Desassossego [disquiet]: reflecting on being academics during the Covid-19 pandemic

Another collective post by the UTH, published on the blog of AESOP YA: what it means to be (critical) scholars in times of pandemic?

AESOP Young Academics

8 min read

Guest authors: Urban Transitions Hub (UTH) (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)

Editor’s note: This post is an engaging contribution by the members of UTH, including the founder and former editor-in-chief of the YA blog. 

With this collective post, the Urban Transitions Hub wants to contribute to the debate about what it means to be a social scientist today, and what it might mean in the medium term. Perhaps aptly, we began this reflection on April Fools day (April 1st) during our first online meeting amid Covid-19 lockdown measures. We came together somewhat unsure of how and what to share between us, realising that ‘business as usual’ was not an option, and soon finding that we were searching for a space where we could discuss our collective desasossego (Fernando Pessoa’s disquiet) and unease triggered by the way the pandemic was affecting our…

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Pandemia e inquietação nas ciências sociais: Uma reflexão do Urban Transitions Hub, no Instituto de Ciências Sociais

The UTH colelctively published a post, in Portuguese, which is a colelctive reflection on the personal and collective impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our personal and academic life.

Blogue ATS

Por Urban Transitions Hub

Os membros do Urban Transitions Hub pretendem contribuir para o debate sobre o que significa, e o que pode representar a médio prazo, ser um/a académico/a nas ciências sociais face à pandemia que enfrentamos nos dias de hoje. Este texto apresenta-se como um exercício contínuo de autorreflexão em tempos de Covid-19, o qual não pretende esgotar as nossas inquietações, mas sim começar a dar-lhes voz.


Aparentemente, parece que estamos perante uma tempestade perfeita. Uma tempestade que gera inquietação, mas também sentimentos de confusão e luta. Para muitos/as de nós, esta crise representa uma aceleração de padrões sociais já existentes, assim como de tendências que são críticas há já muito tempo. Problemas e contradições das nossas sociedades têm vindo a acumular-se nas últimas décadas, e a pandemia parece oferecer-lhes um novo e dramático desenlace ao mesmo tempo que novos “monstros em ascensão”, como alguns…

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UTH statement at the times of COVID19

Our feeling

Unease, confusion, and a precarious equilibrium between hope and despair. We acknowledge the need to start bringing more care into academia – something we tend to put aside as if care belongs to our personal lives only.

Our concerns

We acknowledge our worldviews and biases while we observe the extraordinary barrage of opinions arising from this new horizon. We think this crisis represents the acceleration and transformation of patterns and contradictions that have built up over decades of neoliberal projects for an increasingly unsustainable socio-economic model. The same patterns now raising potentially dystopian promises for a post-pandemic future.

Our responsibility

Although it is too early to see where this crisis will lead us, we acknowledge the key role played by social sciences in exploring intellectually the realm of possibilities, opening dialogues across disciplines and voices. We acknowledge that Covid-19 pandemic cannot be understood out of an interdisciplinary approach, because we cannot separate fields of knowledge without causing multiple crises and long term damage.

Our intent

The starting point is engaging in discussion aiming at reframing our questions, much more than providing answers (and certainly before attempting to do so).  We feel that by shifting the questions, we may change the way we frame this crisis. If anything, to prepare for a window of opportunity?

Our role

We all struggle with the cognitive dissonance generated by our work (and sometimes lives): tasks that appear distant from the here-and-now of the crisis, to-do lists that seem impermeable to pandemic shocks. We are determined to turn this around. We feel the need to write for the public discussion, not (just) for our peers, not just for the sake of saying something (outreach work, work as activists, action/engaged research and similar practices). We should raise our voice out there, and cooperate on concrete processes and practical tips, help in our local community.

… and our future

We are taking these challenging times as a call to reflect and possibly reframe our research agendas on urban transition. Watch this space, with us!

Webinar: Right to Housing in COVID-19 Lockdown Times. 16 April 2020, 4pm CEST

UTH member Simone Tulumello organises, with Guya Accornero (CIES-IUL) and in collaboration with ISA Research Committee 47 (Social Classes and Social Movements) a webinar on the impact of lockdown measures over movements for housing and the right to the city.

