CURA Events 2021/22

Welcome to the CURA Events and Seminars Programme for 2021-22. This programme sets out current and forthcoming CURA events for the academic year. If you would like to contribute or have any questions, please contact CURA Research Assistant or CURA Deputy Director


September 2021

Guest Seminar: Entrepreneurializing Solidarity. The New Social Economy in (Post-)Austerity Greece

The anti-austerity movement in Greece brought forth novel modes of socio-economic organization based on co-operation and mutual aid, rather than competition and self-interest. By the mid-2010s, what started as protest had mushroomed into an initially informal solidarity economy, signifying both an answer to austerity, and an alternative to the neoliberalization of state-market-subject relations. Making good on their election promise to support this movement, the SYRIZA-led governments of 2015-2019 followed a policy-agenda of institutionalizing a new Social and Solidarity Economy sector (SSE) in Greece. By creating a legal framework to formalize solidarity structures and cooperatives towards the EU’s definitions of ‘social enterprise’, the governmental rationality of this agenda sought to mobilize discourses of ‘social innovation’, ‘entrepreneurship’, and ‘creativity’, in order to incentivize the generation of ‘social impact’. Though partly critical of the entrepreneurial dimensions of this agenda, critical research on the SSE in Greece concurs that these developments by and large prefigure post-capitalist forms of socio-economic organization.

Dimitris’ paper is sympathetic to the transformative potentialities of SSE organizations, but its intervention sheds light on the reproductive side of the coin. In elucidating the epistemics of assuming to be able to evaluate ‘impact’, ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’, ‘utility’ and ‘entrepreneurship’, this paper delineates the ways in which SSE organizations (unwittingly) reproduce the very neoliberal rationalities against which they stand. Specifically, Dimitris shows how these epistemics contribute to the quantification of the social, and the entrepreneurialization of solidarity. Based on these findings, Dimitris will conclude with some theoretical considerations on what we may call an alter-neoliberal critique: against and beyond the epistemological program of neoliberalism.

Dimitris Soudias is HBA Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the London School of Economics. In his doctoral dissertation (Philipps-Universität Marburg, 2019), Dimitris investigated the formation of political subjectivity against the backdrop of crisis and austerity in Greece. His current research explores entrepreneurial practices and governmental discourses of creativity, uncertainty, and imaginaries of the future in the Social Economies of Athens and Berlin. Dimitris’ recent publications include Subjects in crisis: Paradoxes of emancipation and alter-neoliberal critique (The Sociological Review), Imagining the Commoning Library: Alter-Neoliberal Pedagogy in Informational Capitalism (Journal of Digital Social Research), and Spatializing Radical Political Imaginaries: Neoliberalism, Crisis, and Transformative Experience in the Syntagma Square Occupation in Greece (Contention).

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 22nd September 2021 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 22nd September 2021

November 2021

Guest Seminar: Saving St Raphael’s Estate: The Alternative to Demolition

Geraldine Dening, De Montfort University

Over the past 2 years, Architects for Social Housing has worked with residents of St. Raphael’s estate to produce a design alternative to the demolition of their homes by Brent council. Illustrating the proposals for the refurbishment of existing homes, improvement of landscape and community facilities, and infill housing, the report demonstrates the economic viability, environmental sustainability and social benefits of refurbishment over demolition and redevelopment. The embodied carbon of the existing estate is calculated by environmental engineers Model Environments, the sustainability of our proposals is compared with the environmental costs of demolition, and the scheme is costed by an independent QS.

As with all the previous 6 feasibility studies ASH has produced over the past 7 years: Knights Walk, West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, Central Hill estate, Northwold estate and the Patmore co-operative, this report is a case study in sustainable estate regeneration. The work addresses both the need for additional social housing where appropriate and where proposed in collaboration with the estate resident communities, but also the crucial social, economic and environmental importance of supporting, maintaining and improving existing estate communities and their environments in opposition to of the destruction of their homes and the eviction of their communities.

Geraldine Dening is a Senior lecturer, and has taught across all the programmes, at BA and undergraduate level. Geraldine is also the co-founder and Director of Architects for Social Housing (ASH), and a qualified architect with her own practice based in London. Recent projects include designs and feasibility studies for additional housing and improvements to Central Hill Estate in London, in response to the proposal to demolish their estate and to West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates as part of their application for the Right to Transfer. She also devised and coordinated Open Garden Estates: a series of events hosted by estates threatened with demolition; and as ASH’s lead architect she is currently working with a number of Housing Co-operatives to explore new forms of community-led development.

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 24th November 2021 14.30-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 24th November 2021

December 2021

Guest Seminar: A ‘New Type’ of Migrant in London- Changing Expectations for Portuguese Graduates after Austerity

Lisa Franks, University of Kent Alumni

The years following the implementation of austerity measures in Portugal saw an unprecedented shift in the educational backgrounds of those migrating out of the country. Long a ‘sending country’, Portugal has always had an excess of labour and migration has been embedded deep in the Portuguese national discourse for centuries. The focus of this paper, however, presents an alternative form of migration to the image of the rural, uneducated migrant who stands firm in the Portuguese imagination. Put in a wider context, this figure is part of a long term and extensive movement of working age people from rural areas of Portugal to urban centres both in Portugal and around Europe since the middle of the 20th century leading to the desertification of the Portuguese countryside. However, the widening of higher education opportunities in Portugal during what was referred to as the ‘golden years’ of post-EU membership simultaneously led to a drop in migration out of the country. It was only the implementation of formal austerity measures following the 2008-2009 global financial crisis that once again accelerated the departure of up to 110,000 migrants a year out of Portugal, the highest number in Europe, in the period following the debt crisis. This time and for the first time in Portugal’s long history of migration more than a third of migrants had some sort of higher education, representing a cohort who had discovered that the future they had been promised of a more materially comfortable life than that of their parents was no longer possible in their home country. Of this wave of migrants, nearly half came to London in its’ context as a ‘global city’ and one that was considered uniquely cosmopolitan and welcoming to Europeans. This paper emerges from Lisa Frank’s PhD research, during which she undertook almost three years of qualitative ethnographic fieldwork with university-educated Portuguese migrants in London- a period which commenced immediately following the Brexit referendum. The first objective of her thesis was to explore how the choices and outlooks of university educated individuals regarding the desire for a ‘good life’ relate to local and global processes at the individual and household levels at a specific point in history. Her second objective was to examine the expression of these changing desires from a temporal perspective, asking what this tells us about how migratory processes to and out of Portugal in the years leading up to and following the debt crisis of 2008/2009 are understood across space and time. To achieve these two objectives, she scrutinised the role of social and economic changes wrought by the financial crisis and ensuing austerity measures, and the years leading up to it.

Throughout this paper Lisa will share how she came to understand what her Portuguese interlocutors referred to as a ‘new type of migration’ as a conflict between discursive concepts of ‘old’ and ‘new’, often expressed as choosing to migrate for ‘adventure’ as opposed to ‘just for work’. By examining this conflict in the context of a historically specific migratory process, she explores how globalisation and cosmopolitanism have contributed to my interlocutors’ aspirations towards a ‘good life’ in a specifically urban context of ongoing austerity.

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 15th December 2021 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 15th December 2021

January 2022

Guest Seminar: The reproduction of neoliberal urban restructuring from below – Tenants’ political subjectivation between solidarities and authoritarianism in Leipzig, East Germany

In this presentation I will present findings from my PhD on “Housing relations: alienation and the reproduction of neoliberal urban restructuring in Leipzig, East Germany”. Following a brief introduction of my context and an overview of the adapted relational research method, I will present several central concepts generated from a one year qualitative and ethnographic case study. Proposing to study the reproduction of urban restructuring from below through a lens of political subjectivation, I will introduce fragmentations as a central manifestation of residential alienation. Guided by empirical findings, the presentation will illustrate the political impact of these fragmentations in Leipzig.

Leon Rosa Reichle is a PhD student at De Montfort University. Leon is currently focussing on the study of housing relations in the context of urban restructuring in Eastern Germany. This serves as a prism for their broader interests in the social production of space, feminist theory and political economy, governance and the problem of structure and agency, and the implications of neoliberal austerity urbanism in everyday life.

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 19th January 2022 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 19th January 2022

March 2022

Guest Seminar: Working the urban assemblage: a transnational study of transforming practices

Dr. Catherine Durose, Reader in Policy Sciences, Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham |Dr. Merlijn van Hulst, Associate Professor, Tilburg University.

Drawing on our recent article published in Urban Studies, this seminar will direct attention to the importance of human agency in the work of assembling urban transformation. Our cross-national qualitative fieldwork, undertaken as part of the JPI Urban Europe funded Smart Urban Intermediaries project, involved shadowing 40 urban practitioners over 30 months in neighbourhoods across four European cities – Amsterdam, Birmingham, Copenhagen and Glasgow – revealing the catalytic, embodied roles of situated agents in this assembling. We will present practices in a diverse range of socio-material assemblages aimed to address complex problems and unmet needs in the urban environment. The practices we studied were not those of daily routines, but were instead a purposeful assembling that included nurturing and developing of heterogeneous resources such as relationships, knowledges and materials, framed through an emerging vision to inform, mobilise and channel action. Bringing together ideas from assemblage and practice theory, with rich empirical insights, we advance our understanding of how the city made be re-made. 

