Second ISA Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1-4 August 2012

Research Committee on
Regional and Urban Development, RC21

  on-line programme

Main theme

Cities at the crossroad: Social justice and democratization from below


Programme Coordinators

RC21 Liaison in Argentina
Soledad Arqueros, CONICET,


All Forum participants (presenters, chairs, discussants, etc.) need to pay the early registration fee by April 10, 2012, in order to be included in the programme. If not registered, their names will not appear in the Programme or Abstracts Book.


provisional as of March 15, 2012, in alphabetical order


Business Meeting


Cities and climate change

Joint session of RC21 Regional and Urban Development [host committee] and RC24 Environment and Society
Why and how have large cities, in the North and South hemispheres, taken up the challenge of climate change? Not long ago most of them thought that climate change was the responsibility of national governments and the international community, but attitudes and actions have changed and more and more cities are involved in climate change policy and initiatives.

The purpose of this session is to examine, comparatively, research on urban regions’ response to climate change. Many aspects can be looked at. Firstly, there are the likely social impacts of a warming world on large cities. Urban populations can be differently affected by climate change impacts; for instance new inequalities can arise owing to warmer environments. Secondly, reactions and responses may differ greatly. What is the role of urban governments; what actions are selected and in interaction with whom? Thirdly, how do civil society and social movements take part in an urban policy on climate change?

Finally, urban governance is very often inserted in a web of multi scalar governance: what is the role, if any, of higher tiers of government in climate change policy?

The session is open to research done not only on mitigation measures, but also, and even more so, on adaptation planning. We would like to focus on the contribution of social movements and civil society to climate change policy (claim-making, issue and response-framing, mobilizations, institutional participation, etc.) and on the issue of social and environmental justice (vulnerable urban social groups) with regards to the debate on climate change and its impacts on city


Community governance: Contesting power and socio-spatial inequality

The focus of this session is on urban community governance, and the conditions in which it can provide new political spaces capable of contesting power, inequality and poverty.

Over recent decades questions of urban governance and politics have become increasingly important. In some places, we have witnessed a notable expansion of state programmes aiming to tackle urban socio-spatial inequality through policy interventions focused on disadvantaged urban areas. A common characteristic of this type of programmes is their emphasis on the need to rethink and rearrange ways of policymaking and service delivery, including inclusive participatory processes. In other places, social movements and citizen organisations have occupied urban governance institutions as sites of political action, sometimes in support of government policies, sometimes as bases from which to contest the power of national governments and policies seen to result in inequality and poverty. In some cases, social movements have sought to build their own urban governance institutions in opposition to established structures and the power relations they represent.

There have been active academic (and political) debates around these developments. These raise a number of questions, including: This session will revolve around such questions. As well as seeking positive or negative answers to them, we want to focus on the conditions –political, economic and social- that favour or inhibit the transformative capacity of urban governance.


Do urban planning and practice contribute to social justice and democratization in cities?

The literature on urban planning and practice in peripheral social formations follows at least two different approaches. The first emphasizes the need for State coordination of social actions in a process that some authors call heteronomous. The second, sees State coordination as being unable to promote significant social changes, because of its capitalist nature, but also regards state actions as always favouring reproduction of capital to the detriment of social reproduction. In other words, the State cannot remedy the unequal and perverse character of the socio-spatial differentiation of urban space, which can only be eliminated through the autonomous praxis of social movements.

The problem with the second approach is how to make these autonomous social practices as far as effective governance is concerned, concrete. In the Brazilian case, observed experiences of new heteronomous forms of governance at local level could be considered embryos of practices that incorporate social participation and as such may be more socially concrete than believing only in the possibility of utopian autonomous practice, although utopianism should be considered an illuminating way to guide strategies of social change. Among those practices, the most well-known is the participatory budgeting, which has expanded to many cities in Latin America and beyond with different levels of success.

