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Panel 59. The post-socialist city: Governance models, inequalities and challenges to urban theory and methods


  • Vladimir Pawlotsky, PhD, Teaching Assistant and Research Fellow at French Institute of Geopolitics,
    Paris 8 University, France


The distinction between the Global North and the Global South remains a structuring analytical grid for academic research. In this session, we propose to move beyond this dichotomous approach by exploring whether and how post-socialist cities can represent an alternative urban model. Post-socialist cities are a blind spot in urban research, despite the fact that they house large populations. Moscow, for example, remains the most populous city in Europe with 17.8 million inhabitants, as are Paris (11.1 million) and London (10.8 million). These cities offer original examples of transition and hybridization between centralized planning systems and market economies. These historical legacies and specific local conditions may pave the way for original institutional arrangements, alliances, and conflicts in urban governance processes, as well as various forms of socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities within cities that require further research.

Topics of interest for this session include:

  • The challenge to governance models in post-socialist cities. Depending on the academic approach, the notion of model has a specific meaning, sometimes as a theoretical object, sometimes as an analytical tool or even as an operational process to create urban space. The first objective of this session is to explore the informal dimension of organizational structures in post-socialist cities that encompass various key aspects of urban life, such as transportation networks, housing access processes, land use strategies, and government institutions. In particular, we aim to uncover how different interest groups play a strategic role in the negotiation processes and power dynamics associated with the production of the post-socialist city. In these areas of negotiation, different more or less formal/informal models collide and intermingle, constantly questioning the role of the state and its definition.
  • Socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities from a postcolonial perspective in the post-socialist cities. The second aim of this panel discussion is to examine the levels, trends, and extent of socioeconomic and ethnic inequalities in post-socialist cities. In particular, scholars who use postcolonial and decolonial analytical frameworks to analyze post-socialist cities are invited, a type of analysis that has rarely been applied to these urban spaces. Despite egalitarian goals, there is significant social and ethnic segregation in countries with central planning. Research on residential segregation in post-socialist countries has been limited, focusing mainly on large metropolitan areas or capitals and on social segregation. In our view, the Russian war in Ukraine provides an opportunity for scholars studying cities in post- socialist states to renew their thinking.
  • Data and methods for the study of former socialist cities? Finally, the third aim of the session is to delve into the empirical and methodological challenges that scholars face when studying post-socialist cities as well as the innovative strategies they resort to. Since February 2022 and the Russian war in Ukraine, there is a great risk that the gap between Russian and Western knowledge production will widen. Physical access to field research is becoming increasingly problematic in authoritarian regimes. In the last decade, research based on open sources and digital traces has developed to the point where it has become crucial for documenting contemporary conflicts (local and international), especially the war in Ukraine. Commonly referred to as OSINT (Open Source Intelligence), these investigative methods are enabled by the ubiquitous presence of sensors that digitize a growing portion of human activity and generate digital traces. Although these sources are widely used by intelligence agencies, journalists, and activists, thinking about their integration into the “toolbox” of human and social scientists studying socio-geographic phenomena is still in its infancy and deserves to be enriched.

In this session, we welcome researchers who currently or in the past have faced access restrictions to their fieldwork that forced them to find bypasses.

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM