Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #4 Mobility transitions with Tim Schwanen

When: 13.15 -17.00, 2 February, 2018

 Where: Roeterseiland Campus, UvA, Building J/K, room B.25


The aim of this seminar series is to develop a conversation on how mobilities shape cities as well as to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars from different disciplines and practitioners working on urban mobilities at UvA and beyond.

In the fourth seminar, we’ll focus on transitions to more sustainable and just mobilities. Guest speaker Tim Schwanen (Director of the Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford) will provide a talk on:

“Transitions in Urban Mobility Beyond State and Market: Insights from London and São Paulo”

The idea that urban mobility systems are undergoing radical transformations has gained traction over the past decade among policy makers, professionals and academics alike. Given that markets are widely seen as crucial sites where these transformations take place and are configured, private firms and policymakers are often considered as the key actors in transition processes. The role of community or grassroots organisations is often not neither considered nor understood. In this presentation I will concentrate on the initiatives by such organisations by focusing on the provision or improvement of infrastructures for cycling and walking. Adopting a broad and inclusive understanding of infrastructures and drawing on empirical materials from London and Sao Paulo, I will critically examine the contributions to mobility transitions that community initiatives can make. I will argue that, while those initiatives are unlikely to trigger mobility transitions themselves, they fulfill at least two critical  functions in mobility transitions that both revolve around questions of justice. One is that they cater to the mobility — and many other — needs of social groups at risk of marginalisation in most transport policy, private sector activity and wider discourses. The other is that, at a time that most policy and private sector activity is committed to ethical individualism and market logics, community initiatives play a key role in ‘commoning’ — the creation and harnessing of networked and interwoven commons such as physical structures, knowledges and atmospheres that facilitate and encourage walking and cycling. Differences between London and Sao Paulo in how community initiatives regarding walking and cycling infrastructures fulfill these functions will be explored.


Tim Schwanen

 Tim Schwanen is Associate Professor in Transport Studies and Director of the Transport Studies Unit (TSU) in the School of Geography and the Environment as well as a Fellow at St Anne’s College, all at the University of Oxford. Further, he is a co-director of the RCUK funded Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand. In 2013-2015 he was the editor-in-chief of Journal of Transport Geography and he currently serves on the editorial advisory boards of nine academic journals in geography, transport studies and sustainability research. (Source:



13.15 – 13.20    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

13.20 – 15.10    Presentations

Mode Transition Implications of E-bikes in the Netherlands by SUN Qi, TU/e

Cycling-as-a-Service in the urban Netherlands by Brett Petzer, TU/e

Flexible transport. (Diss)embedded urban mobilities by Wladimir Sgibnev and Lela Rekhviashvili, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

15.10-15.30      Coffee break

15.30-17.00    Transitions in Urban Mobility Beyond State and Market: Insights from London and São Paulo by Tim Schwanen

Comments and discussion

Discussant: Danielle Snellen, Netherlands Environmental Assessment  Agency (PBL)

17.00               Reception


Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to


Abstracts of presentations


Mode Transition Implications of E-bikes in the Netherlands



There is high hope for e-bikes to play a role in decarbonizing road transport, cutting down air and noise pollution, and reducing traffic congestion. However, these promises of e-bikes are debatable. It is problematic to take the approach of unconditionally embracing e-bikes and promoting the use of it. Life cycle assessment shows that e-bikes sit at the middle of the sustainability pyramid in a spectrum of transport modes. E-bikes emit several times lower pollution per passenger kilometer than cars and motorcycles. Their emission rates are comparable to buses but higher than conventional bikes. Research agrees that the user is a critical parameter in terms of e-bikes’ net environmental benefits, particularly the direction of modal shift. Empirical findings have shown that e-bikes are not only substituting car trips, but also trips made by conventional bikes and public transport. This encourages a critical look towards how e-bikes contribute to or impede sustainability. However, a common limitation in e-bike research is that the results usually suffer from self-selection bias, particularly in cases where respondents are recruited via convenience sampling.  This study aims to paint a nuanced picture about e-cycling and its modal shift implications in the Netherlands based on datasets from the first three waves of the Netherlands Mobility Panel (MPN) in 2013, 2014 and 2015. MPN keeps record of the travel behavior of a fixed group of people over a long period, thus allows direct assessment of modal substitution of e-bike users. Moreover, this study provides some insights into modal shift patterns of e-bike users for various trip purposes.


