A short review of the Midterm Conference in Krakow, 2016

Moving Cities, Moving Europe: a review of the Research Network 37, Urban Sociology, European Sociological Association, 2016 Midterm Conference in Krakow

auditoriumDuring three and a half days, the city of Krakow and the Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University, hosted a group of 172 urban researchers, gathered to share and debate recent and ongoing investigations. Their presentations composed a very eclectic and interesting scientific program – organised by the ESA Research Network 37 team – invocating, describing, analysing and questioning many cities in Europe and beyond.
We would like to share with you, our view – as participants and members of the organising team – of some of the highlights of this conference, focusing on the moments we all shared, rather than on the more contained parallel/thematic sessions, organised in five tracks and open sessions.
On the first morning, just after the opening session, Andrzej Bukowski, director of the Institute of Sociology, introduced the first keynote speaker: Ayo Mansaray. (University of East London). His words added warmth to the solemnity of the conference’s inaugural moment at the Auditorium Maximum. Ayo Mansaray then presented theoretical and empirical considerations inspired by his in-depth work in schools in gentrifying areas of London. His analysis showed that urban schools can be crucial arenas in the struggle for the right to the city.
The afternoon was filled with stimulating presentations and the first work day ended with the RN’s business meeting were we had well deserved canapés and refreshments and discussed strategic actions to strengthen the network. Many ideas and proposals came out of this discussion, like creating platforms to find research partners with similar interests or organising informative sessions to help urban researchers improve crucial skills. Finally, a committee to organise the next RN coordination election was appointed.
After the meeting, some of us walked to the nº 28 of Paulinska Street, had a drink at the inviting bar of the cultural coop “Spółdzielnia OGNIWO” and then watched the documentary “Warsaw Frankenstein” in their projection room. It was a relaxing and a rich moment to watch this documentary film directed by Christiane Büchner, focused on the work of the German artist Boris Sieverts through the city of Warsaw.
The next morning, we welcomed Talja Blokland (Humboldt University of Berlin) in the beautiful main aula at the Institute of History. In her talk, she reaffirmed the importance of the concept of community for social sciences, because “people place high value on what they call communities”. Rejecting the idea that anonymity and community are in opposition and reaffirming the relevance of the notion of public familiarity, she boldly stated: “Simmel was wrong”. This discussion must be continued in our further research and activities!
In the afternoon, after another round of thematic sessions, we returned to the Auditorium Maximum to hear Saskia Sassen (Columbia University in the City of New York) speak about, among other things, her pre-method stance of working within “the fuzzy edges of the paradigmatic knowledge”. The Auditorium Maximum was full of conference participants, but also of other colleagues that joined us to hear Sassen’s speech proudly wearing a Migrating Kitchen T-shirt (http://migrating-kitchen.com; you can find her presentation slides in our blog: http://esarn37.hypotheses.org/642).
This second day was demanding from a physical point of view, because it entailed some walking between venues, but it was also an excuse to explore the city. At the end of the day, we enjoyed a wonderful Garden Party hosted by the Institute of Sociology, where we had dinner while listening to the Concert of Christina Eshak and Wassim Ibrahim, Syrian musicians studying in Krakow. After the end of the concert, researchers started to spread around the city centre, some looking for a place to watch the Poland-Portugal football match.
In the last morning of the conference, again in the auditorium of the Institute of History, we had the keynote speech about Smart Cities by Jacek Gądecki (University of Science and Technology in Krakow). In his talk, he combined theoretical aspects with na empirical focus on how local authorities in Poland  have been adopting the smart-city idea. Despite some tiredness due to the frenetic two days of the conference, the participants fostered a dynamic debate before starting another set of thematic sessions.
Friday was more relaxed than the other days, with less parallel activities, and ended with a very productive closing session with four invited speakers among the most experienced participants in our conference: Laura Bovone (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore – Milano, Italy), Carlos Fortuna (Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal), Krzysztof Frysztacki (Jagiellonian University, Poland) and Ray Hutchison (University of Wisconsin Green Bay, USA). From their comments on the conference, we highlight the suggestion to focus on the topic of austerity and the city in upcoming meetings and the idea that these scientific meetings can also be occasions to establish and re-establish ties with friends and colleagues. We are now working on the results of this wonderful meeting, built by all the engaged participants and we will try to reflect their suggestions in our further activities.
Thank you to the participants and to the local organising team that have developed a great work along with the RN 37, Urban Sociology, Coordination and Board team.
We hope to have an even more astonishing participation in the ESA 2017 conference, in Athens, Greece!

Patrícia Pereira (ESA RN37 board member; Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal)
Lígia Ferro (ESA RN37 Coordinator; Universidade do Porto; ISCTE-IUL, Portugal)
Juan Jose Villalon (ESA RN37 board member; Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Spain)

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