Catherine’s research is interdisciplinary, spanning political science, public policy and urban studies. She is well-known for her work on co-production (Designing public policy for co-production: theory, practice and change, 2016, Policy Press with Liz Richardson), and has written for Nature on how the academy can better acknowledge and value co-production in research. Catherine is currently working to disseminate the findings from two major research awards on social innovation and co-production in urban governance: the ESRC/ Mistra Urban Futures project, ‘Jam and Justice’, and Joint Partnership Initiative Urban Europe/ ESRC project, ‘Smart Urban Intermediaries’. In parallel, she is undertaking new research on institutional design and change in urban governance, governance of the new commons, and the role of design in policy-making.

Merlijn van Hulst studied Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. After that, he worked as a consultant for Cap Gemini from (1999-2002). Then, Erasmus University Rotterdam hired him to study governance culture (PhD). In January 2008 he moved to Tilburg University. In 2012, Merlijn was one of the organizers of the 7th conference for Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA, 300+ participants). He also acted as the research coordinator and later as a member of the management team my department (2014-2019). Currently, he is an Associate Professor at Tilburg Law School, department of Public Law & Governance. Over the last years, he has been a project leader on various projects, including an international research project on smart urban intermediaries and on civil servants’ work practices.

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 16th March 2022 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 16th March 2022

The “forms of living” in the popular economy of Belo Horizonte/Brazil

Mara Nogueira, Birbeck, University of London

Recent criticisms to the notion of “informal economies” have led to resurgence of the notion of “popular economies” (Gago, 2017; Simone 2019) initially formulated by Coraggio (1989). Popular economy debates recognize the plurality of economic systems while rejecting the modern telos of the “proper job” (Ferguson and Li, 2018). This presentation engages with this tradition to investigate the socio-spatial and temporal dynamics imbued in the forms of living of street vendors in the popular economy of the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Although the country is recognised for having a progressive urban policy, such legislation has ignored the rights to the city of street vendors. This situation combined with the growing commodification of urban space has created increasing difficulties for marginalised urban populations, whose livelihoods are often dependent upon their ability to access workspace. In the city of Belo Horizonte, a recent policy that sought to “formalize” street vendors was implemented in conjunction with an operation to “clean” the city centre, leading to the removal of street vendors operating on public spaces. The urban operation had the purpose of promoting the socioeconomic “inclusion” of the displaced workers by relocating them to popular shopping malls. In this talk, I argue that the operation is aimed at producing socio-spatial order and it does not produce the “formalization” of labour conditions. Drawing from Keith Hart’s original contribution and more recent reflections on the concept of informality, I show how the attempt to impose a “bureaucratic” form to the work of street vendors disrupts their particular “forms of living”. In order to do so, I explore the relationship of street vendors with time and space, analysing how the policy unsettles those arrangements without addressing key aspects of the precarity faced by this population.

Mara Nogueira is a Lecturer in Urban Geography and Director of the MA/MSc Cities Programme at the University of London. She works on the cross-class politics of urban space production, with an emphasis on the (re)production of socio-spatial inequality in urban Brazil. She joined Birkbeck in 2020, having held a fellowship previously at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 30th March 2022 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 30th March 2022

April 2022

Guest Seminar: Securitization of space in Turkey

I will be presenting my recently completed PhD thesis titled ‘Securitization of urban space in Turkey.’ My thesis is initially concerned with how securitization of space is interwoven with gentrification in the study of class relations and national identity (Kurdish question) that involves national security paradigm against terror. I explored, examined, and exposed conflicts and contradictions of securitization of space whilst problematizing it in three organically interpenetrated levels; theoretical, methodological, and empirical. I developed a constructive critique of Copenhagen School’s ‘securitization theory’ and its (empirical) application. At the same time, I methodologically built and put forward an alternative interdisciplinary diagnostic model through its multidimensional theoretical framework; ‘glocal securitization’ (glosec). I applied the novel glosec model with its new conceptualizations and perspectives to study, examine, interpret, and analyse multi-scalar complex social processes, actors and events through an empirical case study of Diyarbakır City, focusing on the period between 2000 and 2020. My theoretical discussions and empirical illustrations with the dialectical approach unpacked how glosec shapes and transforms space and society at multi-scalar levels whilst reinforcing the reproduction of contested spatial hegemony of neoliberal glocal capital and capitalist classes involving the identity politics in Turkey.

