Annual RC21 Conference 2011

The struggle to belong. Dealing with diversity in 21st century urban settings
Amsterdam (The Netherlands), July 7-9 2011


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The RC-21 2011 Conference will analyze how globalization and individualization have given rise to new forms of diversity—ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, class and otherwise—, and new deliberations and conflicts over citizenship and belonging in urban settings in both the Global South and North.  We want to know how people with diverse backgrounds locate themselves and others in new social hierarchies, how they struggle to create meaningful places, in what ways they develop strategies to belong, and with what consequences. Moreover, we aim to understand better what types of (new) policy responses and forms of governance have developed to manage diversity in urban settings.

The struggle to feel at home can be understood as a response to the process of globalization. On the one hand, there are indications that traditional loyalties evaporate, which seems to hold particularly for those who operate in what Castells has called the ‘space of flows’, for example for people involved in the tier of internationally oriented knowledge workers. On the other hand, there are also indications that traditional or local orientations and loyalties become more significant, and corresponding groups are strengthened. This is especially the case for those people who are, for Castells, in the ‘space of place’, and who often comprise the less privileged groups in society. In this way, globalization goes hand in hand with localization, i.e. a greater stress on the meaning of local traditions and practices. This process of ‘glocalization’ results in new societal cleavages to which new notions of citizenship have been viewed as a possible response. Some of the research questions orienting the meeting are: how do social, political, economic and cultural processes at the international or transnational level influence new forms of diversity and, consequently, new forms of belonging? What type of (new) policy responses and governance forms have developed to manage diversity in urban settings? How can we understand the recent culturalization and emotionalization of citizenship, e.g. by way of rising demands on feelings of loyalty, national or local pride and on the need to ‘feel at home’? How do these homogenizing tendencies relate to the development of transnational citizenship and multiple and hybrid identities?

Secondly, the struggle to belong can be understood as a response to individualization. There is considerable debate on the meaning and extent of individualization. Individualization is often understood as a socio-cultural phenomenon: the duty to behave as autonomous and ‘free’ as possible. While individualization processes are rooted in long term historical forces, neoliberal pressures have accelerate these processes by privatizing risk, making individuals financially independent, and requiring people to become calculating citizens. During the conference, we want to discuss how individualization influences identities, chances and tasks for individuals living in urban settings. How do citizens experience these changes? What new duties, rights and communities come into existence in response to (which kind of) individualization? Which emotions does individualization evoke or demand, e.g. joys or pains that come with autonomy and ‘freedom of choice’? What new forms of mutual help and solidarity are created or expected in local communities? How does individualization give rise to new social and political communities and to new notions of publicness?

In sum, the central concern of the 2011 RC-21 annual conference is the ways in which individuals and communities in an urban context respond to the major social processes of globalization and individualization: how do they articulate various forms of diversity and develop inclusive or exclusive strategies to ‘belong’?

Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research – Urban Studies
University of Amsterdam – The Netherlands


Sunday excursion
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Day excursion to the North of the Netherlands - Deadline for registration is June 17
(Sunday July 10, 2011; time 09.00-18.00).

Description: This is a day trip outside Amsterdam. Visit to the old and new land of the Netherlands, a city walk through the old city of Edam and the Great Church, Enkhuizen – Boat trip to the Open Air Museum. In the open-air museum the focus is on the period 1880-1932. This section of the museum evokes the atmosphere of an old Zuiderzee town (guided tour included). Along the dyke in the middle of the former South Sea to the new land (reclaimed after 1932: Flevoland). Visit to the new town Almere (1970) and a short city walk.

Guide: Leon Deben

Themes: Rich history of an old city, Role of religion, Cultural-historical legacy of the Zuiderzee fishing villages, Dutch water management, Reclaiming land, New towns.

Duration: whole day departure 09.00, arrival in Amsterdam around 18.00, by bus.

Capacity: 20-35 persons

Costs: 85 euro (This includes bus transportation, short boat trip, church entrance, entrance and guided tour of Zuiderzee museum, coffee and cake in Edam, lunch).

Saturday Fieldtrips
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1. Deprived neighbourhoods in transition: Kolenkit

Description: The Kolenkit (‘Coal Scuttle’) was designated as one of the most deprived and problematic neighbourhoods in the Netherlands in recent policy documents. The neighbourhood was the first part of Cornelis van Eesteren’s master plan for the Western extension of the city (1935). Revolutionary and modernist ideas about housing and urban design fell short in practice and had to be readjusted. Also, the area has seen continuous social change and has been a home to different types of households over time. In short, the Kolenkit is a product of a 75-year history of societal and urban change, such as pillarisation, rise of the welfare state, individualisation, mass-immigration, restructuring and renewal, and even recent gentrification. In addition, the area houses many churches and mosques, in some cases squatted, which form a centre for much neighbourhood activity and interaction.

