David Bassens

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Professor of Economic Geography

Courses

Urban Geography

Research interests

Keywords: financial geography, urban political economy, world/global cities, Europeanization

Analysing ethnic credit mechanisms: Urban geographers have long since identified the existence of economic activities in urban settings that hinge on a shared ethnicity among segregated (migrant) communities. Yet, to date little is known to what extent financial transactions, such as the access to credit, interrelate with ethnicity. The thesis aims to study ethnic communities in a number of European cities (e.g. the poor crescent of Brussels), who have to some extent been underserviced by the conventional banking system, as to how access to credit is organized by households and small enterprises. The hypothesis is that these communities have to some extent organized parallel (informal) credit systems beyond the conventional sector that may be based on more responsible community-building values.

Financing Urban Development: In many cities contemporary fiscal austerity measures are putting even more stress in ways by which governments can finance urban development. Recent times have seen “new” ways of doing exactly that: tax increment financing, value capture finance, and other finance models are starting to become common tools. The purpose of this thesis is trace one or more of these finance models in multiple cities and start unpacking the power relations involved in such contexts. Potential foci are the (changed) relation between public and private sector, the rising role of financial intermediaries, and the potentially disruptive consequences on the urban fabric. The thesis also welcome an exploration of alternative models (e.g. community land trusts) which counter these potentially adverse trends.

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Department of Geography
Faculty of Science and Bio-Engineering Sciences
Pleinlaan 2, Room F4.53
BE-1050 Brussels

Tel: +32 2 629 33 82

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Claire Colomb

Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (UCL) / Reader in Planning and Urban Sociology

Courses

Geographies of a Globalizing Europe

Research interests

Urban governance, policies and politics:

  • The changing politics of planning and urban development in European cities, with a particular focus on new forms of urban entrepreneurialism, urban marketing and urban governance (UK, France, Germany, Spain)
  • The contested politics of urban regeneration in European cities
  • The combination of “culturalist” and “materialist” approaches in urban political economy
  • European spatial planning and European Union policies with a territorial impact:
  • The impact of the EU on spatial planning, regional development and urban policies across Europe
  • The European agenda on spatial planning and territorial cohesion
  • European cross-border and transnational cooperation networks between cities and regions (e.g. INTERREG programmes), and their impact on policy learning and cognitive Europeanisation

Comparative planning:

  • Comparative spatial planning cultures and systems in Europe / the transformation of planning systems and practices
  • Devolution, decentralization and spatial planning in “contested” states (UK/Spain/Belgium)

Urban sociology:

  • The impact of urban and planning policies on gentrification, segregation, “diversity” and social mix in European cities
  • Urban social movements and social mobilizations surrounding planning and urban regeneration issues
  • Neighbourhood planning and public participation in planning processes
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Stefan De Corte

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / 4CITIES Programme Director

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
WE DGGF, 4th Floor, Pleinlaan 2
1050 Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 2 629 33 70

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Tatiana Debroux

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Postdoctoral coordinator and lecturer

Courses

Urban Analysis 1

Research interests

Tatiana’s current research includes work on spatial dimensions of artistic activities (e.g. artists’ studios and art galleries, arts districts), historical and contemporary urban dynamics (e.g. gentrification processes), narrative cartography (fictional literature as a source for geographers), and historical mapping (geolocation).

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Pleinlaan 2, Building F
Department of Geography
Brussels, Belgium

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Wojciech Keblowski

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Postdoctoral researcher

Courses

Urban Analysis 1

Research interests

Keywords: urban alternatives, critical urban geography, the right to the city, critical transport, fare-free public transport, citizen participation, participatory budgeting

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Department of Geography
Faculty of Sciences
Building F
Pleinlaan 2
BE-1050 Brussels

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Nick Schuermans

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Postdoctoral Researcher

Courses

European Urban Studies

Research interests

Keywords: Belgium, diversity, enclave urbanism, fear, geographies of education, geographies of encounter, in-depth interviews, privilege, publication strategies, qualitative research, segregation, social mix, solidarity, South Africa, suburbs, urbanity, whiteness

Solidarity in superdiverse cities: Drawing on (participatory) observations, interviews and/or focus groups with people who live, work, play or learn together in superdiverse places, you look for innovative forms of solidarity which develop around the shared use of these places. Depending upon your interests, these places could be schools, parks, factories, sports fields or neighborhood centers, office towers, social housing estates, … in several European cities. How can solidarity be nurtured amongst people who do not have anything in common apart from the place that they share? Do innovative forms of solidarity develop around the joint appropriation and the envisaged common future of shared places?

Encounters in enclaves: Over the last two decades, the global spread of enclosed, mono-functional areas has inspired scholars in the field of urban studies to proclaim the materialization of a new urban geography characterized by enclavism. This ‘enclave urbanism’ is marked by the hardening of socio-spatial boundaries by means of walls, fences and booms and by the imposition of socio-legal agreements and specific governance regimes within the resulting enclaves. Researchers and policy-makers are worried that enclave urbanism inhibits face-to-face encounters with poverty and diversity. They wonder how empathy for inequality and social problems will be engendered if it is never or rarely experienced. Drawing on in-depth interviews with residents of different European cities, you could answer the following questions: does the adoption of enclave urbanism impede all encounters across lines of class, culture and/or ethnicity, indeed? Or do face-to-face encounters inside and in between enclaves still have the potential to challenge the stereotypes of privileged residents?

