About this course

Ideas and approaches to cities have changed a great deal throughout history. Producing urban space necessarily involves reproducing the social relations that are bound up in it. The production of urban space therefore involves producing and reproducing all aspects of social life. We will look at the ideology embedded in the space around us, how it encourages us to act and behave, what it makes possible and how cities have been used to control populations. We will also look at how people on the margins have made cities their own, and various strategies that have been employed to take back urban space and challenge it’s uses. The strategies of the powerful versus the tactics of the weak.

Lesson 1

Welcome to Contesting Urban Space! In this lesson we will be thinking about our own relationship to space and how we act and move around it – as space is a part of everyday life. We will be doing this through an exercise inspired by the Situationist, and we want you to have a look at this beforehand and make some notes (the exercise documents can be found here and here). ALSO BRING DRAWING EQUIPMENT!

Lesson 2

This week we will be looking at the Chicago School of Urban Sociology. Watch the videos and see what else you can find out about the Chicago school try to answer these questions:

What is the broken window thesis?

What model does the Chicago school use to explain the processes and issues they were observing in Chicago at the time?

Why do you think there were problems in Chicago? Can you find out about what had happened there before and after the fire of 1871.

What is an assimilationist view of immigration?

How does the Chicago school explain how cities grow and develop (what is their model)?

Pre-watch links :

Lesson 3

Today we will look at how disease has changed society and laid the foundation of modern cities and the management of public space. We want you to look at the videos below and think about and try to answer these questions: 

  • How does Foucault think that disease control paved the way for modern surveillance? Can you think of any recent examples of surveillance being used in this way?
  • What is the panopticon and how does it illustrate the effects of surveillance? 
  • Who, according to the video, benefits the most from a surveillance society?
  • How does this illustrate Lefebvre’s theory of the production of Space that we looked at last week?
  • What positive changes may come out of disease control, have we seen any of this in the current pandemic?
  • How are pandemics tied up in the rise of cities?
  • How have cities changed in response to disease control?
  • How has your own approach to and use of space changed during the pandemic?
  • How does the urban environment promote inequalities of health?
  • Do you think increased knowledge of bacteria, viruses and how disease spreads means that we handle pandemics differently now?
  • Is it worth sacrificing human rights for disease control measures? 

 Pre-watch links:

Lesson 4

Yesterday we talked about the development of cities in relation to surveillance and control – and we will expand upon this topic today by looking at Modernist City Planning.  In the beginning of the twentieth century there was an increase in focus on how the city could be planned – and Planning is essentially a relationship between the needs and ideologies of state, the needs of business and the economy, and the visions of architects and planners. In modernism cities have been planned to achieve particular goals: rationality, order, speed and efficiency. Key here is also that this was a top down approach, where the city planner aka the genius overlord looks down at the city, and decides what’s best for everyone. Its all about control. Before the lesson we want you to look at this documentary about Jane Jacobs and her resistance of modernist urban planning and then read this very short article on Hausmanisation of Paris.



Lesson 5

We will be looking at how money shapes the city, and the lesson will be informed by David Harvey. We want you to explain what gentrification is and see if you can find examples of this or other housing conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And we want you to look at this video which follows activists that are facing gentrification:

Lesson 6

Welcome back to week 3 of MSYP, and week 2 of Contesting Urban Space. Last week we ended with talking about how cities are shaped by the interest of capital and not by people, and the issues brought up by this. Therefore, David Harvey said we need to reclaim our right to the city, and today we are looking at rebel cities and contemporary urban uprisings. Before the lesson we are going to give you one uprising each, and want you to think about these questions:

-What is this group or movement?

-What issues are they responding to, and from there, what are its goals/demands?

-Why do you think they chose their specific locations in the city to further their goals?


1) Amelia, please look at Occupy Wall Street. Here are some links to help you:

2) Ena, please look at the Extinction Rebellion. Here are some links to help you:

3) Kristina, please look at The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (also known as CHAZ). Here are some links to help you:

Finally, here’s a separate question for you all: what do you think is the difference between a riot and a protest?

Lesson 7

We’ve talked a lot about cities and control, and today we want to talk about the privatisation of public space and hostile architecture – and how these things limit our right to the city.  We are looking at ways at tactics of the ‘weak’ to counter the strategies of the powerful – also known as urban interventionism. Examples of this can be street art, graffiti, street theatre, and yarn bombing. 

We’ve got two short videos for you to watch, one on the privatisation of public space:, and one on hostile architecture:

A few questions for you to think about:

        Do you know of any things, any examples in your city that seem like hostile architecture?

        What’s the difference between graffiti and street art?

Task: What is a public space in your city you would like to improve?  How does it function now, and how could it function – what do you want the space to do and be? Please try to find a photo or overview, from google maps perhaps, and bring this with you to class.

Lesson 8

Cities are full of history and symbolism relating to our cultural memory of the past.

Cultural Memory is as contested, contextual and challengeable as that of an individual. What we consider our heritage, history and traditions are, as such unfixed – potential battlegrounds where what we remember and how we remember it are shaped. But in whose interests, and to what end? 

Watch the first video and think about the questions:

-Why is the history the symbolism, the heritage and the memory about the Reichstag contested?

-How does this art intervention make us confront, think about and examine our relation to the past?

-Can you find out what the story behind this wrapping of a national symbol is? 

Watch: (Optional) 


Lesson 9

Queer people have a long history of carving out their own spaces and finding ways to survive in urban spaces at the margins of society facing great oppression.  While the LGBT movement has won a lot of acceptance, this has not really eliminated the lived experience of ‘spacial inequality’.

We will give you three examples of queer people living and surviving at the margins. We have put your name next to one each, but it you want to and you have time feel free to look at more of them and find additional information.

(Ena) Ballroom culture: How queer people are building support networks for survival. (Both of these videos are good, they say slightly similar things so only watch both if you have time)

(Kristina) Queer Palestinians in Tel Aviv: Standing up to Homonationalism. 

What is the conflict here? (More academic) (Short about activists)

(Amila) FIERCE organisation: Queer youth fight for the right to public space in historically gay neighborhood. 

What is the problem, how are they fighting it? (Read and try to find answers to the questions)

We are using some complicated words in this lesson, so please google them as it will help you understand the conflicts!

Lesson 10

Hello our wonderful students! It’s our last lesson ? and you made it to the finish line! ❤️ So proud! Today we are just going to have a chill session, bring your ideas and suggestions – we are going to do whatever you want to do! And here’s a little fun video on what makes a nice city:

(P.S. Please bring drawing equipment and your imagination



Colin Bojer and Mia Helene Engeskaug