Cycling-as-a-Service in the urban Netherlands

Brett Petzer


This paper introduces the concept of Cycling-as-a-Service (CaaS) to describe cycling-based mobility services that comprise of various forms of bikeshare, bike hire and leasing. It investigates CaaS as a shared and servitised mobility innovation in the context of the urban Netherlands, which differs from much of the context of existing research in that cycling is a mainstream, mature, and culturally-embedded mode of transport. To better understand CaaS in this context, a typology of CaaS business models is developed by means of interviews with service providers and public sector actors and drawing on recent research into business models for the sharing economy. To understand the specific regulatory backlash against CaaS in some Dutch cities, which has taken place recently, a narrative analysis of press articles and other sources is conducted. Analysis of insights reveals a correlation between features of some models and the targets of regulatory backlash. This suggests that narratives of legitimation may be connected to the success of niche innovations in the case context. In turn, this finding suggests that the link between narrative analysis and socio-technical transitions, via structuration theory, may merit further research as in similar contexts due to its explanatory power in the case of CaaS in the urban Netherlands


Flexible transport (Diss)embedded urban mobilities

Wladimir Sgibnev, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

Lela Rekhviashvili, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

In this paper, we intend to discuss the concept of social embeddedness and its relevance for rapidly transforming urban mobilities worldwide. In the cities of the Global North, new, digitally powered ride-sharing or ride-sourcing practices proliferate. Their appeal lies not only in offering affordable and demand-responsive urban transport, but also in their discursive emphasis on social embeddedness, reciprocity and personalisation of such mobilities. In the cities of the Global South, the low-fi, informal sharing mobility practices have also relied on personalised networks and mutuality. The literature on informality in post-socialist cities has also insisted on social embeddedness of such exchanges. Socially embedded mobilities, have been portrayed as a phenomenon defying both, markets and states, emphasizing the possibility of horizontal, relatively inclusive mobilities. Empirically drawing, on the one hand, on the examples of informally operating minivans, so called Marshrutkas in post-socialist cities, on the other hand, on sharing mobility practices, such as Uber, Lyft, BlaBla car, we delve into theoretic underpinning of the embeddedness concept.

We suggest that current enactments of embeddedness concept when discussing urban mobilities, is too narrowly focusing on personalisation, intimacy and horizontality of exchange. Such a narrow focus oftentimes conceals, first, how the discourse of embeddedness is utilised to justify profit-seeking economic endeavour and rapid increase in corporate control over urban mobilities; second, how horizontal social embeddedness can have own limits, resulting in worker’s precarity and passenger insecurity. To counter such narrow and abusive deployment of the concept, we draw on Polanyian definition of social embeddedness, as subjection of economic exchanges to social and political needs, to elaborate what embedded mobilities can mean and how they can relate to mobility justice.








Looking back at Seminar #3 Cities, Tourism & AirBnB with Jennie Germann Molz

On 15 December the seminar series Cities & Mobilities featured the talk by Jennie Germann Molz “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”. You can see the full lecture on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

While the presentations and lectures focussed on the effects and perceptions of tourist mobilities (across the globe and across cities) and AirBnB, in the discussion these issues were used to raise bigger questions about belonging, change and socialities in a mobile world.

The first presentation by Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg and the discussion afterwards focused on inequalities that AirBnB produces and/or amplifies and on the relationship between AirBnB and gentrification. It appears that AirBnB becomes a medium that both reflects and produces urban imaginaries, and as such increasingly shapes ideas about cities and cities themselves.

The second presentation by Willem Boterman and Fenne Pinkster provoked a discussion about normativities of being a tourist and being mobile as well as the paradoxes in the debate on the impact of tourism: the desire to be not disturbed by tourists in “home” city often goes along with the desire to travel, to be a tourist. The ideas about appropriate mobilities translate from “global” mobilities of tourists to tourists’ movement through the city: certain practices of moving through the city are seen as not belonging in Amsterdam, e.g. on a beer bike or in a horse carriage, whereas others are fine (see also my earlier post in on interrelationship of mobilities). The discussion then revolved around the questions of belonging and home, diversity and change, mobility and fixity: who “belongs” in the city if the city centre has been constantly reshaped by new groups moving in or dwelling temporarily? What kind of diversity does tourism bring to the urban scene and what kind of diversity may be displaced? Is staying put (in particular places and circumstances) in a mobile world a privilege, a luxury, a need or an illusion – because our immobilities are only desirable and possible in the context of mobilities?

