The epistemic tangles of urban inhabitation – Workshop UI (Sheffield) – Beyond Inhabitation Lab, 23-24 May 2024

Applications now welcome to participate in a workshop on 23-24 May 2024 ‘The epistemic tangles of urban inhabitation’ organised jointly by the Urban Institute (University of Sheffield) and Beyond Inhabitation Lab (Polytechnic University of Turin).

Deadline for submission March 25th 2024.

Apply here to present or attend the workshop.

In the twenty-first century we are still facing the challenge of how to address the question of planetary ‘habitability’. Inhabitation is in crisis, as increasing numbers of people are drawn into precarious lives, existing trajectories make life uninhabitable for billions, and migration feeds a new protectionism around affluent places. Attention must focus beyond the narrow domains of housing, homelessness or shelter, to the wider material and cultural structures of power and related forms of injustice which shape how we live in cities across the planet.

In this workshop, Beth Perry (Urban Institute) and Michele Lancione (Beyond Inhabitation Lab) invite scholars to discuss the relationship between urban inhabitation and epistemic practices, with the aim of investigating and unpacking the multiple politics, scales and spaces through which questions of knowing and doing the urban are produced and challenged across place and time. To start with, we are working with following basic definitions:

  • Urban inhabitation: the ways in which human (and non-humans) manage to make lives worth living in different urban contexts around the world;
  • Epistemic practice: the ways in which forms of data, knowledge and expertise shape the politics, policies and practices of urban inhabitation.

Understanding diverse ways of inhabiting the urban requires different ways of knowing the urban. Whilst scholars often emphasise the unknowability of the urban, and hence how we inhabit it in so many different ways, epistemic practices perpetuate which strive for sufficient certainty as a precursor for action. Critical scholars may inadvertently bolster hegemonic knowledge practices, as a refusal to settle on knowing anything enables certain forms of knowledge and expertise to be dismissed whilst others are heralded as legitimate.

Clearly, epistemic practice and urban inhabitation are not separated in everyday life. The distinction we propose here is therefore only analytical: it allows us to invite a focus on the epistemic tangles where struggles for more just city life emerge and unfold. We believe a specific focus on these practices is critical to shape wider understanding of the urban political – from global policy to grassroots action – where questions of epistemology and inhabitation are fused together and require more precise and direct questioning. Whilst such issues are often confined to the realm of policy (for instance, through ideas of evidence-based policy), we are interested in exploring the often mundane geographies where ways of knowing become crucial to tackle unjust ways of inhabiting, and vice versa – where counter-inhabitation practices may even ground questions around who we are and what it means to be human.

The focus of the workshop is therefore on the tangles between ways of inhabiting and ways of knowing the urban. The primary goal is to convene a space for dialogue and discussion leading to a special issue of a journal (for instance, South Atlantic Quarterly, Environment and Planning D or International Journal of Urban and Regional Research). However, please note, an invitation to present at the workshop cannot guarantee inclusion in the special issue and we are also interested in work-in-development that is not yet ready for publication.

The event will bring scholars together to discuss written provocations circulated in advance of the meeting, with the idea of making the most out of the in-person intellectual exchanges. Themes to be explored could include:

  • What does it mean to be urban-human, in relation to how we know ourselves and to other forms of collective identity and intelligence?
  • How do material and affective junctures of urbanity – including housing, infrastructure and logistics – with their loaded colonial, racial and financialised histories, produce new forms of epistemic injustice?
  • What ways of knowing are required to address the underlying structures of racial and gendered injustice and violence underpinning mainstream forms of urban inhabitation?
  • What epistemic vocabularies can help us reframe, reveal, repair and reimagine urban inhabitation?
  • How do we move beyond existing comparative imaginations through new forms of trans-local practice and study, attentive to the specificity of history and place?
  • What types of knowledge are required to understand new practices of urban inhabitation – how should they be produced and by whom?
  • What epistemic orders, contestations and forms of apartheid shape the theories and practices of urban inhabitation?
  • How to ‘think and do’ on the counterhegemonic use of urban knowledge within and beyond science?
  • What does it mean to ask these questions within the academy (ie not by renouncing to it, but staying with its troubles)?

All subsistence costs will be covered (food and accommodation). Travel bursaries will be available according to need and our budget limit. We welcome UK and international applicants. The workshop is intended to be face-to-face but we will consider hybrid participation on a case-by-case basis (for instance, if there are restrictions on visas, caring responsibilities and/or budgets).

How to participate:  

Submit 250 word abstract by Monday 25th March. Selected contributors will be notified by Wednesday 27th March.

Contributors will then be asked to prepare a draft of 1500-2,000 words summarising their main argument by Monday 6th May, which will be circulated to discussants.

Each contributor will be act as a discussant on another paper and will be expected to prepare a constructive response.

Limited places will also be available for attendance only (non-presenters).

Any questions, contact Beth

Sign up here.

