New Urban Life Across the Globe: Activism and Change in a World of Cities

International two-week summer school (7.5 ECTS), 23rd of July to 3rd of August 2018 (deadline for applications: second round of applications: 1st of June 2018).

This IARU Global Summer Program is presented by the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, Centre of African Studies and the Department of Sociology, the University of Copenhagen.

For the first time in human history, more people now live in cities than outside them, and many of the major political contestations of the 21st Century occur in urban settings. Recent years have thus seen a surge in new urban-based political and social movements, experiments in local governance, innovative forms of protest, activism and grassroots initiatives in cities and smaller towns spanning from Barcelona to Istanbul, Hong Kong to Detroit, and Bogotá to Cape Town. Uniting these trends is the belief that the state and traditional political and social institutions cannot meet all the needs arising from urbanization, or that real societal change must begin from below.

These developments demand a new ontology of the political that “sees like a city” and pays attention to urban political life as both localized and globalized, as well as a new epistemology of “the urban” that can take into account the diverse field of politics emerging in cities.

During this summer school, the students will be immersed in critical urban theory and practical approaches to urban ethnography, drawing from a broad range of excellent research at three faculties of the University of Copenhagen. 

The course consists of three phases. In the first phase, prior to arriving at University of Copenhagen itself, students study the syllabus with the aid of online lectures. Students are expected to undertake a short ethnographic exercise and write a synopsis about it, which is to be handed in during the summer school. In the second phase, 24th of July to 4th of August 2017, students come to Copenhagen for a two-week summer school based around interdisciplinary seminars, lectures, debates and field trips. Finally, having submitted a final (reworked) synopsis during the second week of the summer school, the student finishes the course with an oral presentation based on the synopsis.

The aim of the course is to cultivate knowledge of the relation between the urban and social and political change today. Students will develop a general skill in applying urban theory from the humanities and the social sciences on cases from urban societies across the world. Special emphasis will be placed on combining theory from the global north and south. Methodologically, the students will be trained to conduct urban ethnography and to gather qualitative data on selected processes of social and political change that could include activist communities, issues of contested authority, planning controversies and everyday city-making. Finally, they will be trained to work analytically with this kind of data, and to discuss urban theory in relation to the ethnography.

Read more about the summer school.

Apply for enrollment.