Urban Studies

Our interdisciplinary Urban Studies list examines how the built environment shapes behaviour and how to address complex problems like urban poverty, gentrification, climate change and educational inequality.

Subjects covered include urban planning, urban geography, urban policy, local governance and community-based participation, to offer a broad understanding of how urban dynamics shape both global interdependence and local spaces.

Urban Studies

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After Urban Regeneration is a comprehensive study of contemporary trends in urban policy and planning. Leading scholars come together to create a key contribution to the literature on gentrification, with a focus on the history and theory of community in urban policy. Engaging with debates as to how urban policy has changed, and continues to change, following the financial crash of 2008, the book provides an essential antidote to those who claim that culture and society can replicate the role of the state. Based on research from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme and with a unique set of case studies drawing on artistic and cultural community work. The book sets out the argument that post-2010, UK urban policy has ended what was termed “regeneration” policy. In the current context, driven further after May 2015, communities, towns and cities are left to fend for themselves. The book concludes by arguing the role of the university in its relationship with urban communities also has to change with this context. The resources of universities can help local communities better understand the challenges they face and possible solutions.

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Communities, policy and place

After Urban Regeneration is a comprehensive study of contemporary trends in urban policy and planning. Leading scholars come together to create a key contribution to the literature on gentrification, with a focus on the history and theory of community in urban policy. Engaging with debates as to how urban policy has changed, and continues to change, following the financial crash of 2008, the book provides an essential antidote to those who claim that culture and society can replicate the role of the state. Based on research from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme and with a unique set of case studies drawing on artistic and cultural community work, the book will appeal to scholars and students in geography, urban studies, planning, sociology, law and art as well as policy makers and community workers.

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This concluding chapter looks across the disparate knowledge created through working with communities in the Connected Communities and question what opportunities for empowerment and transformation are offered. The chapter challenges the use of research council funding for this type of work, arguing it may lead to greater inequalities. Rather, the chapter argues strongly for this type of research to become a much greater part of the mission of all our universities, offering their resources including research expertise to local communities.

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This chapter extends the idea of Britain being in a post-regeneration era by detailing key policies enacted by the UK Coalition Government, and governments in Scotland and Wales since 2010. A detailed exploration of what the Localism Act in England means for communities suggests that urban policy is increasingly leaving communities to fend for themselves. Neighbourhood Planning is more likely to be used by affluent communities to resist development, and deprived neighbourhoods are expected to manage their own assets. Local Economic Partnerships put city-regions in competition with one-another. Meanwhile the Connected Communities programme marks a break with the largescale social-science knowledge of communities created in the 1990s and 2000s, with new knowledge created from a plethora of different disciplinary perspectives. While policy might be leaving our most marginalised communities in a precarious position, new ways of doing research offer promises to give them a voice and be engaged.

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This chapter explores how concepts and vocabularies emerging in relation to digital culture provided the context from which a public artwork, the ‘digital totem pole’ was created in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, Scotland. The chapter specifically considers how the digital media practices of ‘hacking’ and ‘read–writing’ provided the conceptual framework for the design of the physical digital platform. The relevance of the pole’s design and practicality to contemporary governance in the context of the ‘Big Society’ agenda, community engagement and regeneration is also considered. The chapter also highlights that this form of ‘hacking-inspired’ community art was possible through co-production between researchers and local residents. The chapter highlights the heuristic nature of the design intervention, and the risks of employing discourses derived from digital media culture to inform and inspire new models of governance, social reality and community regeneration.

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After Urban Regeneration is a comprehensive study of contemporary trends in urban policy and planning. Leading scholars come together to create a key contribution to the literature on gentrification, with a focus on the history and theory of community in urban policy. Engaging with debates as to how urban policy has changed, and continues to change, following the financial crash of 2008, the book provides an essential antidote to those who claim that culture and society can replicate the role of the state. Based on research from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme and with a unique set of case studies drawing on artistic and cultural community work. The book sets out the argument that post-2010, UK urban policy has ended what was termed “regeneration” policy. In the current context, driven further after May 2015, communities, towns and cities are left to fend for themselves. The book concludes by arguing the role of the university in its relationship with urban communities also has to change with this context. The resources of universities can help local communities better understand the challenges they face and possible solutions.

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Caerau Hillfort, is by far the largest Iron-Age hillfort in south Glamorgan. The housing estates that surround this monument are home to more than 25,000 people – the largest social housing estates in Wales. Despite strong community ties, the people that live there are burdened by significant social and economic deprivation, particularly high unemployment. The Caerau and Ely Rediscovering Heritage (CAER) project seeks utilise this community’s rich and untapped heritage assets and local expertise to develop educational and life opportunities: building confidence, challenging negative stereotypes and realising the positive potential of the process of research co-production. This chapter provides a summary of key aspects of the literature surrounding participation and co-production in Wales. It explores CAER’s approach to co-production within this context, analysing the reflections of a small group of community members regarding their involvement in two major community excavations which took place in June-July 2013 and 2014.

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This chapter introduces the idea that society is in a period “after regeneration” in the UK. Previous regeneration initiatives and the use of major state-led projects has come to an end in 2010. This is paralleled by new ways of knowing about communities pioneered in Connected Communities research. This marks a change from delivering regeneration and research on communities to understanding communities with them through co-production.

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This chapter takes the form of a case study, examining the role of community media in the Castle Vale area of Birmingham. The ‘Vale’, as it is known locally, is a former 1960s housing estate that has been extensively regenerated over the latest 20 years. Whilst community media operations have the potential to counter existing mainstream media representations of place, the extent to which this is achieved is questionable. The chapter offers operational insight into community media and reveals ways in which assumptions about the democratising function of such media come up against the tensions over representation that exist between readers and producers. The chapter offers a critical account of how research into ‘connected communities’ needs to take account of the ‘banality’ of everyday activism by citizens sensitive to pre-existing negative reputational geographies.

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This chapter examines contradictions in the rhetoric which depicts changes to the English planning system under the Localism Act as offering communities more control over their neighbourhoods. There are major issues around community capacity to take advantages of these legislative changes meaning that wealthier and better organised neighbourhoods will gain the most. The chapter describes a pilot project using a smartphone app (‘MapLocal’) attempting to give communities a cheap and effective way to undertake the initial phase of producing a neighbourhood plan. Although the pilot showed the potential for such technologies, there are still major issues around reconciling competing viewpoints within communities. Beyond the case study, there remain grave difficulties for meeting neighbourhood scale aspirations within the confines of a national planning system driven by economic gain at the expense of local control.

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