CfP RGS-IBG 2022: Housing and inhabitation: situated geographies of intersectional struggles (abstract by 22/03)

Housing and inhabitation: situated geographies of intersectional struggles

Organised by: Abdoumaliq Simone, Oluwafemi Olajide, Daniela Morpurgo, Michele Lancione, and Chiara Cacciotti

Three interlocking processes are redefining what it means to inhabit the planet and its cities: Rising and expansive urbanisation (+2.8 billion people living in cities by 2050); widespread unequal access to decent and secure dwellings (1.6 billion people currently living in inadequate housing, and millions violently evicted every year globally); and responses by local communities in the face of these processes (in struggles that often include intersecting racial and gender injustices, violent bordering practices, problems of climate change and its management, and other paradigmatic challenges of our time). In this session, we are interested in hosting cutting-edge contributions confronting these processes and questioning the intersection of ‘housing’ and ‘inhabitation’. How are urbanites re-doing inhabitation through mundane struggles against historical and contemporary forms of dispossession?

We are particularly keen to hear from scholars who transcend the remit of conventional ‘comparative’ urban approaches, and those who go beyond the rubric of Western literatures and approaches for registering and understanding ‘housing struggles’ (Lancione, 2020; Simone, 2018; Oswin, 2020). To discuss and appreciate the propositional politics of struggles tackling housing as a gateway for wider forms of liberation, a situated understanding of history, power-geometries and longitudinal forms of dispossession is required (Massey, 1994; Roy, 2017; Rolnik, 2019). We welcome contributors who propose works that are both grounded empirically and historically/geographically, and we will give prominence to those writing from the margins of Anglophone academia. Particular attention will be paid to works grounded in decolonial, critical race, feminist and queer approaches to urban and housing struggles.

Key themes of this session include:

I. Empirically grounded conceptualisation of the contemporary struggle for inhabitation

II. Historical reconstructions of intersectional urban housing struggles

III. Ethnographic account of forms of racialised dispossession and related politics of resistance

Session organisers will work toward the preparation of a special issue on these themes for a leading international journal in urban geography. To this end, and to facilitate meaningful conversation among participants, contributors commit to sending us full draft papers at least two weeks in advance of the conference. We offer help to non-native English speakers for production of their full papers.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words, along with the title, author names and whether you plan to attend in person or virtually by March 22, 2022 to Professor Michele Lancione ( and Dr Daniela Morpurgo ( We welcome any questions or requests for assistance.

Sources cited.
Lancione M (2020) Radical housing: on the politics of dwelling as difference. International Journal of Housing Policy 20(2):1–17
Massey D (1994) A global sense of place. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Oswin N (2020) An other geography. Dialogues in Human Geography 10(1):9–18
Rolnik R (2019) Urban Warfare. Housing Under the Empire of Finance. New York: Verso
Roy A (2017) Dis/possessive collectivism: Property & personhood at city’s end. Geoforum 80:A1-11
Simone A (2018) Improvised Lives: Rhythms of Endurance in an Urban South. Cambridge: Polity press



Dwelling in Liminalities: Thinking Beyond Inhabitation. New special issue in EPD with A Simone

Late in December last year, EPD: Society & Space published a special issue I curated with my dear friend AbdouMaliq Simone. This is a project that took years in the making. We are thankful to Natalie Oswin for steering it, for colleagues at the Urban Institute in Sheffield to grant us space for it (thanks to Beth Perry in particular) and of course, we thank all our authors.

The issue includes wonderful contributions by Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, Ammara Maqsood and Fizzah Sajjad, Yaffa Truelove, Sharad Chari, Asha Best and Margaret M Ramírez, Jaime Alves, Nadia Gaber, Tatiana Thieme, Neferti XM Tadiar.

In our intro – ‘Dwelling in Liminalities: Thinking Beyond Inhabitation’ we discuss the driving question of our exploration with this special issue—and of the workshops that preceded it, which we run at the Urban Institute in Sheffield from 2019 to 2021, and the Lab that will follow it at DIST in Turin. The question is around the politics of inhabitation in what that is made uninhabitable. In light of the relegation of the marginalised, impoverished and racialised to both objects of extraction and purveyors of liminality, what constitute viable performances of generativity beyond production? What goes beyond the crisis, if not staying close to interstices through which one has perhaps the only chance to prefigure inhabitation beyond itself? What kind of urban geographical narration—in the literal sense of writing form and style—can convey the tensioned politics of dwelling in, across and through liminalities?

You can find an overview of each contribution here:

Dwelling in Liminalities – A lecture @CriticalUrbanisms

Since the beautiful people at the Critical Urbanisms lab in Basel recorded it… let me share.

In this lecture I try to make sense of underground inhabitation, and the propositional politics of the uninhabitable in contemporary Bucharest. This is work I started in 2003, and it continues to evolve, at its own tempo. The main aim is to encompass the colonies of home/homelessness and think about the margins as site of resistance (hooks) and as site of otherwise dwelling assembled through praxis of radical care. The latter is not there to accept the status quo – it ain’t resilience. Instead, it signals more profound and radical challenges to the entrenched violence of our anti-ecological, racist, gendered and extractive ideals of ‘home’.

Beyond the stuff I’ve published around the tunnels in Cultural Anthropology and the IJURR, there is a now under-review book for Duke on the politics of home(lessness). And then, of course, the work of many others who have inspired mine, the struggle of my comrades Frontul Comun pentru Dreptul la Locuire, and this small video above. Avanti!