For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.

Urban Geographies

Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research / AISSR
Urban Geographies

The researchers within Urban Geographies study the socio-spatial processes that shape cities and urban life across the world. Our research concentrates on the formation of urban difference and inequality. It seeks to understand how specific spaces, places and mobilities reflect, reproduce and transform social differentiation in terms of class, ethnicity, generation, gender and sexuality. In addition, it studies how resources, risks and political voice are distributed unevenly across urban spaces and populations, analyzing geographies of inequality within and between city regions.

Much of our scholarship has concentrated on larger transformations affecting cities (e.g. gentrification, tourism, migration, shrinkage, demographic change) and the inequalities and segregation that accompany these shifts (e.g. differentiated access to income, housing, education, labor markets). Our research is characterized by a relational approach that attends to interdependencies and exchanges between cities.

The group is also committed to developing a comparative urban geography that can distinguish between place-based specificities and more generalizable patterns of urbanization. Group members employ a range of quantitative, qualitative and spatial methods, allowing us both to map macro-level patterns and transformations over time, and to grasp the lived experience of such dynamics.

Our projects

  • Investing in inequality: how the increase in private housing investors shapes social divides

    Housing increasingly serves as a site for investment. Structural housing-market transformations contribute to the rise of private housing investors buying property to rent out (“buy-to-let”). This project investigates the rise of private investors in the Netherlands, and investigates consequences for access to affordable housing, uneven wealth accumulation, and spatial inequality.

    NWO Veni

    Dr. C. (Cody) Hochstenbach

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

  • Reviving shrinking cities – innovative paths and perspectives towards livability for shrinking cities in Europe (RE-CITY)

    Processes of shrinkage are multidimensional phenomena encompassing cities, parts of cities, or regions that are experiencing a dramatic decline in their economic and social bases. While the causal factors are diverse and complex, the most evident factor in shrinkage is a loss of employment opportunities and out-migration of population. Previous research has pointed out that decline is enduring, and shrinkage is most probably jeopardizing the prosperity of European competitiveness.

    RE-CITY provides a perspective for the robust and sustainably sound development of shrinking cities. 

    Objectives of RE-CITY:

    1.  To combine research across disciplines.
    2.  To analyze case studies and paths of dealing with shrinking cities.
    3.  To develop methods, training skills and applications for RE-CITY.

     To provide training for a new generation of urban planners.

    Dr. M.A. (Marco) Bontje

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

    Prof. dr. R.K. (Rivke) Jaffe

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

  • Woningmarktpolarisatie, omgevingskwaliteit en gezondsheidsongelijkheid in Amsterdam

    Onder leiding van onderzoeker Wouter van Gent (Urban Geographics, Universiteit van Amsterdam) wordt de relatie tussen ruimtelijke ongelijkheid in de stad op het gebied van wonen en gezondheid onderzocht.

    De centrale vraag is in hoeverre processen van polarisatie op de Amsterdamse regionale woningmarkt bijdragen aan ongelijke gezondheidsuitkomsten voor huurders en kopers als gevolg van verschillende mate van blootstelling aan negatieve omgevingseffecten. Het onderzoek brengt unieke, grootschalige kwantitatieve datasets over kwaliteit van de woonomgeving, individuele bewoners en medische gesteldheid bij elkaar om inzicht te geven in milieu-ongelijkheid met betrekking tot luchtvervuiling, geluidoverlast, lichtvervuiling en groenvoorzieningen en in de effecten daarvan op gezondheid.

    Het onderzoek draagt bij aan academische debatten over milieurechtvaardigheid, ruimtelijke gezondheid, en het cumulatieve karakter van ongelijkheden. Daarnaast biedt het inzicht in de opeenstapeling van verschillende dimensies van ongelijkheid en kunnen de bevindingen bijdragen aan de ontwikkeling van interventies en beleid voor een duurzame, gezondere, en rechtvaardigere ruimtelijke ordening, buurtontwikkeling en woningmarkt. Het onderzoeksproject start in 2021 en loopt tot de zomer van 2023.

    Meer informatie over dit project vind je bij het Kenniscentrum Ongelijkheid

    Dr. W.P.C. (Wouter) van Gent

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

  • Between collectivization and enclosure: examining the uneven provision of clean water, waste disposal and public space in rapidly growing cities

    Many cities in the Global South have been expanding rapidly, creating pressures on land, fueling conflicts over resources, and disrupting engrained power relations. The growing numbers of urbanites need access to basic provisions like clean water, sewerage, roads, public space, and electricity but governments are strapped for funds and often refuse to attend to the needs of deprived residents in informal settlements. This project studies what happens under these conditions. How do residents of rapidly expanding cities succeed or fail to access amenities when they cannot fulfill their needs through the state or the market?

    As edifices of collective action, amenities – from plots of bare land used as football pitches to elaborate educational systems – bind people together but also pull them apart: in setting up amenities, collectivities organize and define themselves while erecting barriers to outsiders.

    The project develops a sociological and geographical approach to examine how people connect or disconnect in the process of setting up and governing different kinds of amenities, including clean water, public spaces, and roads. Theoretically, it draws on figurational sociology (as developed by Norbert Elias and Bram de Swaan) and the urban studies literature.