Ibrahim Has holds a MA in political economy from the University of Manchester and a BA in De Montfort University in accounting and finance. He is a member of Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA). In this seminar Ibrahim will present his thesis on ‘securitization of urban space in Turkey’. An abstract for this presentation will be provided in January 2022. 

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 13th April 2022 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 13th April 2022

May 2022

A Feminist Reading of the COVID-19 Crisis: Social Reproduction and Inequalities

Sara Stevano, SOAS University of London

The COVID-19 crisis is fundamentally different from previous ones because it shakes a foundational element of our economies and societies: the organization of work, in its multiple forms. To fully analyse this process, a feminist social reproduction lens is necessary. A feminist reading of this crisis captures the interplay between reproductive and productive work, exposing how inequalities are reproduced and magnified. This talk focuses on the key mechanisms through which inequalities are reconfigured and regenerated in households and in labour markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. It argues that the pandemic and the measures to contain it have further deepened the centrality of households and reproductive work in the functioning of capitalism and argues that the transformative potential of the crisis can only be harnessed by framing policy and political responses around social reproduction and its essential contributions to work and life.

Sara Stevano is a Lecturer in the Department of Economics. She is a development and feminist political economist specialising in the study of the political economy of work, well-being (food and nutrition), households and development policy. Working at the intersections between political economy, development economics, feminist economics and anthropology, Sara takes an interdisciplinary approach to theories and methods. Her work focuses on Africa, with primary research experience in Mozambique and Ghana.

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 4th May 2022 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 4th May 2022

Guest Seminar: Citizenship reconfigured: Negotiating state-led urban interventions in Turkey

Oznur Yardimci, Department of Sociology, University of York

In this seminar Dr. Oznur Yardimci will explore the role of neoliberal urbanization in changing state-citizen relations.

There has been a wide acknowledgment that neoliberalism is a political project (Wacquant 2010), involving transformations in the state-market-citizen nexus. The emphasis on market-led processes falls short of going beyond market principles. Focusing on the case of Turkey, where neoliberal urban policies and practice have been linked to the central government’s socio-political transformation project (Eraydin and Tasan-Kok 2014), I will illustrate that neoliberal urban redevelopment projects help the state actors realign citizenship with the mounting authoritarianism. I develop this argument drawing on findings from a 9-month ethnographic fieldwork in Dikmen Valley (Ankara). It reveals competing claims to housing, presence, and citizenship that are aligned with the growing state power and legitimacy. Thus, I suggest that neoliberal urbanization facilitates authoritarianism and complicates the market-imposed hierarchies.

Dr. Oznur Yardimci is an Urban studies researcher currently working as an ESRC postdoctoral fellow in the department of Sociology, University of York.

***This online seminar has been cancelled***


June 2022

Unpacking the social and cultural significance of Black Barbershops in the South London urban landscape

Karis Campion, Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, De Montfort University

Black barbershops are frequented by Black men, and increasingly Black women, across the UK. Utilising an urban ethnographic approach, this study examines the social and cultural relations that take shape in two Black-owned barbershops in Brixton and Herne Hill, located in the South London Borough of Lambeth. Both areas are experiencing local urban change characterised by racialised gentrification, continuing decimation of community and civic state-funded spaces, and the absence of provisions for Black people. As London grapples with these urgent political questions, this study asks how minority populations who are vulnerable to these changes, protect and nurture their communities. To date, Black barbershops are a staggeringly under-explored site in British sociology but literature in the USA shows they function as therapeutic spaces, where Black community knowledge and history is maintained, cultivated and passed on (Alexander, 2003; Marberry, 2005; Shabazz, 2016). In this talk I will unpack the social significance of Black barbershops for Black communities and ask how these small Black businesses have potential to provide a protected racialised space in the face of increasing local urban change.

Bio: Karis is a Legacy in Action Research Fellow at the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, De Montfort University. Her current research focuses on barbershops and examines their function as counter-hegemonic spaces and key social institutions for Black communities in Britain. Her research interests span areas of (mixed) race/ethnic identity, geographies of race in urban space, intersectional inequalities, Black feminism, youth identities, anti-racism and institutional racism in education. 

This online seminar will take place on Wednesday 8th June 2022 14.00-15.30

MS Teams Link – Seminar Series 8th June 2022

2022 CURA Conference: The Post-pandemic City

More details on CURA’s 2022 Conference will be coming soon.