Prof. Talja Blokland
Professor for Regional and Urban Sociology, Humboldt University of Berlin

That the urban is undergoing transformations is inherent: whereas urban studies may have searched for the city of stability and equilibrium, more and more scholars now focus on the dynamics of the urban. This means, however, that our understanding of the urban may conflict with everyday understandings of ‘place’ and ‘neighbourhood’ – which particularly relevant to developing ideas about urban commons and communities of care. I explore two ideas in this presentation. First, drawing on ideas from Urban Theory, I ask how to think about the hierarchical order of urban society and its implicit rules and conventions on the neighbourhood level, including the role of institutional agents – and the relevance of institutional ethnography as presented by Dorothy Smith. I combine this with ideas on what is usually referred to as ‘diversity’ (or the horizontal paradigm) and address its social organization of difference on the local level. Second, drawing on the idea of Community as Urban Practices, I reflect on how an understanding of settings of belonging as connected both to roots and routes provides frames of identifications with impacts for forms of urban commoning. Finally, I pose some questions as to what this may mean for doing ethnographic work.

Guiding Questions:

  • What does neighbourhood still mean if cities are always in transformation?
    Does urban commoning presuppose ‘roots’, rootedness and stability, or does it fit with high levels of mobility and translocal lives?
  • Where do we include social inequality in our thinking about urban commoning, and what does this mean for doing ethnography and picking ‘sites’ for fieldwork?



Inspiring discussion about the understanding of the city as a modern project, together with our guest today AbdouMaliq Simone, who is seeing the city ‘in the making’ as a dynamic process, always in flux and change.


Prof. Talja Blokland
Professor for Regional and Urban Sociology, Humboldt University of Berlin

Talja Blokland’s research interests include social theory, relational theory, urban sociology and social policy. Within urban research, her focus is on urban inequality and marginalization processes, place making, and neighborhood change and cohesion.

For more information please visit:

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s