City Matters

Faculteit Ruimtelijke Wetenschappen
Jaar 2020/21
Vaknaam City Matters
Niveau(s) master
Voertaal Engels
Periode semester II a

Uitgebreide vaknaam City Matters: Urban Inequality and Social Justice
Leerdoelen 1. Understand the changing socio-economic and institutional (welfare state) context of social problems and polarizations in urban areas.
2. Describe various concepts that capture urban social problems such as poverty, urban marginality, segregation, territorial stigmatization and social exclusion, and their intellectual roots.
3. Explain how different configurations of the political economy on various scales result in different levels of social protection and how spatial planning interventions affect social and environmental justice in particular places.
4. Identify different ethical positions in various theories of spatial justice.
5. Apply different perspectives on spatial justice to historic and contemporary urban developments with an international perspective.
6. Discuss the role of planners in reinforcing or mitigating socio-spatial inequality and urban marginality against power structures, multi-stakeholder coalitions and spatial exclusion.
7. Utilize the basis of critical urban theory for developing and conducting empirical research in real-life cases.
8. Write, present and debate about social problems in urban areas and social justice in an academic fashion individually and in working groups.
Omschrijving The urgent societal issues of our times urge urban planners to rethink the foundational principles of planning. We witness the beginning of the ’urban age’ where the majority of people live in cities. However, due to the liberalization of the world economy and the restructuring of (European) welfare states, the economic situation of large social groups in the global North and the global South has become precarious. As a result, European cities are in constant transformation. Cities that are well connected in the (world) city network become increasingly unaffordable places to live in for those with moderate incomes. On different spatial scales, we observe an increase of socio-spatial polarization. As socio-economic and ethnic segregation is on the rise, fears for the emergence of a social group that is excluded from mainstream society, economy and civic life, are growing.

Altogether, these developments confront every planner with issues of justice. This course enables you to build your own framework to develop and conduct theory-informed empirical research in new socio-geographical contexts and to propose ‘just’ planning interventions.

In City Matters: Social Justice and Urban Inequality, four main questions will be discussed:
1. Which mechanisms – including planning – have generated the contemporary societal problems, such as the housing crisis, urban marginality and location-based activism? We review these mechanisms through the lens of political economy and critical urban theory, not considering them as ‘blind’ or ‘neutral’ processes, but as expressions of power imbalances between interest groups with different ideologies and agendas.
2. How much (in)equality is fair? In the course, the most important theoretical views on justice (utilitarianism, egalitarianism, sufficientarianism, prioritarianism) are discussed. Furthermore, we discuss the arguments why a given level of inequality is fair according to these theories.
3. Which inequalities are relevant for planners? This question (re)defines the scope for spatial interventions and uncovers approaches to define just cities. To answer this question, several theories of spatial justice (David Harvey, Henry Lefebvre, Edward Soja and Peter Marcuse) are discussed.
4. How can urban planners contribute to more ‘just’ cities? Challenges that planners and politicians face while trying to create affordable housing and inclusive communities will be discussed. Furthermore, we look at successful practices such as ‘commoning’, whereby people take control of their own community and resources.
This course consists of eight lectures, seven seminars and an excursion to Belgrade (Serbia) were we visit an urban (re)development project that can be contested and supported from different perspectives on spatial justice.
Uren per week variabel
Onderwijsvorm Excursions, Guest lectures, Lectures, Seminars
Toetsvorm Examination with open questions digital, Group assignments
(+ Group presentation (part of the group assignment))
Vaksoort master
Coördinator dr. C.W. Lamker
Docent(en) dr. C.W. Lamker ,dr. B.J. Wind
Verplichte literatuur
Titel Auteur ISBN Prijs
Articles, parts of books/monographs and video.
Opmerkingen The maximum number of students is 35. The course is open for Master students from Spatial Sciences and related disciplines. Priority will be given to students from the Master program of Socio-Spatial Planning.
Opgenomen in
Opleiding Jaar Periode Type
MSc Cultural Geography  (Optional courses Cultural Geography) 1 semester II a keuze
MSc Economic Geography  (Optional courses Economic Geography) 1 semester II a keuze
MSc Environmental and Infrastructure Planning  (Optional courses EIP) 1 semester II a keuze
MSc Population Studies  (Optional courses Pop Studies) 1 semester II a keuze
MSc Real Estate Studies  (Optional courses Real Estate Studies) 1 semester II a keuze
MSc Society, Sustainability and Planning  (Basic programme Society, Sustainability and Planning) 1 semester II a verplicht
MSc Spatial Sciences (research)  (Optional thematic courses (GERMTTO) year 1 and 2 Spatial Sciences) - semester II a keuze
Msc Philosophy, Politics and Economics 1 semester II a keuze