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Contested Cities Revisited: a multidisciplinary, multi-scale analysis of urban space

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CONTESTED URBANISM (Contested Cities Revisited: a multidisciplinary, multi-scale analysis of urban space)

Reporting period: 2015-04-01 to 2017-03-31

The rapid urbanization of our world is one of the greatest societal transformations of the 21st century, bringing with it new opportunities and challenges. Presently, as a result of mounting global urban protest and violence, there are significant debates as to the role of the welfare state, urban planning, and urban space as such, in addressing the challenges of social and spatial inequalities in cities. The Contested Urbanism project concluded that all cities can be seen as sites of contestation, rather than treating places which have experienced war and violence as exceptions.

The proposed project’s meta-objectives were twofold, first; from a theoretical perspective the starting point of the project was that rather than limiting the 'extreme divided’ city label to a selected number of places, there is an increasing need to broaden the category itself in order to deepen the understanding of contested urbanism across the spectrum. The theoretical angle of the research asked to what extent is ethno-nationalism a growing characteristic of urban segregation, whereby ‘extreme divided cities’ are an intensified case of an increasingly common phenomenon? Secondly, the project constructed an innovative interdisciplinary research method connecting the long overdue qualitative and quantitative divide within urban segregation research. A diversity of methods were used, reflecting the necessarily interdisciplinary aspect of the research and its multilevel analysis, ranging from the use of the latest cutting edge space syntax technology, via the textual and visual contents of plans, to the lived meanings of urban spatial and social segregation during field work in Israel and Sweden. The empirical objective of the research was to focus on two nations with diverse forms of 'contested cities', Sweden and Israel; with an in-depth analysis of city case studies with high levels of ethnic minorities.

Using space syntax network analysis methods it was empirically demonstrated that in the case of Jerusalem, access to public transport is multi-dimensional: as well as providing access to resources, it shapes opportunities for spatial mobility that may either overcome or reinforce area-based housing segregation. In Stockholm, on the other hand, the empirical findings showed that the city’s spatial configuration has resulted in constraints on access to public transport and consequentially, on limitations on the mobility of the city’s diverse immigrant populations, who are situated a poorly-connected urban periphery. Coupled with a high level of social deprivation amongst new immigrants, the result is a multi-dimensional spatial segregation process, potentially reinforcing ethnic and socio-economic area-based housing segregation within Stockholm.

The project has led to the production of new state-of-the-art approaches to the conceptualization of urban segregation as a set of interrelated 'actions' and 'actors' and the notion of urban segregation as a multi-level, mediated process focusing not only on spatial and social conditions as separate aspects but as a combination. This has resulted in an interdisciplinary picture of urban segregation and mobility constituting a novel approach to analysing segregation that tends to focus on mostly static aspects of urban settlements.
The Contested Urbanism Research Project was hosted (April 2015- March 2017) at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL). I headed up an interdisciplinary international research team devising and implementing advanced computational spatial analysis, integrating this with ethnographic research within a mixed methods comparative framework. Based on fieldwork visits to Sweden and Israel, the project investigated the role of political, spatial and social factors in shaping segregation and mobility across two contrasting national contexts.

The analytical advances of the research involved the creation of a complete spatial model of each city, using space syntax (a graph-based mathematical method of network analysis) to analyse its spatial and social divisions; between areas that are considered central or peripheral, economically successful or degenerated, integrated or segregated; and also between social groups that differ by their social-economic status, ethnicity, race or religion, which in turn correspond to their location in urban space. In our analysis of this model we chose to focus on how transport and mobility relate to residential settlement patterns.

The analysis assessed how urban segregation is shaped and transformed by Jerusalem and Stockholm’s transport networks, hypothesising that segregation (and integration) are shaped by a combination of physical mobility, spatial accessiblity and the potential mobility and accessibility create for cross-group encounters. Exploring public transport infrastructures, considering how their implementation reflects the variety of ways that transport can have impact: segmenting populations, linking populations and/or creating spaces for interaction or conflict between populations was key to this approach. The findings suggest that segregation should be understood as an issue of mobility and co-presence in public space, rather than the static residential-based segregation that continues to be a central focus of debate in most urban studies and planning literature.

The project has produced several significant academic publications in leading scientific academic outlets far beyond the original DoA objectives and forecasts – see list of published and accepted publications as follows:

Rokem, J. and Vaughan, L. (2017). Segregation, Mobility and Encounters in Jerusalem: The Role of Public Transport Infrastructure in Connecting the ‘Divided City’, Urban Studies, https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098017691465

Rokem, J. and Boano, C. Eds. (In Press, Forthcoming July 2017). Urban Geopolitics: Rethinking Planning in Contested Cities, Routledge, London and New York, ISBN: 978-1-138-96266-8.

Rokem, J. and Vaughan L. (Forthcoming 2018) “Jerusalem” Entry, The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Studies

Rokem, J. Fregonese, S. Ramadan, A. Pascucci, E. Rosen, G. Charney, I. Paasche, F.T. and Sidaway, D.J. (2017) Interventions in Urban Geopolitics. Political Geography, http://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.04.004
Overall the Contested Urbanism project findings have resulted in several agenda setting state-of-the-art theoretical advances, which have resulted in an interdisciplinary picture of urban segregation and mobility. This constitutes a novel approach to analysing segregation that tends to focus on mostly static aspects of urban settlement patterns overlooking interactions and co-presence in space. The project measured and analysed public transport accessibility to vulnerable comments in Israeli and Swedish cities. The research interdisciplinary analysis and findings has enabled the development of a transport vulnerability assessment tool “Modelling Transport Vulnerability for Strategic Policy-Making in Cities” utilising spatial, transportation and deprivation data that are ready available to local government authorities, providing an index of the likely impact of transport planning on end users from different ethnic and poverty backgrounds. Future use of the transport assessment tool will enable the measuring of public transport vulnerability in cities.
Jerusalem Spatial Analysis Integration Map 2015
Stockholm Spatial Analysis Integration Map 2015