th 2019 onwards (Zanzibar and Muscat)
Lead organiser: Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste (Ardhi University)
Team members: Prof. Nikolaus Knebel (German University of Technology in Oman) and Prof. Nina Gribat (Darmstadt University of Technology)
Contact: Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste:

Cities in the South are transforming into diverse, unapologetic urban centers on their own terms. To understand these terms, we need to revisit the idea of urbanity in places with different layers of opportunity and disparate building environments. This Seminar Series takes place at a time of recurrent questions on what Southern Urbanism actually is. What theoretical propositions are offered to describe Southern cities? And in which disciplines and academic communities do these propositions unfold? While these questions are being asked, there is however one thing in common: The recognition that cities in the South are cities in their own rights. And as such, planning theories and practices ought to seek explanations and signals rooted in an urbanity that is southern.

Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Muscat have a history of contestation over land, but also thriving social interventions that can serve as a starting point for reflections on global contemporary urban environments. It is in these contexts that new planning values can be unpacked and questioned. It is also in these cities that ideas on how to best act and intervene can emerge. We therefore argue that questions of development, growth and urban transformation cannot be treated and measured without assessing the unique local situations for these processes.

With this in mind, the two Symposia planned in Zanzibar and Muscat offer the prospect to venture into a region which remains distinct in its essence of urbanity, but is also connected in a globalized world. We intend to provide participants with a forum to debate the distinctive type of human settlements that constitute African and Middle Eastern cities from a Southern planning perspective. The foreseen debates draw from a number of ongoing research efforts aiming at co-producing knowledge in regions that need to reassess their development goals and planning instruments to incorporate new challenges stemming from global changes.

Gender equity in cities of the MENA region

Host institutions: Cairo University and Arab Academy of Science, Technology & Maritime Transport (Egypt)
Dates: April and November 2019 (Cairo)
Lead organisers: Prof. Heba Allah Khalil (Cairo University) and Dr. Nancy Abd El-Moneim (Arab Academy of Science, Technology & Maritime Transport)
Team members: Nihal Osama, Omar Galal, Asmaa Medhat, Hanaa Gad and Amany Ramdan
Contact: Dr. Nancy Abd El-Moneim:

This series is an initiative to raise the awareness of gender equity in the MENA cities. Women who contribute effectively in the urban workforce, with a high percentage of mobility, must be respected and made feel safe. In conservative societies such as the MENA, gender equality faces many challenges due to customs and traditions; the team aims to foster women’s rights to the city and emphasize the notion of cities’ gender friendliness.

The team aims to organize a series of seminars—Cairo, April and November 2019—to address women’s right to the city within different subjects & related domains and go beyond the three parameters of the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index (GII); health, empowerment, and the labor market. The discussions will look deep at the causes of the limited performance of MENA cities according to the GII and will pose a number of related questions. Are women’s rights respected within the design of the new cities? Are women’s rights taken into consideration while developing/eradicating informal settlements? Is the female perspective regarded in public spaces? Do women have adequate transportation choices that enable them to actively engage in the labor market? These issues will be discussed among various stakeholders from multidisciplinary backgrounds.

The ‘Southern Tilt’ in the urban: embedded wisdom and cultural specificity as pathways to planning

Host institutions: Institute of Public Policy, NLSIU (Bangalore, India) and URBAM, EAFIT (Medellín, Columbia)
Dates: 22nd-23rd August 2019 (Medellín) and 13-14th February 2020 (Bangalore)
Lead organisers: Dr. Anjali Karol Mohan (National Law School of India University), Prof Sony Pellisery (National Law School of India University), Prof. Carlos Cadena-Gaitán (Universidad EAFIT)
Team member: Alejandro Echeverri (Director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Studies, EAFIT University in Medellín)
Contact: Dr. Anjali Karol Mohan:

This two-part seminar series will be organized by the Institute of Public Policy (NLSIU, Bangalore) and URBAM (EAFIT, Medellín). The series seek to evolve innovative, context specific planning pathways and methods that acknowledge the diverse contexts of the global South as well as the global concerns of climate change, natural resource depletion and food insecurity. As the Southern cities experience unprecedented urbanization, planning and management of these cities appears ineffective as evidenced by high levels of poverty and inequality coupled with near breakdown of urban services and amenities. The ineffectiveness is pegged in part, to planning being ‘borrowed’ and ‘imposed’ by knowledge systems developed to suit the Global North. The seminars will push for a radical departure that is ‘inward’ looking. These will foreground historical and contingent geographies of Southern cities to debate the complex layers interfacing planning and new urban forms–sprawls, burgeoning peri-urban and attendant informality and exclusion–to explore alternative (to the Global North) locally rooted knowledge systems as conduits to urban planning and management.

