EURA 2020 Conference Tracks

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” in France 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 vs. degrowth, 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.


  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

1. Wealth vs. poverty

Track chairs:

  • Kristin Aarland, Senior Researcher, NOVA, OsloMet
  • Kim Astrup, Senior Researcher, NIBR, OsloMet
  • Karsten Zimmermann, Professor, Technical University of Dortmund, Germany

Poverty is not only a result of low incomes, but also high living costs. Urban growth increases housing demand and imposes spatial constraints for new housing construction, which in turn inflate house prices and correspondingly living costs. However, house prices tend to exhibit considerable intra-urban variation. As low-income households gravitate towards low-cost areas within urban regions, neighborhoods tend to be segregated by income and/or ethnicity and the level of public services. This pattern of spatial segregation raises issues of social sustainability and spatial inequality. On the other hand, residential integration does not necessarily ensure social integration and a sense of local community across socioeconomic and ethnic divisions. We invite theoretical as well as empirical papers, comparative work is most welcome.  


  • How do the tensions between wealth and poverty affect cities and citizens?
  • How are tensions between wealth and poverty understood, addressed and handled in and by cities? What are the consequences for social and spatial equality?
  • Does socio-economic mixing promote social integration or social alienation? What role does ethnicity play in this regard?

2. Sustainable vs. unsustainable urban development and growth vs. degrowth

Track chairs:

  • Daniel Galland, Assoc. Professor, NMBU
  • Gro Sandkjær Hanssen, Research Professor NIBR, OsloMet
  • Marta Lackowska, University of Warsaw, Poland

Sustainable urban development models, strategies, policies and tools are operating in nearly every geographical and political context around the world. Urban spatial development and growth measures of cities are essential as they influence economic performance, public health conditions, and determine social cohesion and segregation. These measures vary widely in different geographical contexts as regards available approaches, policy instruments and forms of implementation. Compact city policies, for instance, focus on reducing the negative impacts of urban development on the surrounding environment, while green cities place emphasis on green infrastructure and local self-supply within cities themselves. Differences in policy interventions and planning practices are largely due to the miscellaneous drivers that urban regions experience today: multi-locality of live-work arrangements, migration, economic pressures, concentrated growth and transport challenges. We invite papers that reflect on contemporary trajectories in urban development and growth.


  • How are cities and their surroundings balancing their growth/degrowth ambitions with the need for social and environmental sustainability?
  • How is the balance between the urban core and its surrounding suburbs, cities, villages and rural areas addressed and coordinated? 
  • How do the tensions between past and futures affect urban development on the one hand and belonging on the other?

3. Representative democracy vs. network governance vs. populism?

Track chairs:

  • Jan Erling Klausen, Assoc. Professor, University of Oslo
  • Alistair Jones, Assoc. Professor, De Montfort University, Leicester, England
  • Ivan Tosics, PhD, Metropolitan Research Institute, Budapest and URBACT Programme Expert

How do cities handle tensions between representative and participatory democracy, and between expert based network governance and populism? How can cities cope simultaneously with democratic practices that distribute and concentrate powers that shape joint urban futures? How can participatory democracy enhance solidarity among city dwellers?

While cities are hailed by Beauregard as ideal places for democracy to thrive, urban democracy faces pressures from several directions. Pressures from privileged elites and business interests collide with populist pressures from marginalised groups. This track explores urban democratic practice in light of issues around transparency and accountability, inclusion and exclusion. We welcome papers that investigate democratic engagement and urban/local state-society relations in the context of representative, direct democratic or collaborative governance processes.


  • How does the development of cities and networks transform urban governance?
  • How can future cities counter political exclusion based on for instance gender, ethnicity, religion, health, disabilities, sexuality or poverty?
  • How can cities nurture greater potential for direct democratic action, transparency, solidarity and conflict resolution at grassroots level?

4. Inclusionary and tolerant vs. exclusionary and intolerant cities

Track chairs:

  • Per Gunnar Røe, Professor, University of Oslo
  • Lisbet Harboe, Assoc. Professor, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design
  • Andi Nygaard, Assoc. Professor, Centre for Urban Transitions, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

Inclusiveness, diversity and tolerance are key issues when city politicians, planners and builders envision city futures and urban transitions. However, urban environments and commons, public and semi-public spaces, and neighbourhoods are often characterized by the co-existence of tolerance and intolerance, and inclusiveness and exclusiveness. These contrasts are frequently present in the everyday practices and experiences of individuals and social groups, and in the formal and informal processes of civil society and  politics. The aim of this track is to explore social practices and structures relating to tolerance and intolerance, as well as the role of policies, planning participation and interventions. 


  • How is tolerance and intolerance, and inclusiveness and exclusiveness articulated in urban environments and city futures?
  • How can urban policy, planning and design facilitate greater tolerance and inclusiveness in cities and city regions, and at different spatial scales in urban hierarchies, such as districts, neighbourhoods, public spaces and commons? What are the barriers and solutions to achieving this?
  • What theories, discourses and conceptualizations of tolerance and inclusion may be explored in urban policies and practices?
  • Whose tolerance matters, which groups are tolerated and why? When and how are exclusionary and/or inclusionary practices naturalized as part of everyday practices and politics? 

5. The multiethnic urban community vs. the ethnically divided city

Track chairs:

  • Bengt Andersen, Research Professor, AFI, OsloMet
  • Paula Russell, College lecturer, University College Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  • Erika Gubrium, Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, OsloMet

Immigration is one of the main drivers for urban transformation. Cities are the main receivers of migrants and can be seen as laboratories for how to construct and find suitable solutions for the multiethnic society. Today, multiethnic or superdiverse cities are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Related, but somewhat conflicting, political and scholarly issues are inclusion – cohesion – security and exclusion – friction – insecurity. There are competing conceptualizations of the socially sustainable multiethnic city and disagreement about the policies required to (potentially) achieve such an urban society. While some cities become more polarized and residentially segregated, and seemingly put little effort into counter such developments, other cities strive to create a more inclusive urban society and a more integrated urban fabric.


  • What characterizes cities that ‘make integration work’?
  • What are the conditions for social cohesion in ethnically diverse cities?
  • What drives polarization and segregation in urban environments – and what are the social/societal, cultural, economic and political effects of such “cleavages”?

6. Creative urban methods

Track chairs:

  • Henry Mainsah, Researcher, Consumer Research Norway (SIFO), Oslo Metropolitan University
  • Ignazio Vinci, Assoc. Professor, University of Palermo, Italy
  • Dagny Stuedahl, Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, OsloMet

Urban researchers and practitioners are increasingly recognizing that in order to capture the variety and dynamism of urban sites and experiences across space and time, they need to be more creative and inventive in their approach to methods. New interdisciplinary methodological synergies are being developed within domains such as art, design, anthropology and architecture, implying that urban research is increasingly the result of an original combination of qualitative and quantitative data. Collaboration between academics, artists, activists, practitioners and others is spurring the invention of new methods and formats for facilitating citizen participation and new ways of impacting material and infrastructural environments. This calls for renewed focus on the repertoire of skills, craft and technologies that can be mobilized in urban research to conduct inquiry that is playful, experimental, speculative and open-ended.


  • What meaning and role do creative methods have in urban research?
  • Which techniques and devices enable these creative methods and how can they be adapted and fine-tuned?
  • How can inquiry generated using creative methods be framed epistemologically and ontologically?
  • How can the knowledge deriving from creative methods be transferred into urban policy?