Big thanks to Prof. Alexa Färber for this inspiring kickoff lecture and her thoughts and insights on concepts of the city as promissory assemblage and the non-/transformative as an everyday concern, raising questions on how to engage with promises, both unfulfilled and enduring, especially in urban infrastructures.

“Cities are ever-changing arrangements of human and nonhuman actors, of ideas and their realizations, of lived, experienced and represented urban environments.” – Alexa Färber


Cities are ever-changing arrangements of human and non-human actors, of ideas and their realizations, of lived, experienced and represented urban environments. Concepts in urban studies, therefore, focus on different kinds of transformations that have taken place throughout history, how these transformations have come about, and what urban morphologies result from these transformations. From the perspective of everyday routines, stability, dependability, and reliability are indispensable for secure ways of living and experiencing the city. This tension of the urban as non-/transformative is articulated by manifold promises made in and by the city. In this lecture, Prof. Alexa Färber proposes to think this non-/transformative character of the urban together with the notion of promissory assemblage. An understanding of the city as promissory assemblage allows us to study how different urban scales of are interrelated, and enables us to grapple the contradictory character of concepts such as ‘commons’ and ‘urban resilience’. The remaining question is: How do we meet situations where the non-/transformative is an issue of everyday concern in the city?

Prof. Alexa Färber
Institute for European Ethnology, University of Vienna, Austria

Prof. Dr. Alexa Färber is an European Ethnologist and Islamic Studies scholar. Her research interests include the combination of urban anthropological issues and actor-network theory, as well as the development of a concept of ‘tangibility of the city’. She was main investigator for the research initiative ‘Low-budget-urbanity: On the transformation of the urban in times of austerity’ ( and an editorial member of several journals in cultural studies. Since September 2018, she is Professor for ‘Historical Dimensioning of Everyday Cultures’ at the Institute of European Ethnology at the University of Vienna, Austria.

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Posted in UEL
Posted by:Dr. Carolin Genz

Dr. Carolin Genz is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Department for Cultural and Social Geography at the Humboldt-University and Research Associate in the Collaborative Research Centre 1265 "Re-Figuration of Spaces" in the project area "Knowledge of Space" at Technische Universtität Berlin. As an urban anthropologist in the intersecting fields of social anthropology, human geography, and urban studies, she constantly develops ethnographic methods to capture the socio-spatial constitution of urban practices. Her research focuses on spatial theory and practices of resistance, housing, and gender.

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