Themes: deprived areas, ethnic neighbourhoods, regeneration and renewal, post-war urban development, modernist architecture and design, gentrification, religious centres.

Duration tour: 1.5 hours (+ 45 minutes public transport)

Capacity: 10-15 people 

2.  Housing associations and urban transformation: Bos en Lommer

Description: Bos en Lommer is a neighbourhood that was built in the years shortly before and after WWII. Originally it was a typical working and lower middle class neighbourhood mostly of Dutch origin. From the 1980s onwards, Turkish and Moroccan families moved in, mostly from other parts of town. Within a decade the majority of the population consisted of immigrant households. In addition to these demographic processes, two other processes have introduced new changes to the face of the neighbourhood. In Amsterdam, there is a process of ‘mild gentrification’ that sprawls from the inner city outwards and is now reaching Bos en Lommer. Gentrification has been reinforced by the process of urban renewal, which has created new housing and working opportunities for the existing population but also for newcomers. Housing Associations play an important role in this process of change. They own a large part of the housing stock; invest in the renewal and provide space to all kind of new activities (for small enterprises; cultural activities; and activities in care and welfare). The walking tour shows the different faces of this borough and will give you the opportunity to visit some of the dwellings and new initiatives.

Themes: social housing, housing associations, urban renewal, post-WWII neighbourhoods, gentrification, urban managers

Duration: 3 hours (including travel time)

Capacity: 10-15 people

3. Red Light District: Redefining Amsterdam's city center

Description: Since the brothel ban was lifted in 2000, and prostitution was effectively legalized, Amsterdam's Red Light District became even more openly devoted to window prostitution than it had been after decades of informal toleration. However, more effective social control over sex work practices has remained elusive. Concerns over ongoing criminal activities, coerced prostitution and low-grade economic activities in Amsterdam's center, as well as over Amsterdam's deteriorating international image, have spurred Project 1012. This is a comprehensive effort by City authorities to restructure Amsterdam's historic district. Supported by large housing corporations and private companies, the municipal government has sought to buy out window-brothel owners and close down enterprises with suspected ties to illegality. They are seeking to replace these 'undesirable' activities with creative entrepreneurs, 'respectable' businesses and upscale apartments. The aim is to raise the center's economic profile and combat illicit practices in the prostitution sector. Critics charge that Project 1012 may fail in its economic objectives and will push sex workers into underground prostitution, thereby worsening abusive sex-work practices. 

Themes: red-light district, human traficking, growth coalition, gentrification, displacement, city branding, creative industries, spatial-sexual order, revanchist city, sex industries

Duration tour: 1.5 hours

Capacity: 10-15 people

Remarks: No pictures of prostitutes should be taken 

4. Ethnic neighbourhoods: Indische buurt

Description: The Indische Buurt is situated at the eastern part of Amsterdam and was created in the early 20th century due to expansive population growth. Although characterized by a large immigrant population (famous for its ‘ethnic Mediterranean shopping street’) and relatively low income levels, this neighbourhood is currently undergoing a rapid physical, demographic, cultural as well as commercial transformation that show signs of gentrification. Strategies to upscale the neighbourhood are developed on local and national level and include a large number of stakeholders. During this walk we will look at signs and landmarks that symbolize the transformation of the area and discuss its history, process, the role of different stake holders, the threats and the possibilities of the area.

Duration tour: 2 hours (+20 minutes travel time, public transport)

Themes: urban transformation, ethnic neighbourhood issues, gentrification,ethnic entrepreneurship, social mixing, (governmental) intervening

Capacity: 10-20 people

5. The urban dynamics of a new suburban district: IJburg

Description: IJburg is the latest Amsterdam housing estate, constructed on an artificial archipelago (current population 15,502). The original, functionalist ideas stem from the 1960s but it was not until the early 1990s that the plans got serious. By then IJburg was supposed to be a suburban area where middle class families, who were often forced out to the new towns, could find a suitable living environment within the city of Amsterdam. Water and open space formed the basis of the design. However, while originally intended as a suburb, many urban elements were added, such as social housing, mixed-use spaces and high density buildings. This two-faced identity has created a dynamic area that is unique, but it is also constantly contested by different groups of residents. The excursion will show both its urban and suburban character and the clashes between them.

Themes: large, newly-built neighbourhoods, urban and suburban development, gentrification and families, housing and social mix, contested spaces.