    The project is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Reserach (NWO) through a VIDI grant and runs from 2018 until 2023.

    Prof. J.L. (Justus) Uitermark

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

  • Weaponizing Social Housing in Medellin and Rio de Janeiro

    For several decades, Latin American countries have used housing subsidies to improve the living conditions of the urban poor. Safety, however, is another issue. The EU-funded Social Housing project will study what happens when residents are rehoused from informal settlements controlled by organised criminal groups to formal housing complexes. The criminal groups usually hold onto their influence.

    As such, the project will compare governance arrangements between state, market and criminal actors in formal social housing condominiums to those in informal settlements. Taking settlements in Rio de Janeiro and Medellín as case studies, the project will study how criminal gangs and militias gain and exert control over infrastructure and (protective) services. It will also review how residents protect themselves.

    • Funded by: EU Horizon 2020
    • Duration: 1 February 2021- 31 January 2024
    • Project factsheet
  • Seeing Cities through digital platforms

    When we visit new cities, our exploration is increasingly guided by digital visitor-focused platforms such as Airbnb, Google Maps, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. While these platforms help us pursue our everyday tasks—find a place for coffee, a park to hang out, a bed for the night—they also have profound yet underappreciated effects on the city at large, redirecting flows of visitors and re-shaping urban perceptions and imaginaries. This may inadvertently bring an escalation of existing conflicts over urban place, as residents lose their sense of belonging when their neighborhoods culturally shift toward the expectations and preferences of temporary visitors.

    These adverse effects of platforms have become a growing topic of concern for researchers, policymakers, and activists. Existing research on the effects of visitor-focused platforms have focused almost exclusively on their economic impact, rather than cultural dimensions. This project examines the fundamentals ways that digital platforms transform urban cultural life, asking: How do digital platforms shape cultural conflicts in the city?

    As this question falls in an important fault-line between computational and cultural approaches to the city, this project will break new ground by developing a systematic integrated approach to digital urbanism: Spatial Interpretative Computational Analysis (SICA). This is applied on Airbnb and Yelp data, in a comparison of Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro and New York. I use computational methods as part of an interpretative approach to examine three dimensions of how visitor-focused platforms shift power-balances between locals and non-locals, by

    1. shaping imaginaries of urban place
    2. using otherness to market urban place
    3. shaping pathways of neighbourhood transitions and tourism-gentrification.

    This will provide policymakers and practitioners with robust, actionable insights on a central topic of public, political and scientific debate, helping to improve their strategies for capitalizing on the opportunities of digital platforms while mitigating adverse effects.

    • Funded by: NWO Veni
    • Duration: 1 June 2021 to 1 June 2025
    Dr. K.P. (Petter) Törnberg

    Faculty of Science

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

  • MUNEX - Municipalist Neighborhood Experiments

    How to address growing inequality, cynicism, distrust, and alienation? An ascendant municipalist movement argues that we should look for answers at the local level. Municipalism seeks to reinvent and reinvigorate local urban democracy by pushing back against overbearing bureaucracies and overpowering market forces. While the commitment to municipalism is strong and the momentum palpable, a key question is whether and how municipalist initiatives – from digital democracy platforms to public-communitarian partnerships – work in practice. To answer this question, the Municipalist Neighborhood Experiments (MUNEX) project examines municipalist policy experiments in neighborhoods in three cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Vienna.

    MUNEX’ overarching goal is to work with municipalities, citizens and transnational municipalist networks to build capacity by delivering strategic insights on the success factors of municipalist initiatives, testing out new approaches to governance and urban justice, and strengthening networks for transnational policy learning. MUNEX will further co-create with its partners a prototype municipalist innovation to be shared between neighborhoods in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Vienna in an ambitious transnational exchange. Building on existing research and relations with urban stakeholders, the research will provide profound and actionable insights into the creation of neighborhoods which are liveable, just, inclusive and attractive to all.

    Prof. J.L. (Justus) Uitermark

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

  • Animapolis

    Rivke was recently awarded an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant to study the role of animals in the formation of urban inequalities. The project, titled ANIMAPOLIS,  asks how animals’ interactions with humans and infrastructures co-produce the unequal distribution of risks and resources across urban spaces and populations. It focuses on two critical urban domains, security and public health, that are often characterized by stark inequalities, and takes the role of key animals within these domains – dogs and rats, respectively – as a unique analytical entry-point.

    Dogs and rats clearly play a role within security and public health, but we know little about how they mediate related inequalities. Through what mechanisms might security dogs co-produce practices of racial profiling, or distributions of rats and rodenticides affect public health outcomes?

    Starting in 2023, the project will study such mechanisms by focusing first, on the biological specificities and cultural imaginaries of dogs and rats and second, on the spatial, material and affective dimensions of their interactions with humans and infrastructure. The project develops a two-way qualitative comparison, between different urban contexts and between different animals, through multispecies ethnographies in Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro.

    • Funded by: European Research Council (ERC) 
    • Duration: 1 January 2023 - 31 December 2027
    • Fact sheet
    Prof. dr. R.K. (Rivke) Jaffe

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    GPIO : Urban Geographies

Programme group leader

Prof. dr. R.K. (Rivke) Jaffe

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

GPIO : Urban Geographies

Research staff