‘Stay Home Without a Home’. The Right to Housing in COVID-19 Lockdown Times

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2020

Time: 11 a.m (EDT, New York City); 12 a.m. (UTC-3, Rio de Janeiro); 4 p.m (WEST, Lisbon); 5 p.m (CEST, Barcelona and Turin); 6 p.m. (EEST, Beirut)

Duration: 1h15

Event in partnership with the project HOPES: HOusing PErspectives and Struggle (FCT, PTDC/GES-URB/28826/2017), and the CIES-ISCTE-IUL Monthly Seminar on Social Movements and Political Action


Contacts: or

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown measures of many sorts have been adopted by authorities throughout the world. Framed in different legal regulations according to the country, and with varying extent, these measures have instructed citizens to ‘stay home’ in order to protect public health. While the importance of such restrictions is undeniable, they have simultaneously exacerbated our societies’ inequalities and made them even more evident . With the sudden suspension of the flux of social and economic activities – which ordinarily distracts us from these unequal conditions – the reality has brutally appeared. Housing is one of the sectors in which inequalities have been most evident. How can people stay home when they do not have a home? How can people pay their rent – and thereby secure their homes – when many have suddenly lost their incomes, because they have been fired or because they are not earning when they are not working?

Tourists have abandoned cities, leaving luxury hotels empty, while families are being evicted from the houses they are ‘illegally’ occupying because they do not have any alternative. While more disadvantaged people are, not surprisingly, the most affected by the situation in terms of health and security, social movements and their struggles to defend basic rights are also being dramatically affected. By definition, social movements need to move, to appear in the streets, to meet and gather people in collective events. Social movements are collective entities. So how can they act in a context of lockdown and social distancing or even isolation? Against this background, the case of housing movements in many cities has shown the capacity of activists to reinvent the repertoire and content of their contention and effectively adapt it to the current conditions. Many innovations have been introduced – such as protests from balconies and rental payment strikes – while digital tools have been shown to be essential to supply the impossibility of face-to-face activism. The public recommendation – or even order – to ‘stay home’ has been framed through the contentious claim: ‘how can you stay home without a home?’. Due to its sheer simplicity, this claim has had a strong public impact and pushed some governments to adopt measures to address the situation of people who, lacking shelter, cannot stay home, or others who are no longer able to pay their rent.

In this webinar, we will deal with these situations, drawing on recent urban experiences of housing activism in the context of Covid-19 in different cities around the world (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Lebanon, Brazil and United States). We are aware that events are still new and ongoing, so it is difficult to draw out any tendency or generalizations. For this reason, our aim will be more to report and witness what is happening around the ‘right to housing’ at this crucial time ‘in the heat of the moment’, and to try to understand what room there is for maneuver – in terms of constraints and opportunities – in this specific situation, with an eye on the future.



Simone Tulumello (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)


Guya Accornero (Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, Lisbon University Institute)
Felipe G. Santos (Department of Politics – University of Manchester)
Giovanni Semi (Department of Cultures, Politics and Society – University of Turin)
Mona Harb (Department of Architecture and Design – American University of Beirut)
Alex Magalhães (Institute of Urban and Regional Planning and Research – Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
Sam Stein (Graduate Center – City University of New York)

From our colleagues at Mistra Urban Futures, a new open access book on co-production of knowledge

Comparative Urban Research from Theory to Practice: Co-production for Sustainability, edited by David Simon, Henrietta Palmer and Jan Riise (Policy Press, Bristol, 25 March 2020). Order online at

Available Open Access under CC-BY-NC licence. Reporting on the innovative, transdisciplinary research on sustainable urbanisation undertaken by Mistra Urban Futures, a highly influential research centre based in Sweden (2010-19), this book builds on the Policy Press title Rethinking Sustainable Cities to make a significant contribution to evolving theory about comparative urban research.

Highlighting important methodological experiences from across a variety of diverse contexts in Africa and Europe, this book surveys key experiences and summarises lessons learned from the Mistra Urban Futures’ global research platforms. It demonstrates best practice for developing and deploying different forms of transdisciplinary co-production, covering topics including neighbourhood transformation and housing justice, sustainable urban and transport development, urban food security and cultural heritage.


Update and new deadline. The Lisbon Early-Career Workshop in Urban Studies

Due to disruptions caused by the global pandemics of Covid-19, we are constantly assessing the opportunity to mantain the Lisbon Early-Career Workshop in Urban Studies.

At this stage (26 March 2020), we have decided to wait for developments: the deadline for abstract submission has been extended to 15 April 2020 and a final decision will be taken in the forthcoming weeks – also considering the opportunity of rescheduling or convening the workshop through online means.

Updates and the full CfP at this link:

Promover iniciativas culturais como forma de resistência

Neste novo encontro do ciclo Café com Luta, organizado pela Fundação Friedrich Ebert em colaboração com a Associação Transparência e Integridade e o Urban Transitions Hub (ICS-ULisboa), vamos juntar experiências diversas de resistência cultural na área metropolitana de Lisboa.
A festa da Kola San Jon, a Tabacaria e a marca Bazofo na Cova da Moura, juntamente às batukadeiras e ao rap na Boba serão temas para um debate alargado sobre formas de fortalecimento dos bairros, crítica social e valorização das tradições comunitárias.

