This course is discontinued

SGO9205 – Urban Transformations

Course content

How can we understand and conceptualize ongoing urban transformations? Social theory appears to have rediscovered the city as the key site for exploring the critical challenges of our time – climate change, migration, energy transitions, technological innovation, inequality and more. Cities allow for, both an examination of how those abstract challenges are enacted, practiced and lived on the ground, and for spaces to intervene in them through living labs, experimentation, and other context-sensitive activities. Social theory has attempted to grasp the complexity and spatiality of urban change by drawing on policy mobility literatures, assemblage theory, political ecology, socio-technical transitions perspectives and others, which attribute urban change to the human and the non-human, and to urban actors as well as to transurban relations.

In this course we seek to advance understanding of the nature and dynamics of transformative change in contemporary urban settings. It will draw on and explore a variety of theoretical and empirical approaches relevant to this theme. The course combines lectures and discussions based on paper presentations by course participants. 

The course is organized by the Department of Sociology and Human Geography in collaboration with the Department of Geography, University of Bergen.

Our lecturers:

Professor Jane Jacobs, National University of Singapore, Yale College

Professor Kevin Ward, University of Manchester

Professor Håvard Haarstad, University of Bergen

Professor Per Gunnar Røe, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo


The course is open to applications from all interested Ph.D. students. PhD students at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo gain theory-points and register for the course in StudentWeb.

Interested participants outside the department shall fill out this application form.

The deadline for applications is 27th October 2017.


Schedule (tentative)

The course is located in room 221, Harriet Holters Building all days except on Wednesday - room 124, same building.


Monday 27 November

09.00–09.15    Welcome and introductions, Håvard Haarstad and Per Gunnar Røe

09.15–10.45    Lecture: ”Urban Transformations” Håvard Haarstad

10.45–11.00    Break

11.00–12.30    Lecture: ”Urban Transformations” Håvard Haarstad

12.30–13.15    Lunch

13.15–16.00    Presentations by PhD candidates (Camila Guadalupi, Ulf Rydningen, Aron Sandell)


Tuesday 28 November

09.00–10.30    Lecture: “Re-approaching the Built Environment”, Jane M. Jacobs

10.30–10.45    Break

10.45–12.15    Lecture: “Re-approaching the Built Environment”, Jane M. Jacobs

12.15–13.00    Lunch

13.00–16.45    Presentations by PhD candidates (Torstein S. Throndsen, Karin Lillevold, Alexander Bern)


Wednesday 29 November

09.00–10.30    Lecture: “Urban Policies in Motion”, Kevin Ward

10.30–10.45    Break

10.45–12.15    Lecture: “Urban Policies in Motion”, Kevin Ward

12.15–13.00    Lunch

13.00–16.00    Presentations by PhD candidates (Jakob Grandin, Kristin Kjærås, Taran Grefberg)


Thursday 30 November

09.00–10.30    Lecture: “Suburban Transformations”, Per Gunnar Røe

10.30–10.45    Break

10.45–12.15    Lecture: “Suburban Transformations”, Per Gunnar Røe

12.15–13.00    Lunch

13.00–15.00    Presentations by PhD candidates (Suheyla Turk, Mari Hjorteset, Marikken Wathne)

15.00–16.00    Concluding discussion


Reading list Håvard Haarstad:

Haarstad, H. 2016. Where are urban low-carbon transitions governed? Conceptualizing the complex governance arrangements for mobility and urban form in Europe. Cities, 54(May), pp. 4-10.

McCann, E. (2011). Urban policy mobilities and global circuits of knowledge: Towards a research agenda. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101(1), 107–130.

Bulkeley, H., & Betsill, M. M. (2005). Rethinking sustainable cities: Multilevel governance and the 'urban' politics of climate change. Environmental Politics, 14(1), 42–63.

Hommels, A. 2005. Studying obdurancy in the city: toward a productive fusion between technology studies and urban studies. Science, Technology and Human Values, 30(3), pp. 323-51.

Haarstad, H., and Oseland, S. 2017. Historicizing urban sustainability: the shifting ideals behind Forus Industrial Park. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 41(5), 838-854.

Haarstad, H., and Wanvik, T. 2017. Carbonscapes and beyond: conceptualizing the instabilities of oil landscapes. Progress in Human Geography, 41(4), pp. 432-450.

McCann, E., and Ward, K. 2012. Assembling Urbanism: Following Policies nad "Studying Through" the Sites and Situations of Polocy making. Environmnet and Planning A, 44(1), 42-51.

Luque-Ayala A and Marvin S. (2015) Developing a critical understanding of smart urbanism? Urban Studies 52: 2105-2116.

Robinson, J. 2015. "Arring at" urban policies: the topological Spaces of urban polocy mobility. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(4), pp. 831-4.



