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Key theme: Cities, Borders and Mobility

Section #presentation

Presentation of the Cities, Borders and mobility Theme

The “Cities, Borders, and Mobility” research group examines the transformation of urban areas and European societies from a relational and comparative perspective. Multi-scale transnational mobility (i.e. the movement of people, goods, ideas, policies and institutions) is only one of our areas of research. In our view, this movement both produces cities and sets the parameters of their governance within Europe. Since mobility enables us to study urban issues both in Europe and beyond, all our research is comparative and international. European cities are forged through interchange with the rest of the world, and that interchange is necessarily characterised at all levels by power relations and imbalances. We analyse all of these dynamics in the context of urban governance, local policies and collective action.

Towns and cities are at the centre of shifts in transnational markets and of major technological changes, resulting in transformations of the urban social structure that are linked to mobility (both human and non-human) and to a global process of urbanisation. The “Cities, Borders, and Mobility” group encompasses research into digital transformation within urban governance, on the one hand, and research into social movements and EU local policy, on the other; both of which have implications for urban planning. Researchers in this group undertake critical analysis of these vectors of social and physical mobility, in the light of the climate crisis and national or international regulations. Cities are thus an ideal site and subject matter for studying the dialectic between mobility, borders, and the formal, informal and even criminal actors who compete for the spaces opened up by these transformations. Indeed, while the urban sphere is associated with flux (whether human, financial, ideational or political) and interconnection across different levels, it is also a locus for observing the continual construction of physical and symbolic borders, and a process of socio-economic segregation.

We research issues of movement, migration and class within cities. These issues include urban relations; discrimination; illegal activity; urban activism and adaptation in response to the climate crisis; civic and voluntary engagement with social and environmental causes; the cultural dynamics of urban development and planning; the transnationalisation of organisations; the sociology of markets, finance and capitalism. Public action is a central issue within our research, addressed particularly through analysis of the formation of political structures and regulations at different levels; the reconfiguration of the state; decentralisation; forms of collective action; the role of expertise, including civic and voluntary engagement.

Drawing on new theoretical frameworks from within sociology, political science, anthropology, economic geography and urban studies, researchers within the “Cities, Borders, and Mobility” group work across scales and eschew methodological nationalism. Their research is resolutely empirical, favouring comparative analysis and multimethod approaches combining quantitative and qualitative analysis. The group works in close collaboration with the Sciences Po Urban School , whose dean (Tommaso Vitale) and former dean (Patrick Le Galès) are both researchers at the CEE, and whose core teaching staff is made up of members of the group. Two teaching and research chairs are hosted between the CEE and the Urban School: the Cities and Digital Technology Chair and the Cities, Housing and Real Estate Chair. The group is also linked to the MiDi, Migration and Diversity initiative, which brings together researchers from across Sciences Po who work on issues of international migration and diversity. MiDi was co-founded by CEE researcher Virginie Giraudon, who now sits on its steering committee.

Section #programme-23-27

Research Programme 2023-2027

Our research programme for 2023-2027 is structured around three key research streams.

Researchers in this stream consider the two poles of the social structure of cities, based on the social and spatial (im)mobility of the very rich and very poor in Europe. This includes, at one end of the spectrum, refugees and asylum-seekers, ethnic minorities, undocumented workers, petty criminals and traffickers (Virginie Guiraudon, Tommaso Vitale, Gabriel Feltran, Federico Varese); and, at the other end of the spectrum, global elites, their new forms of accumulation and reproduction (Bruno Cousin, Patrick Le Galès), and the ways in which they participate in transnational illegal economies (Bruno Cousin, Gabriel Feltran, Patrick Le Galès). Contemporary territorial forms and dynamics reveal the effects of this movement, and can provide an analytical entry point for understanding them (Marco Cremaschi, Tommaso Vitale).

This stream examines the subtle or covert power exercised by global financial elites, the international mafia, religious actors and secret brotherhoods, among others, within urban governance. How do these actors position themselves in relation to the state, and how does this contribute to a hybrid governance of urban life? Finally, how does the urban political economy respond to and structure these different modes of power, and the many others that can be observed in the everyday life of contemporary cities (Patrick Le Galès, Patrick Le Lidec, Federico Varese, Marco Cremaschi, Gabriel Feltran, Bruno Cousin, Charlotte Halpern, Tommaso Vitale).

This stream studies urban transformations in response to the climate and biodiversity crises (Charlotte Halpern, Joost de Moor, Patrick Le Galès, Tommaso Vitale, Bruno Cousin). The stream works closely with the Interdisciplinary Workshop on Environmental Research (AIRE) (Fr) at Sciences Po, coordinated by Joost de Moor, the 'Environmental Policies' research group within The Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies (LIEPP), co-directed by Charlotte Halpern, and research streams within the Cities, Housing and Real Estate Chair, directed by Bruno Cousin.

A number of ambitious research programmes and projects are currently underway, addressing metropolitan governance of environmental resources (the projects GREENUT and MEGOWAS); local climate plans (the project CAPIn GHG) and urban heating, via a comparative study of European and Asian cities (Charlotte Halpern, Tommaso Vitale, Alvaro Artigas); the effects of climate change in coastal cities and their consequent adaptation (Cities, Housing and Real Estate Chair, directed by Bruno Cousin; post-doctoral project by Cassandre Rey-Thibault (Fr)); a comparative study of civic activism in relation to water issues (e.g. in response to flooding and droughts) (Tommasso Vitale, XRAS).

