We live, it has been pointed out, in a world of cities. And yet what these cities are and what they do is markedly less clear. This has led to wide-ranging multi-disciplinary debates among academics, policy-makers, planners, citizen activists, and more. Within the Swiss academy, urban research often suffers from a lack of institutional coherence and methodological reflection, with little coordination or collaboration between various institutions. This is particularly important for those of us who are PhD students or in the early phases of an academic career.
The goal of the ASG’s Urban Studies thematic group is to address this imbalance by strengthening the visibility of urban research. We aim to provide a multimodal and interactive platform for young graduate students and early career researchers in urban geography. Our intention is consolidate the landscape of urban research, overcome the institutional boundaries that limit communication and collaboration, and to do so in a way that reflects the heterogeneity of cities and the ways in which we study them.
One way we work towards these goals is through an annual workshop entitled “The Contemporary Cities CoLaboratory.” This endeavor provides opportunities for cross-pollination, mutual inspiration, and focused learning, with an added goal of creating and sustaining productive relationships for all. Our approach to these workshops is inspired by collaborative thought experiments and offers a format to help researchers think cities (or urban phenomena) in more generative, constitutive, and collaborative ways. Practically speaking, this takes the shape of a two-day gathering in which researchers present their on-going work with an eye toward constructive feedback and, potentially, collaboration. In this context, we also invite more senior urban researchers to present their work and offer insights to the more junior scholars. In this way we aspire to rethink the modalities of inquiry commonly used in urban research, with an eye towards our own fieldwork and toward building interdisciplinary and trans-institutional networks, working to diminish the barriers that too often keep urban researchers working in isolation.
Sven Daniel Wolfe et Julio Da Cruz Paolos, 2019