About URO

About URO

The aim with Urban Orders (URO) is to develop an ambitious and innovative interdisciplinary platform for the study of the relationship between contested urban rights and the seizure and ordering of urban spaces. Taking urban rights to signify those privileges (both formal and informal) that become associated with urban spaces and urban occupancies, URO will explore how such rights are contested and negotiated through the seizure and ordering of urban spaces by individual residents, broader collectives and formal institutions. Throughout history, public and private urban spaces have been key objects of political contestation and overlapping processes of ordering without, however, any ambitious interdisciplinary attempts have been made at fully understanding the consequences for people’s possibilities of acquiring urban rights. With URO, it is our ambition to close this significant gap.


In order to carry out this ambitious research agenda, URO will bring together researchers from the humanities, social sciences, architecture and engineering. This particular composition of interdisciplinary research fields is necessary because the seizure and ordering of urban spaces is at once technological, physical, political and social. Activities at URO are based on the overall idea that existing research on urbanism lacks a viable interdisciplinary methodology for generating new analytical and practical approaches to urbanism based on empirical and theoretical investigations of how urban rights are contested through the seizure and ordering of urban spaces. Through in-depth empirical investigations, researchers at URO will therefore study the contestation of urban rights in relation to the seizure and ordering of urban spaces and, based on these investigations, develop new interdisciplinary approaches to urbanism in a historical and contemporary perspective. Our expectation is that URO will establish a new and genuinely interdisciplinary field of research on processes of urban ordering.


The focus on contested urban rights through the seizure and ordering of urban spaces will be studied as an interplay of three related themes, which will connect research across disciplinary boundaries:


1. Urban politics. With a growing concentration of people in the world’s urban centres, new platforms for popular participation and political influence have emerged with considerable consequences for residents’ possibilities of acquiring urban rights. This might pertain to the often contrasting claims regarding jurisdiction over a particular urban space or individual residents’ contradictory rights, e.g. drug abusers legal rights to use public spaces confronted by local residents’ rights to welfare, security and sense of safety. Through these political processes, existing spatial orderings have been negotiated and undergone considerable transformations. In order to understand these complex processes, questions about civic rights and privileges arising from the seizure and ordering of urban spaces have become of key importance. URO will explore how urban spaces acquire political significance and will in this way develop an interdisciplinary framework for studying the politics of urban spaces; formal as well as informal.


2. Social infrastructures. Infrastructure is commonly understood in physical terms as systems of highways, pipes, wires, cables, etc. With URO, we want to expand this notion by exploring ‘social infrastructure’ as the flexible, mobile and provisional intersections of objects, spaces, persons and practices that different types of actors and social networks (e.g. residents, officials, civic associations and commerce) activate in order to self-regulate and possibly secure their occupancies in cities throughout the world. This could be the trust-based buttom-up organizations that order and regulate informal settlements in sub-Saharan African cities, the establishment of privatised surveillance technologies in Latin American city centres or the seizure of public spaces in southern European and Middle Eastern metropolises.

3. Architecture and urban settlements. In recent years, processes of gentrification, surveillance technologies, lacking energy provision and the privatization of suburban spaces have been accompanied by new forms of architectural designs, such as CCTV technologies in the UK or the emerging parallel cities in southeast Asia built by foreign investors. The increasing number of overlapping architectural processes crosscutting conventional distinctions between formal and informal, legal and illegal, user and provider, have considerable consequences for residents’ possibilities for acquiring urban rights and thus secure their occupancies.