Monday, May 7, 2012


It's been very busy in the last few weeks.
I think from urban geography point of view what is happening on the other side of the Channel is quite interesting to have a look. London Olympics! Perhaps a theme for the next term's 300 level political and economic geography class.

But first things first. End of the term is approaching and we're all getting ready to complete the SSC 244 Urban Geography course at RA. It's been a very fruitful course as my students have been extremely productive, creative and motivated to conduct their field work in 6 different themes in Rotterdam and Antwerp. They have conducted qualitative research in these cities in similar neighborhoods and made comparative analysis. They have written group research reports, published their results in their blogs (as indicated below) and also presented the results to the other students. My approach was to teach main concepts/theories of urban geography in the background and give them the chance to 'specialize' in certain topics that they prefer and enjoy. This way while learning general knowledge they could go deeper into selected topics and really learn them. They have read many articles, books and other sources that they voluntarily find. The 'language' that is spoken in the classroom
has changed dramatically as the term has advanced. Every lecture I could hear the academic terminology being used and also academic literature being referred. To me, this is an achievement because even those who did not follow the introductory course last term (SSC 141 Introduction to Human Geography) could within a few months come to the level of understanding of the academic field just like any other geography/urbanism/planning student. These are 2nd and 3rd grade students who mainly study social sciences. Their interest and understanding of urban geography has improved this term dramatically. Of course, within the ocean of geography, this is a little drop yet I am extremely pleased (and also proud to be honest) with their achievements and motivation. They will be missed!

Hereby some information and visuals on the research presented so far. We still have one more group to go and when they present their results on Thursday I will update the blog.

Ethnic segregation team presenting their research results on the Polish immigrants' perception of segregation
Like the other groups they have only selected an umbrella topic (in this case it was 'ethnic segregation') and on the basis of their interest they have selected a speciality topic, developed research questions and arguments and did conduct a mini research in Rotterdam and Antwerp. Ethnic segregation team was interested in the perception of Polish immigrants as the new wave of immigrants brought by the EU enlargement. They did not chose the easiest topic to be honest as the literature and research in this specific field is developing recently. Yet, by talking to the Pols as well as to the people living and working around them they tried to understand how they are perceived in the Dutch and Belgian urban societies. They have also tried to understand how they think they are perceived also. Quite interesting discussion. Very creative and original methodology presented in a very systematic way. Well done guys!

Urban green team at today's presentation.

Here you have a really devoted bunch of students who cannot be stopped by pouring rain or walking long distances in unknown territories or people who do not give appointments for interviews. Our urban green team was interested in 'urban agriculture' and they did try to understand to what extend urban agriculture is performed differently due to different governance cultures. They have found out how fragmented the attempts of urban agriculture in Antwerp are compared to the systematic urban agriculture agenda of the city of Rotterdam which allow bottom up initiatives. I love the energy and motivation in this team and their enthusiasm on the subject! Keep on going!

Lachen is gratis-laughing is free! says the urban revitalization team. This team has been interested in how, especially around the railway stations urban neighborhoods are changing and to what extend the large-scale revitalization projects play role in triggering different aspects of urban change. They did not only look at the spatial transformations but went into the social aspects and gentrification dimension to understand the complex and differentiated impacts of property-led inner city revitalization projects. Like the urban agriculture team they have also underlined the role of good governance and long-term planning in effective implementation of these projects. I have indeed always had a lot of fun talking to this team as they always come up with some controversial or contradicting ideas and they are not easily convinced. After long discussions I have always had the small fear that they may be missing the bigger picture but both their professionally produced report and very enthusiastically and informatively presented research results made me extremely happy last week. Good students (and yes I want my book back ;))!

Wealth creation team creating knowledge !
This is one of the largest teams in the class but you can see everybody takes part equally and enthusiastically. Their topic, though it was not their top choice in the beginning, was wealth creation in the city. By looking at two large-scale property development projects in Rotterdam and Antwerp namely Kop van Zuid and Het Eilandje they tried to understand the social aspects of property-led development. They were looking at how these projects have changed the neighborhoods around them and to what extend the way they are planned/developed has an influence on a better social cohesion. They, like the other teams who are interested in the governance issues, found out that the top-down and long term planned Kop van Zuid project has been more successful in reaching their goals an creating better social harmony in the area compared to piecemeal development of Het Eilandje. This was the first team to present and of course it is always a bit of a disadvantage to be the first but they did an excellent job. Thanks for all of you for your motivation and involvement!