Jennie’s lecture (too rich to be summarised in a few words here) focused on the role of scale (home-neighbourhood-city-…- “anywhere”) in the politics of AirBnB promotion and interaction with cities as well as the spatialities and temporalities of belonging. The discussion picked up on the AiBnB offer of “belonging  anywhere”: Do we want to belong anywhere? How long does it take to “belong”? Brett Petzer raised the question of the impact of AirBnb as a new aesthetic and Fenne Pinkster highlighted people’s desire for “safe adventure” as the main attraction of the idea behind AirBnB. Femke Blockhuis from the city of Amsterdam discussed the role of the city in shaping the impact of AirBnB on urban living, and emphasized the necessity of dialogue with such platforms. After some collective pondering on the perceived irreversibility of trends like platform capitalism and the growing presence and power of AirBnB, Bart Stuart’s final remark left us thinking about sociality and hospitality with and without platforms: do we need AirBnB to be good hosts, do we need platforms in order to share the city?


Read more about the Cities & Mobilities Seminar series and come join the discussion!


Looking back at Seminar #2 Cities, Mobility and Diversity with Adrian Favell

On 17 November the seminar series Cities & Mobilities featured the talk by Adrian Favell “Diversities and Mobilities in Cities: The Case of London and Brexit” . You can see the full talk on the website of the Centre for Urban Studies.

One on the key questions that emerged in presentations, the lecture and the discussion, kicked off by Olga Soodi was why people move to particular cities, what imaginaries inspire their journeys and then how they themselves then both adapt to and transform the city. We were talking about the attraction of particular cities for some people coming from far away “just to be there” and the desire to leave those very same cities that other people experience. Does it mean that these mobilities are less about cities and their specificities and more about people’s dreams and aspirations? According to Adrian Favell, it seems that “there is value in the very act of movement”. And Olga Sooudi pointed to a paradox: cities are shaped by these journeys that may be inspired by unique features of different cities, and yet it is those journeys that may contribute to “flattening” of cities and emergence of generic features – at the same time as these journeys also generate spaces of diversity.

Read more about the Cities & Mobilities Seminar series and come join the discussion!

Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #3 Cities, Tourism & AirBnB

When: 13.45 -17.00, 15 December, 2017

Where: Roeterseiland Campus, Building J/K, room B.25

In the third seminar of the Cities & Mobilities Seminar Series, we’ll focus on the impact of tourist mobilities on cities and will pay particular attention to AirBnB. Guest speaker Jennie Germann Molz (Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts) will provide a talk on:

 “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”

As tourists increasingly turn to peer-to-peer hospitality networks such as Airbnb to arrange homestays in urban destinations, they unlock experiences of the city that span the private enclaves of hosts’ homes and the public spaces of the city. For better or for worse, these platforms are disrupting urban transportation and hospitality industries, with critical repercussions for local economies, for urban planning and housing policy, for permanent residents who inhabit the city, and for the temporary visitors who come and go. In this talk, I will review current and recent research on Airbnb in urban settings to explore the implications of network hospitality for urban transformation across the scales of private and public spaces.

Jennie Germann Molz

Jennie Germann Molz is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts. Her research interests include tourism mobilities and mobile technologies; hospitality and the ethics of welcoming strangers; global citizenship, home, and belonging; food, consumption, and identity; and mobile methodologies. She is co-editor of the journal Hospitality & Society. Her publications include Travel Connections: Technology, Tourism and Togetherness in a Mobile World (Routledge) and Disruptive Tourism and its Untidy Guests: Alternative Ontologies for Future Hospitalities (Palgrave Macmillan). She is currently researching families who take their children out of school and ‘roadschool’ them while traveling the world.


