Contested Urban Territories: Paper session@AAG Boston, April 9, 2017

American Association of Geographers 2017 Annual Meeting
Sunday April 9, 2017, 8:00 AM – 11:40 AM
Room 202, Hynes Convention Center, Boston

Session organizers: Monika Streule (ETH Zürich) and Anke Schwarz (Leipzig)
Discussants: Rogério Haesbaert (Universidade Federal Fluminense) and Christian Schmid (ETH Zürich)

Territories are produced when people struggle over practices, meanings and tenures of urban space. As such, territory is both the site and stake of everyday social struggle. Amidst contestations over urban space on a global scale, and in the wake of comparative perspectives in urban research (Robinson 2016), it seems particularly promising to re-think established conceptual and methodological approaches. In this session, we discuss an enlightening relational concept of territory not yet fully acknowledged in the Eurocentric or Anglocentric debate – an epistemological approach focusing in particular on linkages between the social production of space and questions of power, socio-territorial relations and the production of knowledge. Taking this in Latin American widely acknowledged understanding on de- and re-territorialization (Santos 1994, 2000; Echeverría & Rincón 2000; Porto-Gonçalves 2006; Zibechi 2012; Haesbaert 2013; amongst others) as a starting point, the two sessions on Contested Urban Territories are interested in putting a broad range of perspectives into conversation over a decolonized concept of territory. Shifting the attention from state strategies to the urban scale (Schwarz & Streule 2017), they will explore the social production of territory.

Contested Urban Territories 1: Socio-Territorial Regulations
The first session will focus on socio-territorial regulations, posing the following questions: To what extent can the analytical concept of territory be of value for decentering urban studies? How does it nourish and complement an analysis of the social production of space? Contributions seek to adopt a critical perspective on territory, reflecting on power relations in the production of both knowledge and urban space. Hereby, they position themselves in the theoretical debate between established notions of territory and decentralized approaches and also draw upon empirical research from Mexico City, Medellin, Moscow and Florence.

Contested Urban Territories 2: Socio-Territorial Movements
The second session is dedicated to socio-territorial movements. It seeks to answer to what extent the analytical concept of territory can be of value for decentering urban studies if we are to scrutinize power relations in the production of both knowledge and urban space. Contributions place a strong emphasis on the idea of territory – and collective territorial practices in particular – as basis for emancipatory urban activism. They draw on empirical fieldwork on urban social movements in Argentine, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, London and Medellín, and strive to overcome Eurocentric epistemologies by introducing specific concepts such as `complex territorial work` and the Right to the Territory.


Echeverría, M. & Rincón, A. (2000): Ciudad de Territorialidades. Polémicas de Medellín. Medellín: Centro de Estudios del Hábitat Popular; Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
Robinson, J. (2016): Thinking cities through elsewhere: Comparative tactics for a more global urban studies. In: Progress in Human Geography 40 (1), 3-29.
Santos, M. (1994): O retorno do território. In: Santos, de Souza & Silveira (Eds.): Território. Globalização e fragmentação. São Paulo: HUCITEC-ANPUR.
Santos, M. (2000): El Territorio. Un agregado de espacios banales. In: Boletin de Estudios Geográficos 96, 87-96.
Schwarz, A. & Streule, M. (2017): A Transposition of Territory. Decolonized Perspectives in Current Urban Research. In: International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (online first)
Zibechi, R. (2012): Territories in resistance. A cartography of Latin American social movements. Oakland: AK Press.