Thats all for today. I look forward to Thursday's final presentation of the team on participation of immigrants. Then we have the final exam to end the term. It's about time I guess we all worked hard and deserved a good break with a lot of sun shine.


Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Urban Agriculture and participatory urban policy

How about that? I can grow my own vegetables in my back yard in large boxes or huge bags provided by people who devoted their time to help people like me who are concerned about their carbon footprints but have no time to do anything meaningful to compensate it. I could grow potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and what not...and you bet I will do it ! Well done urban agriculture team
I think the debate and discussion was quite interesting too. We were divided into groups that contained different actors like farmers, urban residents, urban planners and policy makers. And each group had a different social mix and complexity. I had a lot of fun playing the farmer who in the first place was against the idea because I was afraid of losing clients but then I realised this was quite a well-off neighbourhood where I could sell my services in different forms (consulting, guiding, etc). Good learning experience.

Next lecture we moved to the field of urban politics. After my lecture on the regime theory, the regulation approach and the role of structure and agency we had a student-led debate on the participatory governance. The research team was specifically interested in the role of immigrants in the policy making processes and their debate was quite interesting. We had role playing this time with a different scenario in which immigrants, policy makers and residents had to find effective policy instruments to increase the social, cultural and political participation of immigrants. Well-done people!

In both occasions it was good to see the progress made in the field researches in Antwerp and Rotterdam. I am pleased, as I also said in the class, with the results so far even though you had very little time to conduct your field work. I must also say that I will miss the synergy in this group. It does not happen very often that such motivation and energy combined with continuous enthusiasm and harmony appears in a group. Am I lucky or what? From next week onward we are going to have workshops in the classroom to make comparative analysis to get the groups ready to present their results. Talking about participatory democracy the students have also voted for having a mid-term exam (to my surprise) so 16th of April we will go through that process and have another (and final I'm afraid) movie night. Which movie am I going to show this time? Well will be my final surprise...

Have a good Easter break!


Sunday, April 1, 2012


What a mess around the Rotterdam Central isn't it? We almost couldn't meet! We had definitely a better weather in Rotterdam compared to the miserable and rainy day in Antwerp ! It was not only a perfect day to conduct a field research but was simply a fantastic day to enjoy in a sunny terrace and you have all deserved it. I think you were all happy with your results also because now you know what you want out of this study. You were simply asking the same questions you did ask in Antwerp. Comparison is fun and I can't wait to see the results in your blogs!

The following lecture's topic fit very well in between the District 9 discussion and student-led debate on social segregation. Racism, of course, is a hot topic. Following my lecture we went into a heated discussion on what is racism actually and why does it matter ? I ended my lecture with a page from The Independent which shows the race map of Britain to provoke discussion. What is wrong knowing where people from different ethnic, religious, cultural backgrounds live? Are we exaggregating this whole 'political correctness' idea ? etc. It worked very well as I had difficulty stopping you to let the research team on social and ethnic mosaic of cities to go on with their presentation and debate.
The following discussion was quite good too as the student team divided us into two groups and asked us to develop ideas for social exclusion and social mix. I have to say I had a lot of fun, and also got some innovative ideas for my own research (such as the 'national hug and kiss day ;))

Excellent you guys! Your motivation makes me even more enthusiastic about this course! See you tomorrow to talk on urban ecology...

Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


An alternative way to criticize the reality of exclusion and displacement!

Talking about social and cultural mosaic of cities I think you didn't expect to see a movie like that! District 9, written by Blomkamp and Tatchell, and produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, is an impressive movie, a cult classic to be. It is briefly about aliens landed in Johannesburg and somewhat 'normalized' in the urban life. They became part of the city, being isolated in a shanty town in district 9. It is not, of course, a coincidence that the movie is plotted in a city with most multicultural conflict and exclusion issues in reality. It is an excellent illustration of how ghettoization, isolation and exclusion can take place and be normalized and legitimised by the authoritarian power and the host community. Alians, who are now called by the 'host community' as 'prawns', live in unhealthy conditions and mingling with illegal activities with the black Nigerian community, who profits from illegal trade of guns and cat food, for which apparently the prawns are addicted to.