13.45 – 13.50    Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

14.10 – 15.10    Presentations

AirBnB as a Platform for Gentrification: Comparing Cultural and Economic Impacts of AirBnB in New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam by Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg (CUS & UvA)

Inconsistent habitus? Paradoxical experiences of mobility of aging gentrifiers in the Amsterdam Canal Belt by Willem Boterman & Fenne Pinkster (CUS/UvA)

15.10-15.30      Coffee break

15.30-17.00     Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale, by Jennie Germann Molz

Comments and discussion. Discussant tbs

17.00               Reception

Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to Iris van der Doelen:



AirBnB as a Platform for Gentrification: Comparing Cultural and Economic Impacts of AirBnB in New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam

 Letizia Chiappini and Petter Törnberg (CUS & UvA)

 This paper uses AirBnB data on New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam to show that the platform functions as a watershed that channels flows of temporary visitors into deprived ethnical minority neighborhoods, thereby reinforcing existing urban displacement processes and functioning as a powerful driver for entangled touristification and gentrification. Departing from an urban studies perspective, we take a pluralist approach — combining computational, statistical and qualitative analysis, as well as ethnical categorization of host’s and guest’s photographs — to look at (i) how the ethnic distribution of visitors and hosts compares to the existing distributions of neighborhoods, (ii) the economics gain of AirBnB as a function of ethnicity, and (iii) the way that hosts discursively characterize their apartments and neighborhoods.

We find that (i) temporary visitors, who tend to be less enmeshed in the local cultural context, function as a unknowing vanguard in a gentrification process driven by predominantly white developers. Whites are overrepresented as hosts, as they are more likely to have adequate economic and cultural capital to invest in housing and present it in a way attractive to the target audience. (ii) This effectively results in the extraction of resources from deprived neighborhoods, whose residents see displacement, increased rents, and housing precariatization. To attract guests, (iii) hosts employ the cultural logic of gentrification — images of street-art and flea-markets, words like “up-and-coming” and “second hand”. This implies that AirBnB functions as a platform for spatial and cultural appropriation of milieux, operating through and reinforcing existing inequalities through extraction of resources from deprived ethnical minority neighborhoods to the benefit of predominately white hosts and guests.


Inconsistent habitus? Paradoxical experiences of mobility of aging gentrifiers in the Amsterdam Canal Belt

Willem Boterman and Fenne Pinkster (UvA/CUS)

Once pioneer gentrifiers, many long term residents of Amsterdam’s historical canal belt now belong the established middle class. In fact, the inhabitants of the Canal Belt have become a metaphor for talking about the Dutch cultural elite: privileged, liberal, and cosmopolitan. These long term residents, while privileged in many respects, increasingly experience a sense of powerlessness and view the transformation of their residential environment negatively. The rapid growth of visitors, whether from abroad or domestic , has led to feelings of estrangement, frustration and non-belonging. To cope with pressures arising from tourism, residents have developed several strategies  and tactics that often entail (in)frequent forms of mobility, including travel abroad. Many middle class subjects are highly mobile and have cosmopolitan and international perspective and life style. The inhabitants of the Canal Belt extensively for instance refer to their own experiences as tourist in other cities, while assessing the effects of tourism in their own area. In response to the challenges rapid growth of tourism poses to them, they often develop strategies based on mobility themselves. This paper therefore centrefolds the experiences and practices of these middle class residents to explore the some interesting paradoxes that are rooted in middle class habitus.


Rethinking cities through mobilities. Introduction to the seminar series Cities and Mobilities

This is the transcript of the talk I have given at the first seminar. By posting this here I would like to share some thoughts on cities and mobilities that have inspired me to organise the seminar series and to welcome more people to our ongoing conversation at the Centre for Urban Studies. – A.N.


According to a French philosopher Paul Virilio, the city is “not simply a place where one lives, it’s above all a crossroads”.

Most people would see movement, mobility as something secondary to whatever else they are doing in cities – living, working, studying, spending time with their loved ones, shopping, etc. Yet, as this quote suggests and as many other scholars have argued, mobility is at the very origins of the city as a form of human cohabitation. Cities developed at crossroads, around markets, in rivers’ deltas, on seashores and so forth: essentially, wherever people could come together easier and wherever stuff was easier to bring to for exchange.

Nothing and nobody in contemporary cities exists isolated from some form of mobility – local or global. Even if you are a tenth generation Amsterdammer, your ancestors have moved here from somewhere else. The food we eat, the movies we watch, the colleagues we speak to, the postman in your neighbourhood and the post itself – everything and everybody comes from somewhere.

But also we perceive the city while we are on the move, there is simply no other way of engaging with urban fabric and with fellow citizens (te Brömmelstroet et al., 2017). And each way of moving around the city makes you see, smell, touch different things. Your stroll to the bakery, your cycling commute, your daydreaming in a tram.