Reading list from Jane M Jacobs:

Re-approaching the Built Environment

These readings have been chosen with the following learning objectives in mind:

• to give you an insight into where I am coming from as a scholar: why am I interested in the built environment and what questions I ask of it, and why?

• to expose you to a range of approaches to the built environment.

You do not have to read all the papers, but do read at least one from each section.

Jane M Jacobs on architecture and buildings

Jacobs, Jane M., 2006. A geography of big things. Cultural geographies, 13(1), 1-27.

Cairns, S. and Jacobs, Jane M. (2014) Buildings Must Die: A Perverse View of Architecture. MIT Press. Chapter 4 Towards a general economy of architecture; Chapter 6 Obsolescence.


Harvey, David (1985) The Urbanization of Capital. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Chapter 2: The Urban Process Under Capitalism: A Framework for Analysis.

(An earlier version of this is also available in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 1978, Volume 2, Issue 1-3.)

Sklair, Leslie 2012 Iconic architecture as a hegemonic project of the transnational capitalist class, City: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action, 16 (1-2), 57-73.


Gieryn, Thomas F. 2002. What buildings do, Theory and society 31(1), 35-74.

Latour, B. and Yaneva, A. (2012) “Give me a Gun and I will Make All Buildings Move: An ANT’s View of Architecture”, in Architectural Theories of the Environment: Posthuman Territory, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Books Ltd. pp.107-115.


Rose, Gillian, Degen, Monica and Basdas, B. (2010) More on ‘big things’: building events and feelings, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(1), pp. 334–349.


Tonkiss, Fran 2011 Template urbanism: Four Points about assemblage, City 5(5), 584-588.

(This is paper is part of an extended debate about assemblage in City (2011), the centre of which is a paper by Colin McFarlane, on the one hand, and a rebuttal from Neil Brenner, David J. Madden & David Wachsmuth. Feel free to follow up on those papers, which I did not set as built environments is only a part of their focus).


Reading list from Kevin Ward:

Baker T, Cook I, McCann E, Temenos C and Ward K (2016) Policies on the move: the transatlantic travels of Tax Increment Financing.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers 106.2, 459-69

Crivello S (2015) Urban policy mobilities: the case of Turn as a smart city. European Planning Studies 23.5, 909-21

Gonzalez S (2011) Bilbao and Barcelona ‘in motion’: how urban regeneration ‘models’ travel and mutate in the global flows of policy tourism. Urban Studies 48.7, 1397-418

Jacobs J M (2012) Urban geographies I: Still thinking cities relationally. Progress in Human Geography 36.3, 412-22

Rapoport E (2015) Sustainable urbanism in the age of Photoshop: Images, experiences and the role of learning through inhabiting the international travels of a planning model Global Networks 15.3, 307-24

Ward K (2006) ‘Policies in motion’, urban management and state restructuring: The trans-local expansion of Business Improvement Districts. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 30.1, 54-75

Weber R (2010) Selling urban futures: the fiancialization of urban redevelopment policy. Economic Geography 86.2, 251-274

Wiig A (2015) IBM’s smart city as techno-utopian policy mobility. City 19.2, 258-73


Reading list from Per Gunnar Røe:

Farlane, C. 2016. The Geographies of Urban Density: Topology, Politics and the City. Progress in Human Geography. 40(5), pp. 629-648.

Keil, R. 2018. Suburban Planet. Chapter 2: Suburbanization Explained. Polity Press, Cambridge, pp. 23-40.

Keil, R. & Macdonald, S. 2016. Rethinking Urban Political Ecology From the Outside in: Greenbelts and Boundaries in the Post-Suburban City. Local Environment. 21(12), pp. 1516-1533.

Nüssli, R. & Schmid, C. 2016. Beyond the Urban–Suburban Divide: Urbanization and the Production of the Urban in Zurich North. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 40(3), pp. 679–701.

Phelps, N. A. & Wood, A. M. 2011. The New Post-Suburban Politics? Urban Studies 48(12), pp. 2591-2610.

Røe, P. G. 2015. The Construction of a Suburb: Ideology, Architecture and Everyday Culture in Skjettenbyen. Built Environment. 41(4), pp. 538-549.

Røe, P. G. 2014. Analyzing Place and Place-making: Urbanization in Suburban Oslo. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 38(2), pp 498-515.

Walks, A. 2013. Suburbanism as a Way of Life, Slight Return. Urban Studies. 50(8), pp. 1471-1488.




Each participant is requested to send in a one-page description of her/his Ph.D.-project (aim, research questions and methodological approaches) to, two weeks before the start of the course, on 10th November 2017.

The entire four-day event makes up the PhD course, with the equivalent of 6 credits. For approval, this includes writing a paper of minimum 4 000 words to be submitted by 26th January 2018. Participants are requested to present their own work, focusing specifically on how it relates to urban transformations. The paper is to be sent to

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2017

27-30th November 2017


Autumn 2017

Teaching language