Meet us at the PRIS conference in Lund

All project members will in the next two days present at the PRIS (Peace Research in Sweden) conference, which this year takes place at and is hosted by Lund University.  Ivan Gusic is presenting on the topic of  Vulnerable Cities – more specifically a paper on “War, peace and space: the spatiality of conflict in postwar cities” – while the other project members are presenting work related to other projects.

More on the conference here.

Please join us!

“Violence, peacebuilding and the city” workshop

The project was well-represented at the “Violence, peacebuilding and the city" workshop held at Durham University 6-7 September. Annika Björkdahl presented the project, Emma Elfversson presented ongoing statistical research on patterns of armed conflict violence in cities, and Ivan Gusic (pictured) presented his research on urban conflict in postwar cities Belfast, Mitrovica and Mostar. The workshop, organized within the Matariki network, brought together an interdisciplinary group of researchers in different ways engaging with conflict and urban space.

Call for Abstracts: Special Issue on the spatiality of violence in postwar cities

This is a call for abstracts for a special issue of Third World Thematics that will analyse the spatiality of violence in postwar cities (see full-text here). We invite contributions that explore where, how, when, and why urban violence manifests itself within postwar cities; how the continuity and concentration of violence in postwar cities affects the wider contexts of these cities; as well as city-specific ways of preventing and managing violence. We look for authors who adopt a spatial analysis of the city and explore intra-city patterns and dynamics of violence, how space is physically and ideationally contested and fought over, and how urban planning and the built environment affects and is affected by manifestations of violence. The deadline for abstract submission is October 31, 2018. To submit your abstract, or if you want more information, please contact

Meet us at DevRes 2018

Four project members will take part in the Development Research Conference in Gothenburg 22-23 August. We are chairing the panel “Urban violence: causes, consequences and characteristics” on Thursday 23 August, 9.00–10.30, in room SA403. On the panel, Annika Björkdahl and Ivan Gusic will present a paper which theorizes urban violence, and Kristine Höglund and Emma Elfversson will present on urban violence in Nairobi. In addition, Luuk Slooter from Utrecht University will present a paper on disaggregating urban riots from terrorist attacks. We hope to see you there!

NEPS 2018

Emma Elfversson and Kristine Höglund participated at the Jan Tinbergen European Peace Science Conference 18-20 June in Verona, Italy. They presented ongoing research that explores systematic patterns in terms of the share of armed conflict violence that takes place in cities. More information about the conference, which is part of the Network of European Peace Scientists (NEPS), can be found here.

Everyday stability and the (un)certainty of spatial division

I’m just home from two interesting but – from my point of view – rather peculiar conferences (from the view of most of the other conference participants, however, I was the peculiarity). One on Urban Morphology in Nicosia (Cyprus) and the other on Space, Violence, and The Political in Galway (Ireland). The reason behind this route is that I’m developing an argument that applies theories from both Urban Studies and Political Geography, so I wanted to see whether my application functioned in the eyes of urban scholars and political geographers. It did, but that is not really the topic of this entry.

The topic is rather the connection between everyday tensions/stability and dividing walls that plays out in quite a few postwar cities (e.g., Belfast, Nicosia, Jerusalem). I had never been to Nicosia before and what stroke me on the very first day is that the division seems so stable, so uncontested in the everyday – when people go to school or work, when they eat at restaurants or drink at bars, or when they just stroll around the city. The northern part of the city is Turkish and the southern part is Greek. Two almost perfect halves clearly delineated by walls, barbwire, UN soldiers, and police from both sides of the ethnonational division. You can cross quite easily – at least as a visitor but, from what I saw, also as a local – between the two sides and people do, seemingly without any hassle. This “easiness” of crossing or at least seeming stability made quite an impression on me, especially as I began comparing it with Belfast. I used to live in Belfast – in the middle-class, trendy, and/or student part of the city (around QUB), but I frequently ventured around the city – which just like Nicosia is divided by walls and barbwire and urban blight and gates, but in a much more fragmented way. Belfast is locally often described as an ethnonational patchwork. The west is Catholic (apart from Shankill of course), the east is Protestant (apart from Short Strand of course), the south is “mixed” (read: middle-class) while the north is “divided into many small pieces” rather than mixed (read: working class). This extensive fragmentation – where any walk of 1-2 km from the city centre, in any direction, will lead you to cross multiple dividing lines – is riddled with spatial insecurities and with people protecting “their area” from “them”. This is materially noticeable in flags, curb stones, murals, graffiti but also how people (might) react to those they do not know or recognise. While I did see some similar things in Nicosia, it was much less obvious to me. This can be attributed to time (the Cypriote war ended when “the Troubles” began), my untrained eye (it was my first time in Nicosia while I have both lived in and researched Belfast), and a different political situation (there seems to be a more positive trajectory in Nicosia than in Belfast, especially in the light of Brexit).

But what I think also might explain the difference – at least partly – is the spatial un/certainty of the two cities. Nicosia is divided by one unsurpassable and almost mutually agreed wall that produces a clear cut division between its two city halves – this creates spatial certainty in the sense that people both know which side is “ours/theirs” and are comfortable in that this status quo will remain in the foreseeable future.  The result is that Nicosia might be contested, but that people’s everyday life is largely not. In contrast, Belfast is divided by many different, overlapping, and multifaceted (in terms of direction, locality, composition, etc.) walls that are contested and that divide the city into many and often ambiguous pieces – which creates spatial uncertainty in the sense that people might both be unsure which part is “ours/theirs” (the lines are shifting from corner to corner, from street to street, and from tree to tree) and scared whether today’s dividing lines are valid tomorrow. The result is that the contestation that plagues Belfast sneaks into every corner of people’s everyday life. What thus seems to be the case is that a non-contested everyday is positively correlated with the level of certainty and unambiguity of spatial division. While I’m not making the case for dividing people completely from each other – and thus avoiding coexistence – I think it is very wise not to force integration upon people. Otherwise, division and contestation may never leave people’s everyday.



Field research in Nairobi

Kristine overlooking Muindi Mbingu Street near the University of Nairobi

Kristine Höglund and Emma Elfversson are in Nairobi for field research 6-13 March. We are meeting with different stakeholders in urban development and security – including planners, academic experts, and rights organizations. In our meetings we seek a deeper understanding of the specific urban dimensions of current violence and security challenges in Nairobi.


Panel at DevRes 2018

The project will convene a panel at the upcoming Development Research Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, 22-23 August. The call for papers is now out and we encourage submission of relevant paper proposals to our panel, which is entitled “Urban violence: causes, consequences and characteristics”.  In the panel, we aim to offer both theoretical and empirical insights about urban violence, its causes, and efforts to promote secure cities. From a peace and conflict perspective, the panel will assess the conceptual foundations of urban violence, and map its empirical manifestations. From a development perspective, we also strive to shed light on the roles of international, national, and local actors in preventing and mitigating urban violence.

The deadline for paper proposal submissions is 23 February. The full list of panels, and the call, is found here.

Analysis of Kenya after the elections

Kristine Höglund and Emma Elfversson, together with Anders Sjögren at the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), have written an article (in Swedish) which analyses the situation in Kenya after the August election and the November presidential election re-run. The article, published by the web-based magazine Mänsklig Säkerhet (Human Security), highlights a number of worrying signs of increasing centralization of power, repression of opposition elements, and excessive use of force by police against protesters. The article is available here.