All the mobilities shaping the city at macro and microscale are interrelated, designed, governed, imbued with meaning (Cresswell, 2010).

Let me illustrate this point very briefly using the example of Amsterdam. Below you see  the map of the city made in 17th century. From its early days, this city was shaped by different forms of mobility – by pilgrimage, by trade-related mobility, by mobilities of refugees, by mobilities of the poor and the rich. Its urban form, its wealth and power have everything to do with particular forms of movement – around the city and around the globe; some of these mobilities were voluntary, others – forced.

map of amsterdam

A. Besnard after Daniel Stalpaert, 1657. Source:


And this is a map of Amsterdam in the 21st century.


Source: Sander van der Drift (2015)

It’s a map from a research project exploring tourist mobilities in Amsterdam using geotagged photos from Flickr (van der Drift, 2015). This map shows most popular routes and tourist hotspots in the city. Visitors come from all parts of the world, yet these global mobilities have profound impact on mobility in the city. Certain streets are closed off for cars, others for cyclists. None of this is uncontested. Add AirBnB to the mix, and you’ll have an idea of some of the most heated debates in the city: whose city Amsterdam is? This question has everything to do with mobility. The right to the city is the also the right to move (Cresswell, 2006) safely and maybe even with pleasure, regardless of one’s physical abilities and looks, income or occupation.

Cities are continuously shaped by mobilities, every moment of the day. And in the seminar series “Cities and Mobilities” we are looking at different dimensions of this process, from global migration to daily commutes. To give you a more specific idea of diversity of subjects that the seminar will cover, I have made a word cloud of the most frequently used words all the submitted abstracts, having excluded the words “urban”, “city” and “mobility”.

Word Frequency Query1

Source: Anna Nikolaeva


Here you can clearly see not only the diversity of topics, but also of disciplines. It is the goal of the seminar series to bring together people from urban planning and anthropology, history and sociology, geography and cultural studies. The aim is to exchange perspectives, to get inspired, to find connections – and to see if we can take this conversation further. But to begin with – to see who is working on mobility in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, and in any places from where people are going to come to the seminar series.

Another goal of the seminar is to give an opportunity to junior researchers to receive feedback on their work-in-progress from the key scholars in the field. The format allows for both a public dialogue and informal face-to-face conversations.

We have already started our journey of exploring cities and mobilities, and you can join any time. Anyone is welcome: this is an open conversation beyond the walls of the “ivory tower” or disciplinary borders. Each of us has plenty of stories about cities and mobilities to share.



I would like to thank the Centre for Urban Studies for the financial and administrative support of the seminar as well as all the guest speakers, presenters and the audience making this seminar series such a fantastic experience.



Cresswell, T. 2010. Towards a Politics of Mobility. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28(1), 17–31.

Cresswell, T. 2006. The Right to Mobility: The Production of Mobility in the Courtroom. Antipode, 38(4), 735–754.

te Brömmelstroet, M. C. G., Nikolaeva, A., Glaser, M. A., Nicolaisen, M., and C. Chan (2017). Traveling together alone and alone together: Mobility and potential exposure to diversity. Applied Mobilities 2(1), 113-129.

Virilio, P. and S. Lotringer. 1997. Pure War. New York: Semiotext(e).

van der Drift, S. 2015. Revealing spatial and temporal patterns from Flickr photography – A case study with tourists in Amstedam. Master thesis.



Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series #2 Cities, Mobility and Diversity with Adrian Favell

The aim of this seminar series is to develop a conversation on how mobilities shape cities as well as to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars from different disciplines and practitioners working on urban mobilities at UvA and beyond.

In the second seminar, we’ll focus on mobility and diversity. Guest speaker Adrian Favell (Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds) will give a talk

“Diversity and Mobilities in Eurocities: The Case of London and Brexit”.

London in the 2000s was the Eurocity par excellence. It was the destination of choice for a generation or two of Eurostars (Favell 2008): young, professionally mobile, post-national populations from Europe, West and East, who thrived in the cosmopolitan, non-discriminatory atmosphere of the largest and most dynamic global city, in a Europe of open borders.  Will Brexit change all that?