We invite researchers from all countries of the world and from different parts of Latin America to present critical analyses of experiences of urban planning and practice that can be considered effective and democratic initiatives aiming at social transformation for a just city. The objective of the proposed session is to evaluate, through comparative analyses of different experiences, the extent to which urban planning and practice can actually contribute as potential possibilities of social change.


Governing cities: A comparison of large cities

This session proposal aims to explore, more systematically, the various dimensions of governance in large metropolises. It seeks to go beyond the simple emphasis found in much academic and policy writing on large cities that stresses their over-complexity of governance arrangements or even their ungovernability.

Classical thinking about the government meant looking at either the formal apparatus of government, the institutions, or the general functions and activities. Governments are defined in terms of rules of the game, constitutions, organisations and actors, processes of aggregation and segregation, and outputs.

The governance debate started from the limits of government. This debate has led to a dynamic governance research domain, beyond the “who governs” question, organised around the following questions: The session calls for papers about different dimensions of urban governance in large cities together with issues related to the cities themselves as places and the circulation of ideas/knowledge/policy rationalities between and within them. Papers should also deal with the invisible and dark side of governance including clientelism, corruption, failure, conflicts, utilities, and veto players.


Housing and the right to the city. Part I

Joint session of RC21 Regional and Urban Development [host committee] and RC43 Housing and Built Environment
In recent years responses to neoliberal urbanism and social injustice have been framed in terms of “the Right to the City”, both by academics and social movements. Academics and groups associated with this movement seek to increase social justice, push democratization, and promote empowerment. As always, housing plays a central role in these urban struggles, although it has received comparatively little attention in the academic debate on the Right to the City.

This panel seeks to bring together a number of supporters and supportive critics of a Right to the City perspective on the 21st century housing question on both developed and developing countries. We are interested in case studies of housing struggles from around the globe that are framed within a Right to the City approach as well as in more conceptual and critical contributions.

We also welcome presentations that deal with a critical assessment of social/housing movements that work under the banner of the Right to the City. In particular papers should address questions like:
a) How useful is the concept for increasing social justice in housing?
b) And how useful is it as an academic concept?
c) Has current use trivialized and corrupted Henri Lefebvre’s concept, as Marcelo Lopes de Souza argues?
d) Is a rights-based approach more promising than exclusion-based, relational and other approaches to housing need?

Comparative papers are also particularly welcome.


Housing and the right to the city. Part II

Joint session of RC21 Regional and Urban Development [host committee] and RC43 Housing and Built Environment


Housing and the right to the city. Part III

Joint session of RC21 Regional and Urban Development and RC43 Housing and Built Environment [host committee]


IJURR Lecture: Resourceful cities and citizens: chances and challenges of comparative urban studies


Leisure, urbanization, migration and ethnic relations

Joint session of RC05 Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , RC13 Sociology of Leisure [host committee] and RC21 Regional and Urban Development
The postmodern context of urbanization and migration has become a part of life. The stresses and strains caused by intermingling have resulted not only in new forms of leisure that create an enabling environment for integration and comfort but also possibilities for inter-cultural exchange (including ethnic and racial dimensions) as new entrants introduce the modes of thought and leisure that they bring with them. Tension and/or conflict are also possible outcomes. The aim of this session is to draw together researchers with various sub-disciplinary specialities to examine these phenomena.


Local Welfare: Changing States, Stakeholders Mobilization and Policy Rescaling

Aim of this session is to disentangle the complex relationship between stakeholders’ mobilizations and local welfare arrangements considering the current rescaling processes that social policies are undergoing in most countries of the world disregard the different configurations of welfare systems.

The scalar reorganization of social policies might be seen as an ambivalent outcome of complex welfare reforms aimed, on one side, at contrasting the spread of urban poverty and rising economic and social inequalities and, on the other side, at cutting costs and devolving the burden of cuts to the local level within neoliberal strategies.

