Keynote lectures

Friday, 17.05.2019


09:45-10:45   Inaugural lecture


Prof. Dr. Oleg Golubchikov, Cardiff University

Urbanization of transition: cities as the agency of change

Lefebvre used to argue that late capitalism is characterized by a transition from industrialization to urbanization as the social ‘episteme’: to understand society one needs to understand its urbanity. In this address, I will argue that transition from socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe has equally been this epistemic transition to urbanism. While post-socialist cities are often portrayed as merely a projection of larger societal processes, cities in many respects represent the agency of change themselves, providing new material and semiotics framework for the reorganization of society. Indeed, post-socialist urban space has been an intensive and oft-cruel battleground – over ideas, powers, social, economic, and political practices, identities, symbolism, understandings and meanings. It is through these urban experiences and struggles that transition has taken its specific narrative and disciplining power and produces new social relationships. I introduce the notion of "urbanisation of transition" to capture this centrality of the urban in the production of post-socialist society. I will also argue for the importance of proper ‘worlding’ post-socialist cities for a better understanding of the nature of global urbanization (and capitalism) more generally. 

17:20-18:20   Closing Lecture


Prof. Dr. Nina Gribat, TU Darmstadt

Conflicting urbanism(s): post-socialist and post-industrial urban transformations and everyday life: the case of Hoyerswerda, East Germany

After German Unity, towns and cities in East Germany underwent several processes of transformation, which were largely unforeseen at the time and which have changed the German discourse on urbanism. Due to the rapid transition of the socio-political system, post-socialist and post-industrial urban change went hand-in-hand even though some efforts were undertaken to facilitate a smooth economic transition process after Unity. To examine the urban effects of these transformations more closely, this keynote lecture focuses on the case of Hoyerswerda, the former second socialist model city of the GDR. Developed to house the workers of the rapidly expanding energy centre, the town’s population grew ten-fold in just a few decades. The new town, constructed according to the principles of GDR’s socialist urbanism, had to be expanded several times. The design of the model city had been both, critiqued and celebrated, from early on, yet it was highly popular amongst its inhabitants. After German Unity, a process of instant re- and devaluation of urban forms and subjectivities associated with socialism and with capitalism can be observed, which was paralleled by economic decline and population loss – a combination that was later termed “urban shrinkage”. Conflicting ideas about Hoyerswerda’s future developed, which are closely connected to different understandings of the various transformation processes. These are to a certain degree exemplary for post-socialist and post-industrial urban transformations in many other towns and cities in East Germany until today. 


Saturday, 18.05.2019


09:45-10:45   Opening Lecture


Prof. Dr. Kaliopa Dimitrovska Andrews, New University, Ljubljana

Mastering the post-socialist city: is urban planning history? 

The lecture reviews the impact of the pressures of globalisation, the expansion pressures of the European Union (EU), and general market competition, on the urban planning and transformation of land use patterns and physical structure in post socialist cities in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), emphasizing the characteristics of urban regeneration of particular city’s areas of Ljubljana such as city centre, inner city and outer city. The art of restructuring and rebuilding cities is still high on the agenda of the professional debate, searching for methods and concepts that could lead to better and sustainable cities. Especially critical in the current debate are the issues of globalisation and cross-national transference of ideas as well as the methods of dealing effectively and appropriately with issues of local, regional and national identities. In the case of Ljubljana, the restructuring of the city with a respect for cultural identity and continuity is discussed. This aspect is among the most important precondition for achieving a distinctive image, economic strength and vitality of post socialist and/or post-industrial city.

15:15-16:15   Closing Lecture


Prof. Dr. Luděk Sýkora, Charles University, Prague

Half-Life Cities: Capitalist Pasts and Socialist Futures

In 1990, Ralf Dahrendorf in his “Reflections on the revolution in Europe” envisaged that sixty years are barely enough to lay social foundations of new society. Three decades since the Great 1989 we are half-life through the anticipated change. Where we are now in 2019? This presentation argues that “Transformation” is not finished project yet. While the social practices of firms, households, and governments under the conditions of expanding neoliberal global capitalism brought former socialist countries and their cities into the global mainstream, the ever-present legacies of communism are deeply embodied in everyday urban life. Struggling through the second round of transition, the urban development paths are shaped by volatile equilibristic of discursive, policy and financial games. Critical reflections of three decades of post-socialist urban transformations help to illuminate alternative development perspectives on cities in Central and Eastern Europe.

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