23 June, 2022

Final countdown to the 30th conference of the International Network of Urban Research and Action in Luxembourg

Just two days until INURA2022.  Download the full program here (thank you Karinne!)

Join scholars and activists from all over Europe, Canada, Australia, Cuba, and Hong Kong, for lively discussions on urgent urban issues as social spatial injustice and inequality, infectious disease, climate crisis, housing exclusion, perpetual uncertainty, and authoritarian aggression. 
Visit our conference website at: https://inuraluxembourg.blogspot.com

Also, on the evening of June 27, we will head to Ancien Cinema Cafe Club in Vianden, where TUNi Production  will premier in Luxembourg, “How the Poles became White”. 

Day Registrations (free, but meals are not included) for the public part of the conference (July 25-27) are still available. Register by emailing luxembourg2022@inura.org

10 June, 2022

Geographers apply: New post at Trier University

Colleagues at the Department VI, Spatial and Environmental Sciences of Trier University are seeking for candidates to fill the post of a full professorship (W3) in Cultural and Political Geography

The job ad reveals what they are looking for:
"an outstanding scholar in the field of new cultural geography and political geography with a research focus on theory-led empirical analysis of cultural and political practices of spatial (re)production addressing problems of high societal relevance. Candidates should be internationally recognized scholars in at least one of the following areas: (i) spatial constructions of identity, (ii) reproduction of inequality, (iii) territoriality and political borders. We are particularly interested in candidates who offer synergies with the existing research profile on society-environment relations within the human geography unit of the Department." It may also be important that "applicants need to be able to deliver teaching in German".

More information on what is offered and expected can be found at the website of the University. Contact person for topical inquiries is Professor Antje Bruns (brunsa@uni-trier.de).

08 June, 2022

„Nichts haben sie getan“

“They have done nothing”, is the complaint of a representative of the Luxembourg real-estate industry made recently in a conversation with the country’s largest newspaper.(1) It seems as if this massive revelation has so far gone without public commentary but was probably debated behind the scenes. Therefore, it deserves some reflection. Was it made just for the purpose of rolling out the red carpet for the property lobby? Or is there more to it? Maybe it is both, since on the one hand, the interview is logically one-sided (nothing wrong with that). On the other hand, the coverage provides insight as to some important patterns of argumentation and discourse. Hence, it is a useful read if one wants to track the lines of the current debate.(2 for a recent take on this) This does not necessarily mean that one must agree to every point identified in the press interview. 

    The complaint is simply that a) public institutions such as state and communes have failed in providing sufficient housing so far, and b) that private market actors would have contributed to resolving the problem if someone, particularly the state with its regulatory practice or the communes that hold back developable land, would let them. This is a common but incomplete pattern of discourse, to say the least. The points one could most easily agree to are firstly that the country is facing a severe housing crisis that renders not all but many parties desperate, especially those who are in need of housing, in particular affordable housing. Secondly, in the light of the country’s economic and demographic growth paths, which were quite strong in recent times, it is rather unlikely that current housing policies and activities can be effective or sufficient at all in covering existing demands, not to talk of future growth. There is no solution in sight, and this cannot be highlighted too often.
    However, there is obvious dissent when it comes to a) contextualising the problem, b) ascertaining who benefits from the dilemma, and who must pay the bill, and c) identifying the possible consequences which flow from that. As to a), it is always striking to see how little attention is being paid in housing debates to the evolution of country and capital city as a top-notch European financial marketplace and a hot spot of economic growth.(3) This creates a rocketing demand for office and housing space, particularly in small city and country, increasingly at high-end levels. Even a concerted action of public and private actors would be hard-pressed to meet this demand. Balancing the use of limited resources (land, planning, construction) available for different purposes, and setting clear priorities, would be the only way of getting out of the dilemma. As to b), housing seems to be the most concerning issue creating rising degrees of inequality in the country that is otherwise so wealthy, most notably in economic terms. It is a matter of truth, even though rarely admitted, that the globalisation dividend that is funnelled through Grand Duchy’s land and property sectors over the past decades has made many private and corporate players impossibly rich. Landowners, real-estate developers and agents are on the sunny side of this development, while house-seekers and others are left behind on the darker side of the problem. Most recently, the housing drama has swept over to the state, with parliamentarians and political parties prompted to do more in order to manage this crisis.

