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Contradictions Shaping Urban Futures

At a time when an increasing share of the global population is living in urban areas, there is a need to re-examine the role(s), which cities take in coping with today’s challenges and contradictions.

The EURA conference in Oslo 2020 takes as its inspiration Robert A. Beauregard’s book (2018) ‘Cities in the urban age’, as well as protests in European cities where groups like the “gilets jaunes” take to the streets to make their voice heard. Both the book and the protests underline that urban policies matter, have impact beyond the urban sphere and are worth fighting over.

With this startingpoint, the 2020 EURA conference seeks to focus on contradictions that are generative for urban life, and thus contributing to shaping its future. Even though cities are facing many of the same contradictions, they are recognized, problematized, politicized and handled in different ways, and consequently also have differing influences on urban life. Rather than focusing on how visions about urban futures are driving our cities, like “smart city”, “just cities”, “green cities”, “environmental healthy cities” etc., the objective of EURA 2020 is to better understand the underlying contradictions that affect how the urban visions are materialized. 

Depending on political visions for the city and the power balance between urban actors, the contradictions nurture urban development in different ways – benefiting some interests and groups, while possibly worsening the situation for others. More specifically we want to explore how contradictions like wealth vs. poverty, sustainable vs. unsustainable urban development and growth, representative democracy vs. network governance vs. populism, inclusionary and tolerant vs. exclusionary and intolerant urban policies,  the multicultural urban community vs. the ethnically divided city are shaping our cities. The contradictions are not fixed – they intersect with each other and are objects of contestation among actors who seek, in their own ways, to shape their city.

With this point of departure, we want to invite researchers to consider five analytical tracks, each focusing on a pair of contradictions. There are interfaces and connections between each of the conference tracks, which will provide opportunities for productive discussions and conversations and help to address the overall theme of the Oslo Conference – Contradictions shaping urban futures. To approach the complexity of urban ‘wicked problems’ we include a sixth track focused on urban creative methods. We invite theoretical as well as empirical papers, comparative work is most welcome.

Tracks

  1. Wealth vs. poverty
  2. Sustainable vs. unsustainable urban development and growth
  3. Representative democracy vs. network governance vs. populism?
  4. Inclusionary and tolerant vs. exclusionary and intolerant cities
  5. The multiethnic urban community vs. the ethnically divided city
  6. Creative urban methods

Read more about the conference tracks

About EURA

Launched at an international conference held in Brussels, Belgium in September 1997, the European Urban Research Association (EURA) aims to encourage international exchange and co-operation in relation to urban research, to stimulate and encourage interdisciplinary and cross national urban research, and to contribute to urban policy debates.

In the 21 years since EURA was founded the international focus on urban issues has strengthened, particularly in the last decade. The UN Habitat III Summit held in Quito in 2016 agreed to back a ‘New Urban Agenda’ while in the EU urban issues and concerns have also come to the fore in policy making. Recent important EU policy statements include the Riga Declaration 2015 and the Pact of Amsterdam, 2016.

Given these developments, high quality, academic interdisciplinary urban and regional research and analysis are needed more than ever. So too, is effective cross national research and policy exchange. Since its establishment EURA has strongly advocated the need to develop sound European urban policies. Now that there is growing awareness and engagement at both international and EU level with this perspective, it is crucial that academics engage in the debate, producing innovative and challenging ideas and research.

As a well-established international network of urban scholars EURA promotes innovative research design, exchange of knowledge and policy-transfer and, in particular constantly reiterates the importance of building strong bridges between research and policy. Members of EURA, while recognising the difficulties, want to help policy makers support social integration and collaboration in the area of urban policy. It is hoped that policy makers will come to appreciate that researchers have an important contribution to make. Our aim in the period ahead is that our shared agenda in relation to urban challenges can be developed, explored, extended and indeed challenged.

Among other initiatives, the EURA Journal, ‘Urban Research and Practice’, plays a key role not just in advancing knowledge and understanding, but also in bringing forward policy suggestions. Our Working Groups are another tool in that direction. Our annual conferences provide a space for urban academics and practitioners to meet face to face and engage in international exchange and debate. For colleagues at an early stage of their careers our Best Paper Prize and the Young Scholars Award, are key supports.

The Young Scholar’s Award may be a travel grant for the visit of the next UAA conference; the Best Paper Award will give the author the opportunity to publish his paper in Urban Research and Practice. The paper has to go through the normal refereeing process.