Os Cafés com Luta são conversas informais, acompanhadas de bebidas e petiscos, com pessoas convidadas a partilhar a sua experiência sobre transformações sociais e políticas. As conversas decorrem em diferentes locais de Lisboa e pretendem funcionar numa lógica de aprendizagem mútua. São abertas a todas e todos, mas, por motivos organizacionais, os lugares são limitados.

O ciclo de conversas é uma das iniciativas que dão continuidade ao “Reclaim Europe!“, um projeto pela participação da sociedade civil numa Europa comum iniciado pela Fundação Friedrich Ebert. Os Cafés com Luta contam com o apoio do Urban Transitions Hub (ICS-ULisboa) e contam com o apoio da associação Transparência e Integridade.

The Lisbon Early-Career Workshop in Urban Studies. 1st ed. 18-20/11/2020 ICS-ULisboa

EDIT: due to disruptions caused by the global pandemics of Covid-19, the organising committee is constantly assessing the opportunity to cancel the event. At this stage (26 March 2020), we have decided to wait for developments: the deadline for abstract submission has been extended to 15 April 2020 and a final decision will be taken in the forthcoming weeks – also considering the opportunity of rescheduling or convening the workshop through online means.

The Urban Transitions Hub and the AESOP Young Academics Network are happy to open the call for papers for the first edition of the Lisbon Early-Career Workshop in Urban Studies, to be held on 18-20 November 2020 at ICS-ULisboa. Circa 30 PhD students and early-career scholars will have the opportunity to present and discuss their research projects and/or findings during a 3-day event organised as a space of exchange, debate and learning.

The topic for the first edition is Urban Futures, Urban Transitions.

See the full Call for Papers on the event website or as pdf.

The workshop is open to PhD students and early-career scholars in the fields of urban studies, planning and geography, and all the social sciences and humanities with an interest on urban matters and urbanisation. Applications open from 15 February 2020 to 30 March 2020 15 April 2020. Send an abstract for your presentation (max 500 words) and a short letter of motivation to and

Keynote speakers:

  • Ela Babalik-Sutcliffe – Middle East Technical University, Ankara
  • Gareth Millington – University of York

Local mentors:

  • Marco Allegra – ICS-ULisboa
  • Olivia Bina – ICS-ULisboa
  • Roberto Falanga – ICS-ULisboa
  • Andy Inch – University of Sheffield and ICS-ULisboa
  • Andrea Pavoni – Dinâmia’CET-IUL

Organising and scientific committee

  • Simone Tulumello (ICS-ULisboa)
  • Mariana Liz (ICS-ULisboa)
  • Carolina Henriques (Dinâmia’CET-IUL)
  • Joana Catela (independent researcher)
  • Rozana Darwich (University Paris Sorbonne and AESOP YAs)

Call for abstracts ESA RN37, Bologna, 2-4 September 2020, UTH co-organised sessions

Call for abstract aberta até 3 marco 2020, para a conferência “Urban Theory and Urban Praxis: Past, Present and Possible Futures”

A conferência que vai ter lugar na University of Bologna de 2-4 Setembro, 2020 e é organizada pela European Sociological Association Research Network 37: Urban Sociology (Rede de Investigação em Sociologia Urbana ESA RN37), conta com a participação de diversos elementos do UTH:

  • sessão temática 12 “Urban regeneration: policies and effects” (co-organização de Sónia Alves);
  • sessão 20 “Unlocking inter and transdisciplinary approaches to urban research projects” (co-organização de Roberto Falanga).

Mais informações em:

Lobbying: o que podemos aprender com as ONGs de Bruxelas? – 23 Janeiro 2020

O primeiro evento Café com Luta de 2020 regressa ao tema do lobbying, mas desta vez sobre a perspectiva das ONGs que actuam juntas das instituições europeias. Bruxelas é uma das capitais mundiais do lobbying, mas não concentra apenas consultoras e grandes empresas. Milhares de ONGs estão aí sediadas e competem ou colaboram de forma profissionalizada com outros actores da sociedade, sejam empresas, associações ou outras organizações. Assim, temos muito a aprender com elas, por exemplo:
– Como podem as ONGs nacionais influenciar as políticas nas instituições comunitárias?
– O que podem aprender com as suas congéneres europeias de forma a fazer um lobbying eficaz a nível nacional?
– Que estratégias podemos adoptar?

Em diálogo aberto com a audiência, Susana Coroado, investigadora sobre o tema do lobbying e vice-presidente da Transparência Internacional, vem falarmos sobre o que tem aprendido com os seus contactos com as ONGs sediadas em Bruxelas.