Cities, borders and (im)mobility

Cities both in Europe and all over the world are facing major changes in their social structures, notably as a result of rising inequalities, discrimination and segregation. Diversities are a major issue, because they cause rapid shifts in the forms and governance of community cohesion: ethno-racial, religious and sexual diversity superimposed on social diversity. Moreover, European incitements to mobility, both physical and social, are also disrupting these urban centres, in particular at a time when incoming refugee numbers are on the rise and there are tensions over Europe’s immigration policies. Borders, both physical and symbolic, create forms of inhabiting and non-places, camps, encampments, triage centres or hotspots. Finally, states – whether in Europe or elsewhere – have different ways of structuring their metropolitan regions.

The question of the political regulation of cities and metropolitan regions, together with the examination of their social and economic structures, are at the heart of the work on this axis, which has been greatly reinforced by the recent arrival of Marco Cremaschi and Bruno Cousin. It thus represents a move away from the post-modern view that is becoming widespread in the specialist literature of urban studies, and leads into work of comparative public policy analysis, political sociology (focusing on participation and social movements), urban economics and history, and finally urbanism and geography, which will be developed within CEE for the next five years around three main research orientations and in direct collaboration with Sciences Po’s School of Urban Affairs.

1) Governance of European cities in the era of global megacities

This first research theme encompasses a series of empirical and theoretical studies on the governance, production and regulation of metropolitan areas from a comparative, multidisciplinary and historical perspective. The WHIG (What is governed and not governed) project is an example of the Centre’s desire to conduct a wide-ranging comparison of European (Paris and London) and non-European (São Paulo, Mexico) cities with the aim of describing the transformations in the organisation and regulation of big international metropoles. This project will seek to show “tensions” between the meaning of public action and the ordinary meanings understood by the actors involved. Numerous other studies by established researchers, PhD candidates and postdocs, are contributing to this first research orientation, through their focus on transport, housing and public finance policies, and draw on several partnerships that are slated for further development (with Crédit Foncier, Société du Grand Paris). An ANR-ORA application (Patrick Le Galès) focusing on a comparison of the housing markets in Paris, London and Amsterdam has also been submitted, in collaboration with UCL (Bartlett School of Planning) and University of Amsterdam.

2) Borders, (im)migrations, social and spatial (im)mobilities

A second theme will bring together comparative research on populations that are excluded, marginalised, discriminated against, segregated and/or (im)mobile. The social stratification of cities is a critical issue for metropolitan regions in Europe and around the world. For example, the National Research Agency’s MARGinalisation/Inclusion project will analyse the case of Romanian migrants in some 20 cities in France, Italy and Spain. In particular, it examines the lasting social effects of poverty regulation policies, focusing on residential practices and strategies, economic integration processes, modes of socialisation and the territorial embeddedness of migrants. Mirroring this, the comparative OFFSHORE EUROPE project looks at recent institutional, geopolitical and economic changes in the French, British and Dutch West-Indian territories, by studying social stratification and local social relations involving migrant workers and tourists. Finally, several research seminars organised under the Cities are back in town programme in collaboration with OSC and the  Migrations and multiculturalism programme codirected by Virginie Guiraudon and Patrick Simon further contribute to this second line of research. Additional input comes from ongoing PhD work on transnational Europe/West Africa activist networks (Mélodie Beaujeu), and on the role of airline companies in controlling migration (Ségolène Mennesson).

3) Transformation of territorial materialities and technologies

This theme will also develop research on material and technological changes to territories, which are reshaping urban conditions and lifestyles. The CREATE project (Horizon 2020) studies how certain Western European cities have succeeded in combining economic growth and sustainable urban mobility in order to anticipate future technical and social changes. Similarly, the newly created “Cities and Digital” chair is a strong axis of development, introducing work on digital cities and the integration of new technologies into modes of inhabiting and urban life. PhD and postdoctoral research on big data, ZADs, transhumanism, waste management… will be able to draw on the ideas around this research orientation. Finally, the seminar run with the University of Columbia’s School of Planning, entitled The matter of cities: excavating the "material" in urban social and technical controversies, headed by Marco Cremaschi and funded by the Alliance Programme, illustrates one of the flagship projects of this sub-axis.

Researchers involved

Associated Researcher



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