Creating Online and Offline Spaces for Thinking about ‘Caring Cities’

Words and images by urban femina*

Last year, in February 2020, urban femina’s team arrived in Vienna with a lot of new ideas, but nothing happened as planned. With the ban on social gatherings, the closure of meeting spaces and universities, all projects were difficult to carry out. Over the months, it has been hard to be deprived of physical spaces for reflection and sharing, at a time when all our thoughts on urban space and the world in general have been turned upside down. Therefore, urban femina has tried to create both online and offline spaces to share some reflections on topics fundamental to feminist issues of our urban and global world.

The first online space that has been created is a section named ‘Conversations’ on urban femina’s website under which one member of the collective proposes an article every Monday. Because writing what we think and feel is so important, creating this writing space for each of us seemed to be paramount. The rich diversity of the articles reflects the diversity of our interests but also of feminist issues within urban studies.

Based on field experiences, Vivi Herrera and Claire Griffith joined forces to write an article on Superkilen in Copenhagen, and questioned themselves on the access to all of this specific public space and the logics behind this project. Both Ines Tijera and Belen Iturralde introduced their thesis topic on, respectively, gendered mobility and the practice of biking, and issues of mobility and care work in the Superblock project in Barcelona. Marina Comojo introduced her thesis topic as well on the domestic sphere, housing and gender. Other articles, such as those of Mili Hurtig and Sarah Gamrani, were cries from the heart to try to see the city from another angle: where did our emotions, poetry, care and fun go in cities?

Since the health crisis, cities are changing, but so are we. What are the impacts of these changes on our urban lives? Lea Lewitan wrote an article on mental health in cities during the time of COVID-19. At a time when borders are thickening or even closing, and when we are experiencing different relationships to territories and global mobility, Claire Griffith questions herself on the meaning of place, space, and home. Finally, Julia Munroe and Vivi Herrerra provided thought-provoking articles on the inclusion of everyone, in both gentrified urban spaces, such as in the Lavapiés neighborhood in Madrid, and to a greater extent in feminist reflections.

In a nutshell, these articles are a mirror of the past year: 2020 has been exhausting, full of doubts, laughter, stress, changes, but it has been an important year in our reflections to build a more caring and feminist world.

The second offline space was a radio show hosted by Claire Griffith and Vivi Herrerra at TRadioen at the University of Copenhagen. Every Sunday, they would invite one or several guests on the topic of their choice. It was a great opportunity for urban femina’s members to talk about their interests and research topics, while inviting other people to take part in the conversation and debate. This space functioned as a real space for speech and exchange, at a time when we had less of it in “real life”. Among the variety of topics, we continued discussing how the pandemic has transformed our everyday experiences by making care visible.

Care is embedded throughout the entire structure that sustains life, from the urban public sphere to the domestic private domain. Both urban and domestic built environments are not neutral but hinders or contribute to care about others and ourselves.

For every show, Sarah Gamrani curated an exclusively female soundtrack in order to showcase all the raw talent of womxn in the music industry. The idea came to Sarah when she started a monthly residence on a French radio station called Dia Radio, as a DJ, that she called “The Medusa’s Sound” in reference to the French author Hélène Cixous. She wrote “The Medusa’s Laugh” in 1975 where she explained the importance for womxn to write, and to have womxn’s writing. Well, in her music residence, she wanted to do the same with music, and continue with this idea at T-Radioen.

Claire and Vivi, can you tell us more about how the radio shows started and what you did there?

Our current trajectory, individually and as a collective, is inherently transient. Each semester of our master brings us to a new city, a new context: we are always confronting new-ness. One of our aims is to CONNECT with local partners, bringing together knowledge, energy, creativity. Through partnering, we are able to root ourselves, even temporarily, in the place we live. We approach each city open to the possibilities it holds.

When part of urban femina arrived in Copenhagen In September 2020, we connected with the team at T-Radioen, a student-run and programmed radio program supported by Copenhagen University . As described by the team behind it, “T-Radioen is a way to rethink the radio to our times, through the platform This allows us to mix traditional audio based programs with the widely used video-format of today, while introducing an interactive element that allows the listeners and your fans to communicate more closely with the different programs”. Jacob, Hjalte and Daniel’s enthusiasm was infectious, and quickly we began to collaborate on a weekly radio program: Sharing the Caring City, through which urban femina found a space to communicate, in a clearer format for a broader audience, everything we are thinking, reflecting and working on about the caring city. Each show was conceived, elaborated and hosted by a different constellation of urban femina members, sometimes with outside guests. Often the weekly host chose a question that was close to their heart which they wanted to approach, explore and dialogue with.

What does it mean to care? How can we understand our emotions? Is feminism also for men?

These were some of the questions that we opened and talked about. Our message reached the United States, France, Mexico and all the way to Argentina and South Africa, where, despite the time difference, our beloved ones and other incredible people stayed tuned. Thanks to the great team at T-Radioen who have turned our radio show into a podcast, we want to share the caring city with you at any time, at any space. Enjoy it!

If you are curious to look at all the content created by urban femina, you can visit urban femina’s website. All the content outlined in this article can be found under the section ‘Conversations’ and ‘Radio Show’.

*urban femina is a multi-disciplinary collective of women undertaking the 4CITIES Master Program (2019-2021) and an exploratory space to collectively reflect on gender, sexuality and identity in public spaces.