Duration tour: 2 hours (+30 minutes travel time, public transport)

Capacity: 10-20 people

6. Large-scale renewal in an ethnically-mixed postwar housing estate: Bijlmermeer

Description: The Bijlmermeer was originally designed in the 1960s as a modernist city of tomorrow. The area quickly fell in decline and became one of the most stigmatized areas in the Netherlands. Since the early 1990s the area has undergone extensive renewal and social regeneration. The interventions essentially aimed to ‘normalise’ the neighbourhood in terms of urban form and social composition. Interventions included tenure restructuring, public space redesign, policing, social work and health care, intensive management, transport infrastructure improvements and the addition of a new office and commercial area. Rather than normalise the area, these interventions have made the Bijlmermeer an even more singular neighbourhood, which is ethnically-diverse, socially mixed, and vulnerable. 

Themes: ethnic neighbourhoods, crime and policing, stigmatised areas, large-scale regeneration, post-WWII neighbourhoods, housing and social mix, leisure and office development.

Duration tour: 2 hours (+40 minutes travel time, public transport)

Capacity: 10-20 people

7. Amsterdam as Financial Centre

Description: The Amsterdam financial centre has a rich history that spans over four centuries. In the longue durée approach to historical development described by several scholars (Braudel, Wallerstein and Arrighi), Amsterdam features as one of the most prominent capitals of capital in the ‘hall of fame’ of financial centres. Amsterdam became the epicentre of the European centred world economy in the ‘long’ 16th century. The decline of this golden age of Amsterdam as a worldwide entrepôt of trade and finance gradually started in the late 17th century. Amsterdam, however, remained a first tier financial centre until it was occupied by France in the late 18th century. This walking tour will take us past the old parts of the Amsterdam Financial Centre and show how developments since the 1970 radically transformed the spatial articulation of finance.

Themes: Historical geography, virtualization of the stock exchange, financial innovation, financial globalization, financial centre .

Duration: 2 hours

Capacity: 10-20 people  

8. Gentrification: Jordaan and Westerpark

Description: In the 1980's, Staatsliedenbuurt was famous for its squatter movement, riots and urban decay. Since the 1990's the area underwent considerable transformation without great loss to historical buildings or affordable housing stock. The left-wing local government orchestrated a unique style of urban renewal, including culture-led regeneration and renovation on the scale of entire housing blocks. The ownership varied greatly, with most blocks sharing social housing, private rental appartments and owner-occupiers. Increasing popularity of the area and a long boom in the Amsterdam housing market furnished the local government with incentives, including limited use of tenure transformation. About seventy percent of the housing stock remained social housing in the area, which is now known as Westerpark. In contrast, the neigbouring historical area Jordaan underwent a more spontaneous type of gentrification.

Themes: gentrification, urban renewal, residential differentiation, tenure transformation, social mix, squatter movement, culture-led regeneration.

Capacity: 10-15 people
9.  Creative City in Space: Westerpark, Westerdok and NDSM-area

Description: Like many western cities, much of the economic activity in Amsterdam can be characterized as creative-knowledge based. This excursion leads to three areas of interest where the new urban economy is most prolific. First, Westerpark is a regenerated and upcoming neighbourhood, which has become a home for the emerging creative and knowledge workers. Second, the urban focus of the new economic activity has implications for urban design and planning. The Westerdok area is a newly-built residential development on the waterfront. This modern area close to the canals boasts one of the highest urban densities in the city. Third, across the IJ river there is the slightly anarchistic NDSM-area. This is one of the first industrial harbor areas where the creative frontiers settled down and started urban revitalization in a non-conformist way. Today the area is a mix of alternative culture, students, restaurants and MTV.

Themes: creative knowledge based economy, revitalization of public space, industrial and residential areas, urban densification, gentrification, waterfront development

Duration tour: 2 hours (+50 minutes travel time by tram and ferry)

Capacity: 10-20 people

10. Constant flux: the historical centre of Amsterdam.

Since the 16th century, the historical centre of Amsterdam has been undergoing a process of constant transformation and adaptation. This excursion helps to understand recent and older history and development of Amsterdam by highlighting new functions and re-use of old buildings, the reconstruction of the inner-city area, and the roles of public space, social housing, the squatting movement and the baby boom generation. The walking tour will pass many (converted) cloisters, churches and synagogues, a few of the oldest inner courts in the city, the former HQ of the Dutch East India Company, the ‘new’ Opera and City Hall, WWII historical sites, the world oldest city zoo, and the former harbour and customs’ area.

Themes:  Historical centre, conversion and transformation of urban functions, housing, squatting movement, gentrification

Duration: 2-2.5 hours

Capacity: 15-25 persons

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21 December 2011
Deadline for abstract submission

25 January 2011
Notification of selected abstracts

16 March 2011
Registration open

15 May 2011
Deadline for early bird registration and for (some) hotel options

31 May 2011
Deadline for paper submission

15 June 2011
Papers online

7-9 July 2011