Reforms had and still have a different impact in different institutional, socio-economic and socio-demographic contexts. These contextual differences and their interplay need to be understood in order to be able to understand the different impacts of mobilizations, conflicts and activation policies.

The recent crisis worsened the situation hitting different countries unevenly and set new relations between national / central policies and local policies

Within this picture stakeholders mobilization plays a relevant role both in hindering change (e.g. defending privileges) or fostering social innovation (e.g. developing inclusive multi-actor, multi-level arrangements). Most often the local level is the level at which both take place.

Papers to be submitted to this session should try open the black box of multi-scalar and multi-actors arrangements, trying to understand the complex dynamic between actors and territories which conflate at the local level.

In particular, papers should try to address the analytical tools needed to understand the implications of these changes and more specifically of the problematic and controversial degree of autonomy that cities have in addressing urban poverty, social exclusion and the consequences of the economic crisis.

Papers should also provide theoretically driven empirical studies which comparatively describe similarities and differences across countries and cities in the global south and the global north trying to understand why and how these differences come about.

The coordination between actors and levels of government can be analysed within this framework, as well as the similarities and differences in the repertoires of actions taken within different contexts. How does this change the conditions of democracy, social inclusion and social citizenship?


Migration, migrants and the development of inclusive urban cultures and identities

Joint session of RC21 Regional and Urban Development and RC31 Sociology of Migration [host committee]
In many multicultural migrant and post-migration cities, similar contradictory trends can be observed in the field of cultures and identities. On the one hand, the pull towards segregation, exclusion, discrimination and ethno-national withdrawal is undeniable, though it may vary from country to country and from city to city. On the other hand, the pull toward residential integration, co-inclusion, cultural encounters, cultural métissage is just as undeniable, though it may seem on the wane compared with the last decade in the 20th century.

In order to make sense of these observed contradictory trends, the session will explore discourses, policies and practices in the local artistic field of post-migration multicultural cities by addressing the following questions: how do cities construct diversity discourses and policies? How do migrants and following generations mobilize in the local artistic scene? What type of collective identities (post-colonial, religious, trans-ethnic, religious, etc.) and ethnicities are publicly expressed and constructed in the field of arts? Are immigrant and ethnic artists and productions supported by official cultural institutions? Are local cultural policies becoming multicultural? How do migrant and ethnic artist mobilize in order to change cultural policies? What is the contribution of policies and practices in the local artistic field in contrasting inequalities and poverty in multicultural settings/neighbourhoods in an innovative way? etc.

The session clearly combines top-down and bottom-up perspectives from a variety of large, mid-size and small cities across the globe and welcomes papers addressing the issues comparatively or on the basis of single case studies.


Public spaces in global metropolises: Form, function, and meaning. Part I


Public spaces in global metropolises: Form, function, and meaning. Part II


Segregation(s) and urban inequalities in major cities around the world. Part I


Segregation(s) and urban inequalities in major cities around the world. Part II


Social justice and voice: Urban suffering between transformations of the city and participation

The session aims to focus on the relationship between two issues that the scientific debate tends to deal with separately:

a) The first one regards the relationship between social justice and participation in interventions against social exclusion and it is central in the analysis of urban regeneration policies based on methods of consultation and negotiation. In both scholarly and public debates, skeptics and supporters of participation confront one other with the same vigour. While recognizing the difficulties involved, supporters tend to underline positive aspects such as more efficient mechanisms of consensus, more integrated and appropriate solutions and an improved democratic process. Its critics object that participation generally involves only a few subjects and ends up reinforcing inequality. From this point of view, we should understand how participation impacts on access to opportunities, resources and rights.

b) The second issue concerns the worsening conditions in urban suffering because of different and interwoven factors: dynamics regarding income and employment, the impoverishment of social relations, the growing spatial concentration based on income and ethnicity, the difficult access to opportunities and rights (especially for immigrants). The problem here is to understand: i. how these conditions are changing in relation to the changing dimensions (tangible and intangible) of social life in contemporary cities; and ii. how, in both analysis and interventions, we can give the appropriate space to the agency and the voice of those who experience these changes.

