RSO Organized PhD Course: Spatial thinking in the social sciences

RSO is organizing a course for PhD students. This course “new perspectives on the urban and the rural: spatial thinking in the social sciences ” is meant for PhD students in the social, environmental and political sciences. In the course we will switch between close reading of texts, workshops, and discussion. Students following this course will not only learn to think about place as an analytical category, but also learn to ‘work with place’ by applying various perspectives to concrete cases. The course will also give ample attention to the question how to develop research methodology.

Social sciences have gained a renewed interest in space and place. Acknowledging that through activities and practices people are linked into broad geographical fields, the times are gone that we could assume a city, a village, a park or the nation-state as discrete entities. The emergence of the concept of the city-region, focusing on relations stretching out, connectivity and fuzzy borders, is just one illustration of the way spatial thinking entered the social sciences. Disciplinary vocabularies too get blurred: the concept of gentrification travelled from urban to rural and nature studies (today we can find contributions on rural gentrification and the gentrification of nature), and agriculture, once banned from the city, has become a welcome partner of the urban again (exemplified in the studies on urban agriculture).

Central to the course is a relational analysis, in which we look at the production of place and space in and through social practices. This includes the lived experience, the many ways in which people, consciously or not, are engaged in place making activities through the things they do as consumer, farmer or citizen. Another angle is to look at place/space making from the perspective of what we may call‘processes of abstraction’. This refers to the ‘logics’ imposed by markets and bureaucracies and may include processes of commodification and identity-politics. This course will also deal with questions of methodology: how to apply the spatial turn in social sciences in research?

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