For sure, there will be a new natural experiment as regards the regional economic and cultural fortunes of London’s binary twin, Paris, which declined markedly in the shadow of London from 1997-2010. Other competing cities, such as Amsterdam and Berlin are also clearly benefitting. The presentation will also focus on theoretical issues about the limits of mobilities in a still nationalised and colonially ordered world. One of the great attractions of London was its “superdiversity”, a legacy of ethnic and racial diversity with deep roots in British colonial domination. Free moving Europeans and Black and Asian Minority (BAME) British, were widely thought be in tension. Yet Brexit has revealed the underlying racialised and colonial logic of British (English) island nationalism, which has re-cast all of these mobile, transnational and diasporic populations as subordinate “immigrant” foreigners to be nationally “integrated”—or else. The limits of cosmopolitanism have also been revealed by the sharp intercession of national sovereignty in the shape of a referendum, which ostensibly restored to “the people” the power to politically reject the legitimacy of economic and cultural mobilities that were thought to be constitutive of a global society; literally to reduce “demography” to “democracy”.

Adrian Favell

Prof. Adrian Favell is Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds. He is the author of various works on multiculturalism, migration, cosmopolitanism and cities, including Philosophies of Integration: Immigration and the Idea of Citizenship in France and Britain (1998), The Human Face of Global Mobility: International Highly Skilled Migration in EuropeNorth America and the Asia-Pacific (with Michael Peter Smith, 2006), and Eurostars and Eurocities: Free Movement and Mobility in an Integrating Europe (2008). A collection of his essays, Immigration, Integration and Mobility: New Agendas in Migration Studies, including more recent work on East-West migration and anti-EU politics in Britain, was published by ECPR Press (Jan 2015). He also writes about urban development and politics in Turkey, and Japan as a model of the “post-growth” society, particular in terms of its contemporary art and architecture.


Opening by Anna Nikolaeva (CUS, organizer of the seminar series)

14.10 – 15.10
Presentations (see abstract below)

  • Cosmopolitan capital, flexible ethos and social skills: the making of the cool creative migrant in the new urban cultural economy, by Vanessa Cantinho de Jesus, AISSR/UvA.
  • Afrostars and Eurospaces: West African movers Re-viewing ‘Destination Europe’ from the Inside, by Joris Schapendonk, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

Coffee break

Guest Lecture:

  • Diversity and Mobilities in Eurocities: The Case of London and Brexit, by Adrian  Favell.

Comments and discussion with Virginie Mamadouh, CUS/UvA



Seminar is free and open to anyone. Please let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to Iris van der Doelen:

Location: REC J/K B.25

Roeterseilandcampus – building J/K

Valckenierstraat 65-67 | 1018 XE Amsterdam



Vanessa Cantinho de Jesus, AISSR, UvA

Cosmopolitan capital, flexible ethos and social skills: the making of the cool creative migrant in the new urban cultural economy.

In this paper I will draw on ethnographic examples taken from my research on young Portuguese adults living in Amsterdam who are, in diverse ways, pursuing professional and/or artistic aspirations in the creative and cultural industries. Through the analysis of some of their discourses and practices I intend to discuss the particular conditions and strategies that are at play in the pursuit of such aspirations. Namely, the importance of social networking, the adoption of a flexible lifestyle (not only regarding work, but also one’s values and plans for the future), and the signalling of transnational aesthetic orientations, expressed in a kind of cosmopolitan capital (Kuipers, 2012) appear as features for success.

To develop my argument I will not simply acknowledge such circumstances, but also reflect on their conditions of production and on the meanings of the relatively differentiated access to, and display by different informants.

I equally intend to access how diversity, more than a discursive trope crucial to this new urban cultural economy, can be a useful concept when approached both critically – that is on the limits of such trope – and as a signifier of the multi-dimensionality behind the emplacement dynamics in this particular city and for these particular migrants.

While political discourse and urban policy celebrate and promote the attraction of international talent to the celebrated creative city, creating appealing imaginaries to migrants to be, a more attentive eye into the realities of those who move in search of such images is needed, to build a critical stance capable of both highlighting the possibilities of emplacement in such urban cultural economies but also pointing to the underlying contradictions and possible exclusions. My aim is that this paper can make a contribution in that direction.