Eco-communities in an urban future

Host institutions: University of Sheffield (UK), University of Birmingham (UK), Cardiff Metropolitan University (UK)
Dates: February 2019 onwards
Lead organiser: Prof. Jenny Pickerill (Department of Geography, University of Sheffield)
Team members: Prof. Peter Kraftl (School of Geography, University of Birmingham), Kirsten Stevens-Wood (Cardiff Metropolitan University) and Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill (School of Geography, University of Birmingham)
Contact: Prof. Jenny Pickerill:

We are exploring the possibilities and potential of eco-communities in an urban future. To do this we are running 3 workshops during 2019 in Cardiff, Sheffield and Birmingham. Making our cities sustainable for an uncertain climatic future is a central focus of urban studies. Sustainable urbanism (also called eco-urbanism), experimental urbanism and postcolonial urbanism are all types of future urbanisms. Future urbanisms’ research, in different ways, examines what governance, infrastructures, materiality and social practices are required to radically transform urban spaces. There is also considerable research examining the processes of these transformations – the how of necessary social, political and economic change. Concurrently, but distinct from this research, is a growing body of work on eco-communities, intentional communities and utopian studies. Eco-communities research is also examining how people are generating new ways of living, often through self-building, self-provisioning, and self-constructing off-grid infrastructures. These workshops are exploring the overlaps between this work on future urbanisms and eco-communities, in order to understand what role eco-communities can have in an increasingly urban future.

Doing indigenous urban research: creative futures and indigenising urban studies

Host institution: School of Indigenous Australian Studies (Dubbo, Australia)
Dates: February 2019 onwards (Dubbo)
Lead organiser: Dr. Holly Randell-Moon (School of Indigenous Australian Studies, Charles Sturt University)
Contact: Dr. Holly Randell-Moon:

The urbanisation of people, space, and the future is occurring on a planetary scale. Indigenous peoples have been insightful scholars of urbanisation, at a local, for hundreds of years. And yet, Indigenous contributions to urban planning and infrastructure are not commonly recognised in dominant historical and policy accounts of cities. The seminar series, ‘Doing Indigenous Urban Research: Creative Futures and Indigenising Urban Studies’, centres Indigenous expertise and history to contemporary urban problems in Australia and demonstrates the relevance of Indigenist research approaches to international urban studies. The seminar series addresses the creative ways Indigenous peoples have contributed to urbanisation in Australia and how urbanisation can support sustainable Indigenous futures. Indigenous expertise and experience of urbanisation in Australia can productively address a number of urban agendas with global implications such as the growing youth demographic of the Indigenous population and approaches to climate change and bio-diversity in urban spaces that can sustainably respond to environmental problems resulting from rapid urbanisation. ‘Doing Indigenous Urban Research’ affirms the centrality of Indigenous contributions to urbanisation and circulates Indigenous expertise and policy-relevant knowledge to global discussions of the urbanisation of the future.

Urban climates: power, development and environment in South Asia

Host institutions: University of Cambridge (UK) and Dartmouth College (New Hampshire, USA)
Dates: 3-7 April 2019 (AAG Conference, Washington), 7-8 June 2019 (Cambridge), 11-12 October 2019 (New Hampshire)
Lead organisers: Nida Rehman (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Aparna Parikh (Dartmouth College)
Contact: Nida Rehman:

In South Asian cities, as with their counterparts in the global North and South, processes of neoliberal urbanization and climate change are bound up in social, environmental, and political contestations, just as they are layered with the sediments of colonial and postcolonial histories. Accordingly, concerns with environmental effects, resources, risks, or conservation are inseparable from the constitution of social identities, forms of citizenship, racial and ethnic divides, processes of militarization or securitization, uneven development, and so on. Future oriented developments for sustainable planning thus necessitate closer attention to messier pasts and presents. In this seminar series, we use climate — in its environmental, political, aesthetic, material, and historical registers — to build a transdisciplinary conversation about the relationships between power, development, and the environment in the South Asian context. In thinking about the climate, we want to foreground the violent and harmful structures, circulations, and afterlives that weight atmospheres, bodies, and landscapes, but also think about how engagement with their materialities, ecologies, and histories might offer latent possibilities for progressive alliances or alternative politics. Our discussions will be structured around three key themes: entanglements (political ecologies, multispecies relationships), liminality (the relationships between the urban and its outsides), and eviscerations (settlement, enclosures, erasures).

