In an age in which the majority of the world’s population is urbanized, cities are more than ever becoming focal sites of social change. Multiple economic and political strategies, employed by a variety of individual and collective actors, on a number of scales, constitute cities as contested spaces that hold opportunities as well as restrictions for their inhabitants. Since the beginning of the 21st century and even more so in the process and aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, we observe the acceleration of endeavours by various social elites trying to label and brand cities as ‚successful’, ‚smart’ and ‚resilient’. On national and global scale an inter-urban competition has emerged that is changing urban landscapes and is having profound impacts on the life-chances of city inhabitants. This restructuring of cities is associated with ongoing processes of deindustrialisation, financialisation, and possibly, de-democratisation. However, cities are also the very spaces of protest, resistance and alternatives towards these transformations. With supra- and sub-national scales gaining importance and relevance, the city thus still holds opportunities for emancipation, alternative ways of living, and societal critique.
Cities and urban spaces have long been of central concern for sociology and sociological theory. Today, classical sociological questions about the city acquire new meaning: Are cities spaces of emanicipation, or do we observe a corrosion of citizenship rights that characterizes life in the modern city? Is the city the focus of societal transformation processes in urban environments or do they lose importance in shaping social reality and economic relationships? Furthermore, new questions urgently need to be asked: What is the impact of different historical phenomena such as neoliberal restructuring, financial and economic crises, or migration flows on the structure of contemporary cities as well as on the citizenship-rights of city inhabitants?
For the conference „Successful Cities – Crises of Citizenship“ we bring together researchers from different disciplines and sub-fields to engage in a discussion on the current transformations of cities and their implications for an understanding of urban success, participation, quality of life and social cohesion. Combining and contrasting perspectives from political economy, sociology, (urban) geography, political sciences and law, the conference aims at analysing processes in and around cities in a critical manner, examining the power relations underneath and within different urban dynamics, and developing a rich and thorough understanding of contemporary urban Citizenship.