Joris Schapendonk, Radboud University

Afrostars and Eurospaces: West African movers Re-viewing ‘Destination Europe’ from the Inside

In order to destabilise the persistent normalisation of specific labelling that affects migration studies and migration policy so profoundly, this paper looks for similarities across presumably different categories of travellers. In so doing, I start from the im/mobility experiences of the Eurostars, being portrayed by Favell (2008) as the mobile EU citizens that were the pioneers in the creation of an integrated EU. I mirror these im/mobility experiences with that of the Afrostars, i.e. the West African un/documented migrants whose intra-EU im/mobility trajectories I am following through time and space. To analyse the parallels between the Euro- and the Afrostars, I construct a comparative lens along three analytical lines: the changing of aspiration and destinations, the confrontation with migration-related bureaucracies and the relationality between mobility and place attachments. The insights leads to two concluding observations that help us to re-view mobility/migration in Europe. First, there is a misleading separation of the academic debates on Euro-mobility, on the one hand, and the secondary movements or onward migration of non-EU citizens on the other. This distinction in migration studies reinforces categorical lines that are mostly induced by migration apparatuses. Secondly, and in relation to the former, there is a remarkable difference in terms of the position of mobility vis-à-vis the nation-state. As Favell so strongly shows, the Eurostars are praised for their construction of a post-national, and integrated Europe. While the treatment of the Afrostars rely so much on a discourse of re-nationalisation, i.e. national integration or assimilation. Thus, integrating Europe and integrating migrants are two worlds apart.



Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series. Seminar #1 Mobility and Place with Tim Cresswell

Please be invited to the opening seminar of the interdisciplinary Cities and Mobilities Seminar Series. It’s going to be an exciting afternoon of discussions about mobility and place. Our presenters and the guest speaker will analyse mobilities as they have shaped  urban life in Chicago, Jerusalem and Almere.

When: 13.45 – 17.00, 27 October, 2017

Where: Roeterseiland Campus, Building M (Amsterdam Business School), room 1.03


13.45                   Opening of the seminar series by Anna Nikolaeva

14.00 – 15.10     Presentations.

Lior Volinz, University of Amsterdam: Checkpoints: Outsourced Security and the Politics of (Un)certainty

Yannis Tzaninis, University of Amsterdam: Beyond the urban/suburban dichotomy

15.10-15.30         Coffee break

15.30-17.00         Lecture and discussion

Tim Cresswell  ‘Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Mobility  and Place in a Chicago Market’ and closing

Commentary by Luca Bertolini, the director of the Centre for Urban Studies


after 17.00  Reception

The seminar is free and open to anyone. Please kindly let us know if you are coming by sending an e-mail to Iris van der Doelen:


Tim Cresswell

Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Mobility and Place in a Chicago Market

This presentation consists of sections of a book length attempt at writing place. The place is the Maxwell Street area of Chicago, the site of North America’s largest open-air market though most of the 20th century. The book consists of three essays of fragments drawing on the writing techniques of Walter Benjamin in his Arcades Project as well as experiments in hybrid form in contemporary poetry (Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Susan Howe etc.). The essays are written in fragments – paragraphs that introduce and then return to recurring themes including waste, lists, materiality, the senses, and memory. The presentation will be a reading of a selection of these fragments that feature the theme of interacting mobilities (of people, things, ideas) within the place that is and was Maxwell Street.

About Tim Cresswell:

Tim Cresswell is Professor of American Studies, Dean of Faculty and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Trained as a cultural geographer, Cresswell’s research focusses on the role of mobility, place, and space in the constitution of social and cultural worlds. Recent work has centered on the relations between forms of mobility and power in modern life. He is currently completing a book on the 100-year history of the Maxwell Street market in Chicago framed as an account of interactions between place and mobility. Cresswell is the author, co-author or co-editor of a dozen books including On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (2006) and Geographies of Mobilities: Practices, Spaces, Subjects (2011). As a poet he is the author of two collections: Soil (2103) and Fence (2015) which continue his explorations of place and mobility. He is co-editor of the AAG journal GeoHumanities: Space, Place, and the Humanities.