Emerging urbanisms in deindustrializing city-regions: the afterlife of leftover spaces

Host institution: Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan (USA)
Dates: January 2019 onwards (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Lead organiser: Prof. Geoffrey Thün (Taubman College, University of Michigan)
Team members: Prof. Martin J. Murray (Taubman College, University of Michigan), Prof. María Arquero de Alarcón (Taubman College, University of Michigan), Prof. Mona El Khafif (School of Architecture, University of Virginia), Prof. Ila Berman (School of Architecture, University of Virginia), Prof. Christa Reicher (Faculty of Architecture, RWTH Aachen University), Prof. Jan Polivka (Faculty of Architecture, RWTH Aachen University)
Contact: Prof. Geoffrey Thün:

This initiative investigates a relational study of four transatlantic urban regions that display acute asymmetries of concurrent growth and abandonment in the midst of larger economic restructuring: the Detroit Metropolitan Region; the Ruhr Region; the Innovation Region “Rheinisches Revier”; and the de-industrializing southern end of the ‘US Northeastern Seaboard’. Successive cycles of urban transformation have created uneven, perforated landscapes which consist of fissures, empty gaps and vacated spaces interspersed amongst and between developed zones of concentrated and thriving activities. Leftover spaces are sites of contestation and uncertainty where rival actors compete for a semblance of control with their own visions of re-use, ranging from spontaneous and temporary to deliberate and semi-permanent.

Through a series of digital workshops and a public symposia hosted at the University of Michigan in Winter 2020, this initiative brings together a collaborative of scholars from the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia and RWTH Aachen University to challenge the notion that all sites of abandonment suffer an identical fate. Using these four regions as subject of analysis and testbeds for speculation, this series explores the intricate relationship between the incremental erasure of the built environment and ongoing interventions that appropriate or produce new kinds of improvisation.

The Welcoming City

Host institutions: Loughborough University (UK), Copenhagen IT University (Denmark), Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (Spain)
Dates: April 2019 (Barcelona), June 2019 (Copenhagen), October 2019 (London)
Lead organiser: Dr. Antonis Vradis (School of Social Sciences, Loughborough University)
Team members: Dr. Blanca Garcés-Mascareñas (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs), Dr. Vasilis Galis (IT University of Copenhagen), Anna Papoutsi (School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham)
Contact: Dr. Antonis Vradis:

The Welcoming City is a series of seminars in Barcelona (April), Copenhagen (June) and London (October) on migrant reception and integration at the city level. The seminars feature one 2-day workshop in these three cities, chosen for their significant variation in municipal and national-level migrant integration practices: from the UK government’s pledge to create a “hostile environment” for undocumented migrants, or the mayor of London’s counter-pledge to protect migration; from Danish national-level policy over officially-designated inner city “Ghettos”, all the way to Barcelona’s unique experiment in providing safe haven for migrants. Never before has the gulf between national-level policy and urban practice within the same country been as wide, and never have similarities in both such policies and practices across cities and countries been as similar in return. The Welcoming City starts from the premise that this is an exciting moment in history when policy and practice can be redrawn and reimagined at the urban level. For this important task, we need not only an interdisciplinary perspective, but a research approach grounded in practice as well. Our series will therefore feature the equal participation of academics and practitioners, including activists, civil society representatives and other stakeholders; and migrants themselves.

Infrastructural futures across cities of the global north

Host institution: University of Manchester (UK)
Dates: September 2019 (Manchester), March 2020 (Philadelphia)
Lead organiser: Prof. Kevin Ward (Department of Geography, University of Manchester)
Team members: Dr. Theresa Enright (University of Toronto), Dr. Michael Hodson (University of Manchester), Dr. Hamil Pearsall (Temple University), Dr. Jonathan Silver (University of Sheffield) and Dr. Alan Wiig (University of Massachusetts, Boston)
Contact: Prof. Kevin Ward:

Infrastructural futures across cities of the global north will involve thinking through the different ways in which infrastructure comes to be present in cities, the nature of its relationship with urbanization and how this might involve, or perhaps even necessitate, a rethinking of the concept itself. More specifically, it will examine how amid ongoing and increasing global economic and political uncertainty, urban policy makers and practitioners appear to be using infrastructure as a means to re-think the place of their cities in the world.

Comprising one workshop in Manchester in September 2019 and a second in Philadelphia in March 2020, this award takes its geographical focus as the global north, where starting in the 1990s, cities have sought out strategies of being in the world as a way to render themselves, and the nations of which they are part, competitive in the emerging multi-national, post-industrializing ‘smart’ economy. Infrastructure, both within and between formerly-industrial cities, is foundational to the economic, environmental, political, and societal challenges faced by cities, even they are woven amid obdurate inherited, industrial landscapes. As such we contend that the past, present and the future of infrastructure offers a productive means for theorizing the turbulent state of ‘the urban’ today and that yet to come.