In order to connect and to discuss these topics, this call for papers intends to address the following questions: We expect to receive theoretical and empirical papers. Cross-national papers are especially welcome.


The role of design and social justice in 21st century cities: Paradoxes and challenges

During the last decades urban sociology embraced increasingly interdisciplinary approaches in order to deal with structural variables and, at the same time, to focus on political and cultural processes. In fact, new challenges are added to the city’s research agenda: the role of the so called “creative economies” and their strong association with design poles, the development of and the wager on non-polluting cultural industries, the virtualisation of a large part of the economic and financial processes as well as of the political and social ones. All these changes coexist with other classic problems of urban sociology: socio-spatial segregation, renovation processes, and the persistence of social injustice within the city.

This session intends to tackle present day urban policies – particularly those referred to the design of public and housing space – in a scenario where vast social sectors find it increasing difficulties to access urban “centrality”., simultaneously with a sustained deployment of real estate capital, that radically modifies our cities’ geography as “urbanisation by dispossession”.

We solicit papers focusing on critical analyses of specific policies linked to socio-political processes of urban transformation. Which tensions and paradoxes do emerge?

In particular what is the role of design (urban, house planning, objects and communications) in urban change? What is the relation between the “rights to beauty” and the “rights to the city”?

Papers should address these issues critically, eventually analysing cases highlighting the challenges posed by a democratic, inclusive and fair policy in the cities.

Papers might also address the redesign of the city’s image (what has been called “city trademark”) and the way in which it has participated in the process of urban renovation and, eventually, in the logics of enlarged capital reproduction that has marked most of the urban transformation processes in many countries during the last few decades.

El papel del diseño y la justicia social en las ciudades del siglo XXI: paradojas y desafíos

A lo largo de las últimas décadas la Sociología Urbana profundizó un movimiento hacia la interdisciplinariedad que, a la vez que atendía las variables estructurales, apuntaba simultáneamente a los procesos políticos y culturales. Efectivamente, nuevos desafíos se han ido sumando a la agenda de la investigación sobre la ciudad: el rol de las llamadas “economías creativas” y su fuerte asociación con los polos de diseño, el desarrollo y la apuesta por las industrias culturales no contaminantes, la virtualización de una buena parte de los procesos tanto económicos y financieros como también de los procesos políticos y sociales. Todos estos cambios conviven con problemas clásicos de la Sociología Urbana: la segregación socio-espacial, los procesos de renovación y la persistencia de la injusticia social en la ciudad.

La sesión propone abordar las actuales políticas urbanas –en particular aquellas referidas al diseño del espacio público y habitacional- en un escenario donde coexisten dificultades crecientes en amplios sectores sociales para concretar el acceso a la “centralidad” urbana, a la vez que se experimenta el despliegue sostenido del capital inmobiliario, que modifica radicalmente las geografías de nuestras ciudades, en clave de “urbanización por desposesión”.

Se solicitan ponencias que apunten lecturas críticas centradas en el análisis de políticas específicas ligadas a los procesos socio-políticos de transformación. ¿Qué tensiones y paradojas emergen?

Las ponencias deben abordar estos aspectos críticamente, analizando casos que subrayen los desafíos planteados para alcanzar una política democrática, incluyente y justa en las ciudades.

Las ponencias también pueden centrarse en el rediseño de la imagen de la ciudad (lo que se ha llamado “la marca ciudad”) y el modo en que ha participado del proceso de renovación urbana y, por último, de la lógica de reproducción ampliada del capital que ha marcado la mayoría de los procesos de transformación urbana en numerosos países a lo largo de los últimos años.