Lior Volinz, University of Amsterdam

Checkpoints: Outsourced Security and the Politics of (Un)certainty

In this presentation I explore how uncertainty can be employed as a mode of governance. In exploring the administration, interfaces and security practices of Israeli checkpoints in Jerusalem’s environs, I propose that uncertainty can be strategically employed and adjusted by means of irregular operation, managerial obfuscation, lack of accountability and contradictory or oft-altered directives and regulatory framework by public and private security actors. In examining the role of (un)certainty governance in facilitating the mobility of some residents, while severely limiting the movement of others, I analyse the different facets of (un)certainty within a deliberate unequal  (re)distribution of substantive citizenship. I follow this argument through an exploration of four different dimensions of mobility (un)certainty at the checkpoints around Jerusalem. The first dimension is that of the obscure and interchangeable roles of public and private security actors at the checkpoints, which contribute to the obfuscation of authority and the unaccountability of the checkpoints operators. The second is the uncertainty and unreliability of military permits, based on legally indeterminate and illegible criteria, subjected to unforeseen rejection or revocation. I continue to analyse the spatial-temporal dimensions, in which the physical movement of the border leads to further uncertainty and danger while pre-emptively discouraging the movement of Palestinian civilians. Lastly, I explore the different Palestinian responses to the Israeli authorities’ employment of uncertainty as a mode of governance – how do Palestinians cope, negotiate with or avert altogether the Israeli authorities sustained uncertainty at the checkpoints.

Yannis Tzaninis, University of Amsterdam

Beyond the urban/suburban dichotomy

Suburbanisation has been a prevalent process of post-WWII urban growth, currently leading to the majority of citizens in many advanced capitalist economies living in the suburbs. In recent years however we are also witnessing an increasing urban ‘return’, or at least an increase in the popularity of inner cities for living and financial investment. In this presentation I explore these contrasting processes relationally, by focusing on the mobilities between Amsterdam and the suburban New Town Almere.

The aim is to cast light upon the changing urban-suburban relationship, by investigating the mobility to and from Almere longitudinally, through socio-economic, demographic data between 1990 and 2013. I demonstrate that Almere has developed from a typically white suburban, family community to a receiver of both international unmarried newcomers and native families; its population has also become relatively poorer, yet the levels of upwards income mobility have remained stable. These trends emphasize alternative types of mobilities emerging in concert to the more typical suburban migration, while challenging the urban-suburban dichotomy, pointing to alternative explanations of contemporary urban growth and metropolitan integration. In conclusion I propose that we should reevaluate processes of (sub)urbanization by focusing on contemporary diversifying global mobilities that are increasingly producing hybridizing places.


Save the Date: Cities & Mobilities Seminar Series


In 2017-2018 the Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam, will host a seminar series “Cities and Mobilities”, organised by Anna Nikolaeva.  The goal is to have series of conversations on how mobilities shape cities – from migration and tourism to daily commutes, historically and nowadays, in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the world.

Also, the series aims to foster exchange and collaboration between scholars at the University of Amsterdam and beyond, working on different dimensions of urban mobilities and in different disciplines. We will look at cities and mobilities through the eyes of geographers, historians, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners. We will also hear commentaries from policy-makers, activists and other non-academics.

At each seminar a leading scholar will give a lecture and provide feedback to 2-3 presentations by selected junior scholars. There will be room for discussion and networking for the audience as well. The series of seminars will close by two events in May 2018 – a roundtable with the city of Amsterdam and an academic afternoon where interested participants of the series (audience and presenters) will gather once again to brainstorm a research agenda on cities and mobilities.

All seminars are free to attend and open to anyone, but please register by sending an e-mail to Iris van der Doelen (, preferably two weeks before a seminar. It’s nice to know who is coming and to make sure there’s enough coffee and drinks.


27 October 2017 Tim Cresswell, Trinity College, Hartford: “Maxwell Street: Writing and Thinking Mobility and Place in a Chicago Market”
17 November 2017 Adrian Favell, University of Leeds: “Diversity and Mobility in Eurocities”
15 December 2017 Jennie Germann Molz, College of the Holy Cross: “Sharing the City: Tourism Mobilities, Network Hospitality, and the Politics of Scale”
2 February 2017 Tim Schwanen, University of Oxford: “Transitions in Urban Mobility Beyond State and Market: Insights from London and São Paulo”
23 February 2018 Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster: “Mobility and social movements”
16 March 2018 Ole B. Jensen, Aalborg University: “Staging and designing mobilities”
20 April 2018 Mimi Sheller, Drexel University: “Mobility Justice”

Time and Location

The seminars will take place on Roeterseiland campus between 13.30 and 17.00 with drinks afterwards. Each seminar will consist of two parts:  presentations from approximately 13.30 to 15.15 and the guest lecture and debate from 15.30 to 17.00.

If you sign up, you will receive details on location and the schedule.

A detailed programme of each seminar will be announced separately by the Centre for Urban Studies and will published on this website.