Diversity in the suburbs: The literature on migration and superdiversity is largely based on case-studies in metropolitan areas. Both in popular discourses and in academic texts, ethnic and cultural diversity is closely related to urbanity. Statistics demonstrate, however, that ethnic minorities are more and more present in suburban areas as well. Drawing on in-depth interviews with suburban residents and/or qualitative analyses of articles in local newspapers, I would like you to investigate how the growing ethnic and cultural diversity in the suburbs is dealt with by different groups of people. Are the newcomers excluded from the social and cultural life in the suburbs? Or does contact among different kinds of people confirm or shatter existing stereotypes?

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Department of Geography, Faculty of Sciences
Building F – Room 6F329, Pleinlaan 2
BE-1050 Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 2 629 3185

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Elena Solonina

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Administrative and Logistics Assistant for 4CITIES and Brussels Centre for Urban Studies

Contact

VUB – Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Room 4F65 (Building F, 4th Floor, room 65)
Pleinlaan 2
1050 Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 2 629 33 70

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Eva Swyngedouw

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow

Courses

Urban Analysis I

Research interests

Keywords: urban sociology, cultural sociology, ethnic- and migration studies, qualitative methods

The diversity of work in the creative and cultural industries: The creative cultural industries flourish in diverse cities like Brussels, Vienna, Copenhagen and Madrid. However, little in-depth studies have been done on how these industries work in practice and their social and spatial embeddedness in the broader urban environment. I invite the students to fill this gap in the literature and to do an ethnography of a creative district/neighborhood (such as Richard Lloyd’s Neo-bohemia about a hipster neighborhood), of a specific cultural industry like theater, music, architecture, or dance (such as David Grazian’s Blue Chicago about the Chicago blues), or of a specific cultural organization or initiative (such as Claudio Benzecry’s The Opera Fanatic on the Colón Opera House in Buenos Aires) in order to analyze the internal diversity of the creative sector/institution/neighborhood in all of its facets.

The governance of (newcomer) migrants and/or diversity in cities: Although the governance of migrants has increasingly become an urban phenomenon, many social science studies still analyze this phenomenon from a nation-state perspective. However, there is a growing need to study empirically the internal variations of citizenship ideologies and institutional practices of migrant or diversity management on the ground in cities. I invite students to study these particular urban social practices using ethnographic methods, interviewing and discourse analysis in a (arrival) neighbourhood, or in a specific institution for migration management like newcomer reception offices, asylum centers or immigration offices.

The relation between social interactions and the built environment in cities: Authors like William Whyte, Lyn Lofland, and Jane Jacobs have all studied how the built environment of plazas, subway stations, etc. influenced the social interactions between people in these public spaces. In this regard, Jacobs speaks of a ‘sidewalk ballet’ on the streets of her native New York. I invite students to study ethnographically how the urban infrastructures or the spatial organization of a place impacts social relationships between city dwellers across ethnic and social borders in public transportation, public squares, shops, etc. In this regard, it would be interesting to compare places in order to evaluate what works best under which conditions from a critical urban planning perspective.

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Department of Geography
Pleinlaan 2 Building F – Room 4.70
BE-1050 Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 2 629 3783

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Bas van Heur

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) / Professor of Human Geography and Urban Studies

Courses

Geographies of a Globalizing Europe

Research interests

Keywords: cultural political economy, cultural policy, cultural and creative industries, state theory, experimentation, social innovation, smart cities, urban theory

Elite cities: There is a strong tradition in urban studies of focusing on marginalised populations and the various (social, economic, political, cultural) exclusions that shape our cities. Much less is known about the economic elites (upper middle class, the ‘super-rich’) as the prime beneficiaries of contemporary economic globalisation and the ways in which various types of elites structure and transform urban spaces. It would be particularly interesting to see more research on the lifeworlds and lifestyles of elite inhabitants that focuses on: a) urban leisure activities (sports, the arts, consumption); b) housing (private investment and speculation, gated communities, property development and renovation); and c) education (private education, boarding schools, individual tutoring, school and university rankings).

Higher education and urban development: Research on higher education and urban development has so far mainly focused on the economic impact of higher education institutes and has only started addressing the wider social relations that link higher education to the city. More research is needed in particular on the following issues: a) in-depth analysis of concrete university-community projects; b) discipline-specific dynamics of research and public engagement; c) the role of higher education institutes in property development and master planning; d) architecture and the built environment of higher education.

Cultural and creative industries: The discussion on the role of the cultural and creative industries to urban development has led to many publications that aim to map the location of these industries in order to point to local clusters and to investigate the value chains that are characteristic for different cultural and creative industries sectors. Although important, the following elements are under-researched and deserve more attention: a) the relation between creativity and social innovation; b) cultural and creative industries in peripheral cities and regions; c) the role of micro-firms and independent workers in various cultural and creative sectors; d) the relation between paid, underpaid and unpaid/voluntary labour in shaping urban labour regimes; e) socio-economic diversity and the cultural and creative industries.

Contact

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Department of Geography, Faculty of Sciences
Building F – Room 4.64, Pleinlaan 2
BE-1050 Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 2 629 3377

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