Urban conflicts, comparative studies and planning. Part I


Urban conflicts, comparative studies and planning. Part II


Urban movements in the new metropolitan context

Joint session of RC21 Regional and Urban Development and RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements [host committee]
It seems that the diversity of urban movements has increased a great deal over the last thirty years. This could be explained among other things by the expansion and fragmentation of urban landscape in reference to the emergence of ‘new metropolises’.

To what extent are urban movements able to challenge and/or adjust their actions to these urban forms? For example, do their interventions are increasingly articulated to multi-scalar politics that are accompanying metropolitan governance? In that respect, to what extent one can say that their current mobilizations are moving beyond the localism that have often characterized their engagement in the past, as this was often criticized for limiting their political impact? Is it possible to relate urban mobilizations to issues of social justice and democratization? Do urban movements create innovative forms of internal organization?

This panel will explore the new forms of social mobilization that urban movements are defining in different social, cultural, economic and political contexts. The particular conditions created by the global economic reorganization will be especially considered.


Urban outskirts: Renewed conflicts in a comparative perspective

In recent decades, the social and political dynamics of poor urban outskirts have changed extensively around the world, in heterogeneous ways. Everywhere, however, the keywords of the debate on these territories: poverty, labor markets, immigration, social housing, urban infrastructure, collective action, religion and violence have been displaced. This Session aims to reflect, in a comparative perspective, on the ongoing changes at the margins of the contemporary city, focusing on social and political conflicts that emerges from these territories.

Recent works demonstrate that state and public policies are also dealing with these conflicts in paradoxical ways. On one hand, by developing social and urban governance that combines different types of assistance, territorial management and repressive programs; on the other hand, by allowing state governance to coexist – almost everywhere – with informal, illegal and illicit markets administration.

Sometimes, even the codes of conduct for daily life in urban outskirts have been ruled both by law and informal codes, if not by criminal gangs. The ways of operating this repertoire of action (and governance) in everyday life, as much as the civil and political consequences of the coexistence of these “political” devices of management in the contemporary city are far from being well understood by the comparative literature.

Breaking with the thesis of absence of state, governance or social policies in urban outskirts, and focusing on the relationship between these different forms of governance that coexist in those territories, this session aims to describe and analyze:

Papers should address the following questions: how does the immanent conflict that constitutes these poor neighborhoods work in everyday urban life? How does it appear in public spaces? How these public figurations of contemporary urban conflict constructs renewed forms of political action? How the state and other social actors try to manage these territories and populations? How crime and violence appear in these situated sceneries, or in a comparative perspective? The proposal dialogues necessarily with Urban Sociology and Anthropology, Urban Planning and the thematic researches about politics, social policies, labor, religion, family, collective action, crime and violence.

Papers should focus on empirical and substantive analytical contributions, in order to enhance the capacity of comparative discussion


Urban planning and public policies for social and ethnic mix: 'faith-based displacement activities' or effective instruments against socio-spatial exclusion?


Urban studies and the challenge of travelling concepts and comparative methods

Most urban theories originates in the efforts of one scholar - or a school of scholars - to understand the specific urban locale where they live and/or study. The experiences of English cities during the industrial revolution, of of German cities at the start of the twentieth century, or Chicago a little later, or Los Angeles more recently, become the basis of "theories" that are then applied elsewhere, and which are sometimes accorded a quasi-universal status. Theories travel uneasily, however: whilst theories sometimes illuminate and reveal, they sometimes distract and obscure. This has become more striking at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first, as cities across the global South have grown not only at extraordinary speed but also in ways and directions that differ in many respects from their antecedents in the global North.

Whilst urban sociologists collectively now use a wider range of methods than ever before, not all methods are used equally in all parts of the world. Quantitative data is much more readily available in cities across the global North than in the cities of the global South. But are all methods equally valuable in different urban settings? Are some cities more usefully studied with one or other method than others?

This session will examine how theories travel around the world, how methods can be applied in diverse settings, and how the experiences and characters of diverse cities across the world can be harnessed in comparative or even global analyses.




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November 2012