Editors: Luisa Rossini (UTH), Tjark Gall (AESOP YAN) (Guest Editors)

In November 2022, the Urban Transitions Hub (UTH) hosted an Early-Career Workshop in Urban Studies with the support of the AESOP Young Academics Network (AESOP YAN). Following the workshop, we open a call for abstracts for a special issue targeting both the participants and the larger community.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the contradictions of the neoliberal system [1] and the interdependent relationship between urban planning and crises. [2] Decision-makers have often justified their actions with the underlying logic of the urban agenda and planning culture, confirming neoliberal restructuring. Local policies have been pressured to prioritise economic growth through attracting national and international investors, economic elites, and tourism, while city budgets have been reduced, making cities increasingly dependent on financial markets. Neoliberal urbanism and austerity have contributed to ongoing crises and socio-spatial inequalities, including financial accumulation, dispossession, extraction of collective and natural resources, spatial transformation, and social reproduction. [3,4] A recent example for such dynamic is the natural crisis in Turkey and Syria that has been exacerbated by neoliberal developments and political migration policies. However, these multiple crises have also been used to justify maintaining the status quo, rejecting the reversal of strategies aimed at reducing budget deficits and spending cuts [5] imposed by international authorities after (primarily) the 2007 crisis. 

Recurring cycles of systemic crises have hit societies and economies of many countries, increasing social polarisation and impoverishment of territories, and leading to conflicts in multiple and interconnected fields. In this framework, the pandemic has further exacerbated social polarisation due to the side effects of lockdowns and associated restrictions, highlighting the downturn of the neoliberal doctrines (e.g., assaults on organised labour, the shrinking and/or privatisation of public services, the dismantling of welfare programmes, the criminalisation of the urban poor, and more). [6]

As a reaction, urban social movements have organised in various forms, using a mix of state-driven mechanisms and more radical practices to protest policies, projects, and regulatory measures that are considered detrimental to the right to the city. [7, 8] (e.g., tenants’ organisations and housing struggle movements opposing gentrification/touristification, evictions, and displacement). Similarly, citizen groups are reclaiming spaces in the opposition to the conversion and suppression of common, collective, and state forms of property rights that have been won during the Fordist class struggle to the private sector, such as access to education, health care, welfare, and state pensions. [4]

Despite the corrosive criticism against the rules imposed by global neoliberal and austerity development patterns, social movements are often hijacked by benign programmes seeking to incorporate precarious or impoverished groups into upgrading schemes and city policies for local marketing, or upwardly mobile cities that compete for top places in the global competition by branding themselves as diverse, sustainable, and green. [7]

In summary, the neoliberal era has sought economic growth and opportunities for urban development, which has intensified social polarisation at the back of social mobilisations. Likewise, spreading inequalities have also nurtured claims for social, civil, and political rights. The recent conjuncture and the social pressure generated by an extraordinary event of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other parallel crises have been triggering the emergence of new mobilised groups and strategic claims. [9] New perspectives are necessary if we are to muddle through these volatile times and contribute normative scenarios and plans for more sustainable futures. This special issue is dedicated to critical approaches to urban planning and social mobilisations with a focus on four lines of inquiry:

  • Urban impacts from multiple crisis through extractivism and dispossession of natural and collective resources.
  • Urban experimentations in the face of systemic capitalism and the attempts to restructuring developmental models.
  • Urban social movements, mobilisations, and practices of resistance.
  • Citizens’ participation and the post-politicisation of the public debate.

The submitted manuscripts shall be published in the open access journal plaNext – Next Generation Planning. For the first step, please send an abstract (150 words) expressing your interest to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (in cc, Luisa Rossini: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Tjark Gall: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by 31 May 2023 stating your preferred format. We accept full papers (6000-8000 words), synthesis articles (2000-4000 words) or think pieces (max. 2000 words). Your abstract should outline the theme, geographical area if applicable, and research question clearly. Workshop participants are only asked to inform us of their interest based on the already submitted abstracts. Once you have been notified of abstract acceptance, the full contribution is due by 30 September 2023.


[1] Hall, S. and Massey, D. (2010) Interpreting the Crisis. Soundings 44, pp. 57–71.
[2] Ponzini, D. (2016) “Introduction: Crisis and Renewal of Contemporary Urban Planning.” European Planning Studies 24 (7), pp. 1237–1245
[3] Künkel, J. and Mayer, M. (2012) (eds.) Neoliberal Urbanism and its Contestations — Crossing Theoretical Boundaries. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
[4] Mayer, M. (2013), “Preface” in Squatting in Europe: radical spaces, urban struggle (ed. by) Squatting European Kollective. Minor Compositions, Autonomedia.
[5] Donalda, B., Glasmeierb, A., Grayc, M., and Lobaod, L. (2014) Austerity in the city: economic crisis and urban service decline? Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Vol. 7, pp. 3-15. https://doi.org/10.1093/cjres/rst040
[6] Rossini, L., Bianchi, I. (2019). Negotiating (re)appropriation practices amid crisis and austerity. International Planning Studies, Vol. 25, 1, pp. 100-121.
[7] Mayer, M. (2016) “Urban Social Movements in Times of Austerity Politics,” in B. Schönig & S. Schipper (eds) Urban Austerity Impacts of the Global Financial Crisis on Cities in Europe. Berlin: Theatre der Zeit, pp. 219-241.
[8] Hammami, F., Jewesbury, D., and Valli, C. (eds.) (2022) Heritage, gentrification and resistance in the neoliberal city. Explorations in Heritage Studies, Vol. 5.
[9] Martinez, M.A. (2019) “Bitter wins or a long-distance race? Social and political outcomes of the Spanish housing movement”, Housing studies, Vol. 34-10, pp. 1588-1611.