    However, under current circumstances this is hardly possible, given the extraordinary support and protection business affairs in general—and property issues in particular—enjoy in the Grand Duchy’s big politics. Those who call for action and bemoan inertia in politics ought to know better; likewise, the complaint that “they have done nothing” is certainly not a sufficient explanation. First, while it can be easily revealed that public concerns and state and communal action on the issue have dramatically increased compared to previous years, it is simply difficult to break the long historical path of private landownership and missing public politics of property. Renting has represented a mere niche for a long time. Path dependence is an issue worth considering as well. Second, housing clearly represents a wicked problem, one that could only get closer to ‘solutions’ if strategies reflect upon the country’s political economy and include strategies and measures as variegated as, for example, developing a public politics of land; introducing effective taxation on property related income; questioning the focus on office space but increase housing supply; help a better use of the existing housing stock to emerge. This is a highly unpopular inconvenient truth among the business community.
    Media stories like this one indicate that while certain voices increase their volume and are becoming more explicit in tone, they are probably not willing to serve as a scapegoat. Do we need a more balanced distribution of ‘guilt’, or responsibility, among the key players in this topical area? Do we need a more radicalised discourse? Not sure about the latter. A more open and honest discourse would indeed be useful. There is a striking deficit when it comes to open debate on a range of matters in this country, which seems to be altering only slowly. (Mobility in general and biking in particular might be a case in point). Land in Luxembourg is an extraordinarily complex and increasingly contentious issue, to which the prevailing discourse still responds with rather simple answers. To this end, published opinion ties in with the historically grown tradition of land ownership. In the current situation of maximum rents and prices, however, property ownership has become a fiction for large sections of society. It is a rhetorical construct, hardly playing a material role in the reality of many people's lives. It is an imaginary, immaterial discourse that is possibly representative of the longing for the good old days. It is also constrained by communicative barriers which have been erected to protect particular interests. The mobilization of land-based profits and the limits of the political model based on private property have effectively remained without echo so far. 
    If one takes the land problem and the related housing shortage in the country seriously, this discourse would have to be opened, moving away from the outdated image of home ownership, single-family homes and the demand to simply "build more". Then the radical transformation of the country in the recent past would be the topic, especially the dominance of office space, the financialization of land development and ownership (also by external investment capital), and the associated disconnection of use value and exchange value from property. A proper response to this would necessarily include two elements: first, honesty about the fact that the housing problem is not solvable by neither big player (state, local, private) under the given conditions of the real estate market; second, it would involve the strategic, long-term build-up of resources in public, not private, land. These would be the questions that an ideally free discourse would have to raise (evoking the concept of "herrschaftsfreier Diskurs" once claimed by Jürgen Habermas). Of course, discourse is not everything. But without open communication about the problem, its causes and alternative strategies, nothing will change – regardless of what “they” have done or not.

Markus Hesse

(1) Luxemburger Wort, 24.5.2022, pp. 1-3.
(2) Hesse, M. (2022): Sprachregelungen. Grund und Boden als diskursives Phänomen. forum 424, pp. 28-31. 
(3) Deloitte (2020): Real Estate Predictions 2020. Prepare to adapt to the market. Luxembourg.

06 June, 2022

Job Advertisement circulated through the IGU Urban commission

Hi all,

I would be grateful if you could share details of the following:


1. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Te Taiwhenua o te Hauora | Geohealth Laboratory, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury,  Ōtautahi | Christchurch,  Aotearoa | New Zealand.

  • Full-time (37.5 hours per week)
  • Fixed-term position to June 2026

We are seeking a Postdoctoral Fellow to work on a range of policy-relevant research projects being undertaken by the Geohealth Laboratory in collaboration with the health sector e.g. Canterbury District Health Board and the Ministry of Health. The position will preferably start before the end of 2022.

More details at https://jobs.canterbury.ac.nz/jobdetails/ajid/F1b58/Post-Doctoral-Fellow-Geohealth-Laboratory,10047



2. Fully funded PhD scholarship available at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury,  Ōtautahi | Christchurch,  Aotearoa | New Zealand.

The impacts of a low-emissions transport future on urban amenity access, equity, and wellbeing

This project will add to the knowledge base on achieving equitable amenity access while developing sustainable, inclusive and healthy cities. To achieve this we will employ Geographic and Health Science perspectives and methodologies to: 

  1. Consult and engage with local communities, including iwi, to develop working definitions of places and activities that are valued as amenities.
  2. Work from these newly defined- and conventional amenities (e.g., food outlets and community gardens; green- and blue-space; gathering, arts and cultural spaces) to quantify the current state of equity in amenity access, beginning locally in Ōtautahi Christchurch.
  3. Assess the impact of a low carbon transport future on equity of accessibility to key amenities associated with wellbeing.
  4. Identify and evaluate barriers to and opportunities for interventions, exploring the co-benefits and role of improved access in supporting the SDGs of building sustainable, inclusive cities and transport systems that enhance health and wellbeing.

Funded as a UC Sustainable Development Goals PhD Scholarship, this scholarship consist of a stipend of $28,000 and tuition fees (up to 3 years FTE, domestic or international). The student must be able to start the PhD by 30th Sept 2022.

Applications will be assessed as they are received with a closing date of July 15th 2022.

To apply, send a copy of your academic transcript and application letter to Dr Lindsey Conrow (contact details below).


For more information contact:

·         Dr Lindsey Conrow lindsey.conrow@canterbury.ac.nz

·         or Prof Simon Kingham simon.kingham@canterbury.ac.nz

·         or Dr Matt Hobbs matthew.hobbs@canterbury.ac.nz

Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury

Ōtautahi | Christchurch,  Aotearoa  | New Zealand



02 June, 2022

New Publication forthcoming: "Mapping the clouds: The matter of data centers" in Journal of Maps

Happy to announce a second publication from DIGI-GOV, forthcoming in Journal of Maps.

Carr, C., Bast, D., Madron, K., Syrus, M. (in press) Mapping the clouds: The matter of data centers
Journal of Maps.

As a preview, here is the abstract:
The social spatial geographies of telecommunications and their infrastructures have long interested scholars in the social sciences, and in urban geography specifically. This paper focuses on data centers. Much effort has been placed in preserving the notion that data centers are ‘clouds’, a terminology that obfuscates the real human geographies of cyberplaces. In this map-making exercise, we visualize the sociopolitical human geographies of data centers, and provoke the reader to consider the impacts that data centers have on residents and their environments. The maps shown in this paper suggest four trends. First, hyperscale data center owners are building near large waterways, signifying a shift in location preferences. Second, data centers stress local administrations, financing, and availability of upstream resources, as hyperscale data centers step up their input needs. Third, data center development is state-led. Fourth the competition for data center industries unfolds across a multi-level governance context.

Keywords: Amsterdam, cyberplace, data centers, hyperscale, Luxembourg, Seattle