CfP „Exploring Urban Ownership“, Conference TU Berlin (Deadline: 1.8.2019)

CfP (Conference): Exploring Urban Ownership: Materialities and Affects, Privacies and Properties from the 19th to the 21st Century, 5 / 6 November 2020

Organisers: Dorothee Brantz, Technical University Berlin; Joachim Häberlen, University of Warwick; Christiane Reinecke, University of Osnabrueck

Conference Venue: Centre of Metropolitan Studies, Technical University, Berlin

Current debates about urban change often circle around notions of “public” and “private space”. Researchers thus draw attention to the enclosure or privatization of formerly public realms in order to criticise the rise of urban inequalities in an age of neoliberalism and global hyper-capitalism. From this perspective, “the private” is mostly tied to forms of economic ownership and often appears as clearly defined, given space. Indeed, “the private” is frequently and rather narrowly equated with a bourgeois, primarily Western European and American notion of home as a spatially separate sphere where intimate family life is taking place. Yet, what constitutes “home”, “ownership” and “the private” for different actors in different local and historical contexts seems worth exploring. Expanding our understanding of “ownership” challenges us to consider the multiple experiences, practices and affects that actually shape life in cities and that influence the use of urban resources.

Our workshop proposes exploring ”ownership” in a broader fashion that pays attention to these dimensions. We suggest thinking about ownership beyond merely economic terms and are instead interested in what we would call an “emotional” ownership of the city. Stressing this emotional dimension of ownership, our workshop will inquire about the myriad of ways, depending on historical and geographical contexts, in which urban dwellers make themselves at home in cities and feel entitled to their use, both within and beyond their own walls, and in that sense become urban citizens participating in public life. We propose investigating both the material and the emotional dimension of their efforts to participate in urban life. By examining different ways of (physically, emotionally, economically) “owning cities” and “making home”, we hope to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of urban inequalities and the question of who and what gets to determine the value and use of places, infrastructures and things.

Our workshop aims to historicize various forms of home-making, of appropriating and owning urban spaces and producing privacies, both in a very material and in an emotional sense, on a global scale. We are interested in case studies addressing a variety of spaces, ranging from single-family homes, shared apartments and makeshift barracks to pubs, allotments and seemingly public spaces such as neighbourhoods, parks or stadiums as places in which city dwellers feel entitled and “at home”. We also suggest taking a multiplicity of ownerships – such as the sharing of places and resources, their seizure, privatisation or individual use – and feelings – bereavement, pride, shame or excitement – into account. Spaces such as one’s home, a backyard or a park might be related to a sense of belonging, of familiarity and entitlement, or, on the contrary, to fear and estrangement. Not least, we seek to inquire about the temporal dimension of ownership, asking if the public and private are negotiated differently during different times of the year – is the summer, for example, a more public urban time? Our workshop seeks to draw attention to how urban ownerships, privacies and privatizations are imbued with this variety of emotions, and how they are constantly produced, reproduced and contested.

While we do want to put a particular emphasis on urban change, we welcome contributions from different disciplines (history, urban studies, sociology, anthropology, human geography, urban planning). Referring to recent academic debates on emotional geographies, affective spaces and infrastructures, emotional styles and practices, we invite papers that investigate the emotions and conflicts attached to “the private” in cities across the globe from the 19th century to the present.

Possible to topics for case studies may address:

  • The production of privacy and domesticity in the “home” in different local, political, and historical urban contexts (in the Global North and the Global South; in State Socialism; during Fascism; in Industrial, Fordist or Postfordist cities; in single family homes, hostels, camps, squatted houses, or high-rise estates).
  • Privatisations, enclosures and transformations in ownership (due to urban redevelopment projects, slum clearance, new building schemes, the emergence of gated communities or due to urban commoning, communisation, nationalisation), and the affective implications of these transformations.
  • Communal life, street life and home-making beyond the domestic (allotments, churches, clubs or parks as spheres of reproduction or belief, or as spaces of family life, sex and intimacy).
  • Contested claims to the city in the context of urban moral economies and inequalities (struggles concerning the transformation of the urban landscapes, high rents, discrimination in housing, red-lining, segregation, gentrification), addressing both the material and emotional dimension of these conflicts.

We invite paper proposals from a range of disciplines relating to these questions. Submissions should include a paper title, an abstract of up to 500 words, and a short CV. Please submit proposals by the 1st of August 2019 to Joachim Häberlen, at or to Christiane Reinecke, at

We will apply for funding for the conference, covering traveling and hotel costs, once a provisional program is confirmed. The provisional program will be communicated to applicants by the end of August 2019.