Finally, the stream also discusses more conceptual issues, such as the relevance of the European city category in an age of global urbanisation, and more specific themes, like the impact of cocaine trafficking on violence in European port cities (Gabriel Feltran); the financialisation of housing policy in different cities around the world (Patrick Le Galès); the changing dynamics of segregation and their effects on political behaviour in major Italian cities (Bruno Cousin and Tommaso Vitale); urban regeneration and the legacy of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (Patrick Le Galès); the role of civil society and voluntary organisations in towns and cities (Tommaso Vitale); mobility between London and Paris (Patrick Le Galès). The results of several projects touching on these themes are to be published within the period: WHIG, coordinated by Patrick Le Galès; GLOBALCAR co-led by Gabriel Feltran; Marg-In and R-Home, to which Tommaso Vitale contributed (see the following sections).

Section #programme-17-22

Research Programme 2017-2022

In the period 2017-2022, the “Cities, Borders and (Im)Mobility” group was coordinated by Virginie Guiraudon and Tommaso Vitale, and addressed three key areas:

This first research stream encompassed a series of empirical and theoretical studies exploring the governance, production and regulation of large cities from a comparative, interdisciplinary and historical perspective. The project ‘What is Governed and Not Governed (WHIG)’, led by Patrick Le Galès and bringing together several of the group’s researchers, is one example of the CEE’s commitment to undertaking wide-ranging comparison of major European and non-European cities (in this case Paris, London, Milan, São Paulo and Mexico City), with a view to describing shifts in the organisation and regulation of global metropolises. A number of other studies on transport, housing and public finance policies fed into research in this area, with the publication of three co-authored books: Gouverner la métropole parisienne (Sciences Po Press, 2020), La métropole parisienne : une anarchie organisée (Sciences Po Press, 2023) and Gobernar la ciudad de Mexico (El Colegio de México, 2018). These projects received support through partnerships with the organisations Crédit Foncier and Société du Grand Paris. Patrick Le Galès also led an ANR-funded project (2019-2022) comparing housing markets and the financialisation of housing in Paris, London and Amsterdam. Bruno Cousin succeeded Nordine Kireche (Fr) as director of the Cities, Housing and Real Estate Chair, which is hosted between the Urban School and the CEE. Finally, Patrick Le Galès continued his research into urban renovation and the organisation of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

A second stream brought together comparative research into marginalised, segregated and/or (im)(mobile) populations. Bruno Cousin and Tommaso Vitale undertook detailed analysis of segregation and the relationships between different social groups in a study of the socio-professional characteristics of residents in several Italian urban neighbourhoods. The EU-funded project R-Home, led at Sciences Po by Tommaso Vitale, compared policies explicitly aimed at Roma communities living in shanty towns or other substandard housing in France, Italy, Romania, Hungary and Spain.

Researchers in this stream also explored the issue of socio-cultural diversity in cities, and the rapid transformations this diversity engenders in forms of collective cohesion and their governance. This was a key issue in a study led by Nonna Mayer and Vincent Tiberj (Fr) on intercultural relations in Sarcelles (Fr), an area that can be seen as a magnifying mirror of diversity. Laura Morales led several large-scale projects aimed at quantifying and analysing the sociopolitical integration of ethnic minorities, via the projects Ethmigsurveydata, FAIRETHMIGQUANT, Inclusiveparl and Repchance. She also co-led the Discrimination and Category-Based Policies Research Group within the LIEPP. Meanwhile, Virginie Guiraudon led the French team of the Horizon 2020 project BRIDGES, which looked at different narratives around migration in Europe, and published research on the socio-political challenges of the places, spaces and events occurring at the EU’s borders.

Marco Cremaschi (Fr) has studied initiatives aimed at welcoming refugees in Paris, and the relationship between spatial structure and integration of migrants in smaller towns and cities, through the project ‘Medium Cities: New Hosting Sites and Actors in Germany and France’ (Villes moyennes: nouveaux lieux et nouveaux acteurs de l'accueil en Allemagne et en France (Fr)). In recent years, several European states have developed plans for distributing asylum seekers between different regions, and these plans must now be analysed and evaluated. Soazig Dollet and Viviane Spitzhofer undertake to do so in their doctoral research, both taking a comparative approach to the issue. Meanwhile, fellow PhD candidate Angeliki Konstantinidou is researching welfare and social protections for citizens residing abroad.

In addition, the coordinators of this research stream are heavily involved in running the Institut Convergence Migrations, of which several PhD candidates and researchers are fellows. Several of the stream’s researchers are also involved in the European IMISCOE network. Finally, Virginie Guiraudon has helped to spearhead the GIEM, an international group of experts on migration, supported by the LIEPP.

This stream conducted research into the material and technological changes reshaping urban conditions and lifestyles in different territories. Across three successive Horizon 2020 projects (CREATE, MORE and SUMP-PLUS), Charlotte Halpern examined the historical, political and institutional dimensions of the transition towards sustainable mobility in European cities. Marco Cremaschi led the EU-funded ESPON project ‘IMAGINE – Developing a Metropolitan-Regional Imaginary in the Milan-Bologna Urban Region’. In addition, Antoine Courmont coordinated the Cities and Digital Technology Chair, and researched digital cities and the integration of new technologies into modes of habitation and urban life, in collaboration with PhD candidate Jean-Baptiste Chambon (Fr). The ideas and analyses emerging from this research stream have helped to nourish doctoral and postdoctoral research into data, ZADs, transhumanism, waste management and more. The stream itself has also been enriched by the work of Dominique Boullier (Fr) on digital urbanness.

Section #projets

Research Projects

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Section #evenements


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