The Urban Transitions Hub, in cooperation with H2020 project ROCK, will organise the 2019 ICS-ULisboa Conference, with the topic: What Urban Futures: From Crisis to Hope. The main conference will take place on June 5-6, 2019 at ICS-ULisboa, and will be opened by two days of screenings and debates at the Caleidoscopio (ULisboa).

Confirmed speakers so far are: Evgeny Morozov (The New Republic), Vanesa Broto (University of Sheffield ), Melissa García Lamarca (Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona), Alberto Vanolo (Università di Torino), Jorge Malheiros (IGOT-ULisboa), Graça CastanheiraJoão Seixas (FCSH-UNL).

Conference rationale

A few decades ago, the rise of globalisation seemed to suggest that the socio-spatial entity that we call the ‘city’ was to be progressively replaced by de-territorialised networks. Yet, today we are told that we are living in an ‘urban age’. The debate around the exact meaning of this return to the ‘urban’ is an important thread in the field of urban studies. While international institutions led by UN-Habitat favour a conception of the urban as a place attracting an increasing share of people from rural areas, critical social sciences have instead focused on the urban as a processual and relational category: that is, on urbanisation, and on its current planetary scale. Notwithstanding the different perspectives, most agree that the processes of urbanisation deserve increased attention in terms of their risks and potentialities.

The relentless process of urbanisation is shaping and reshaping our planet, and contributing to multiple crises (environmental, economic, social and political, to name a few) that are themselves deeply interlocked with global processes of financial accumulation, spatial transformation and social reproduction. In mainstream discussions, the urban is conceived as the place where innovation, accumulation and consumption increasingly happen; where injustice, violence, alienation and detachment are more visible, but also where political organisation and solidarity flourish. Consistent with this perspective, multiple voices have called for a devolution of power to cities – including well known intellectuals such as Richard Florida and Bruce Katz, as well as, for instance, the municipalist network Fearless Cities led by the left-wing mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau.

New seeds of hope are necessary if we are to muddle through these volatile times, and contribute elements of a new vision for an urban planetary future. In line with critical social sciences perspectives, the 2019 edition of ICS-ULisboa Annual Conference calls for a reflection on the urban and its radically open futures, by focusing on the processual and relational dimensions of four topics: politics, rights, nature and technology. The Conference will bring together renowned thinkers and young scholars to discuss the current challenges and hope for our urbanised present and futures.


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