The film very nicely sets the plot for us to understand that there are human rights organisations and civil movements that forced the authority (MNU) to find more 'human' and legal ways to move the prawns out of the city to 'solve' the issue, or rather to ignore it, to a guarded and gated tent-town by asking them one by one to approve the 'displacement'. The author Blomkamp indicates that the alien homes in the movie were actually shot in a recently evacuated area of impoverished housing in an area called Chiawelo, which is a suburb of Soweto, Johannesburg. The homes you see the aliens getting evicted from were homes that humans had recently been kicked out of, for real! In reality the people living in this area are moved to the government-subsidised housing called RDP housing. Here is a quote from Blomkamp (see the full interview at 'And there is this thing in Africa called RDP housing, which are government-subsidised housing. Where they will build you a brick house in a different area of the city. And you get put put on a waiting list if you're a South African impoverished resident, until you are able to get one of these houses. So the area we filmed the movie in, what plays as District 9, every single resident in that area was being removed to be put into RDP housing. Although not all of them had been given the green light on the RDP housing, most of them had, but all of them were going to be moved, whether they liked it or not. So we ended up with this open piece of land with all these shacks on it...each day we came to set, there were fewer and fewer people.'

The movie also displays some real interviews with the South Africans, who are answering the question 'What do you feel about Zimbabwean Africans living here?', while in the movie it appeared as if they were answering the question 'What do you feel about the aliens (the prawns) living here'? Brilliant isn't it? Absolutely brilliant to show exclusion, isolation, ghettoisation and displacement without even talking about it! Although it sounds like an impossible situation nowadays, I think we can think of many urban histories in which this kind of alienation (literally) took place (and still does)....

I simply love this movie, and, I guess, despite the fact that we were all grossed by some scenes, those of you who were with me last night did that too!

Looking forward to the field research in Rotterdam tomorrow...


Saturday, March 24, 2012


Having the Spring Break behind us I am full of energy again to continue our journey in urban geography! When I posted last time here we had wealth creation in our plate and we have covered a few topics since then including housing markets, residential preferences and gentrification.

The research teams have also successfully completed the first step of the field research in Antwerp despite the wet and cold weather. The results are slowly appearing in the blogs of each team but what I have heard so far has been very exciting. Research team one has conducted interviews around the Het Eilandje project to understand the social impact of this large scale urban regeneration project in the social composition of the area. Team two was interviewing a local government official who was one of the key persons in the revision of the Antwerp Central Station. Team three went deep into the gentrifying neighborhoods around the 'red light district', Schipperskwartier and interviewed people experiencing gentrification. Team four was in Berchem interviewing ethnic communities and shop owners while team five in the same area tried to understand the participation of immigrant community in the urban matters. And finally team six went to the other side of river Schelde to conduct interviews with people who devoted themselves to urban agriculture. All extremely fascinating and in one dark rainy day! I am absolutely thrilled with the enthusiasm and motivation of each of you and very proud already...

On Monday we'll talk about the social and cultural mosaic of Rotterdam as it is going to be the next step in your field research. Wednesday the 28th of March research teams will be exploring Rotterdam. I hope for us a better weather and a great experience.

Looking forward to seeing you on Monday the 26th of March at 08:45 (watch out for the spring time!).

Assoc.Prof.Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok

Friday, March 2, 2012

Geography of wealth creation

I think the timing of the lecture on geography of wealth creation was perfect right after my arrival back from New York! What a place...what an energy...what an incredible amount of wealth created on urban land!

I didn't cover the whole chapter not because I was terribly jet lagged but because I wanted you to concentrate on cities not only as generators of wealth but also as places where wealth is redistributed via diverse channels including property markets. I introduced the entrepreneurial city concept and mentioned how city marketing plays a role in capturing global capital flows. Property-led urban development has been the final point on which we had an extended discussion (thanks to the research team 1).

I think, if you are interested in urban geography, you should really begin to understand the roles of diverse actors in shaping cities. Dynamics of capital accumulation and urban governance mechanisms are very much related to each other as I briefly summarised in the lecture. Increasing involvement and influence of private sector actors in decision-making mechanisms leads to fragmented developments in the city, and increasing segmentation of the urban society.

We have discussed the role of public private partnerships within the framework of property-led urban development. Some of you have heard about them but were not really aware of what are they there for and how do they work. I find it extremely useful that we go through concepts like that and soon enough the pieces will begin to get together to make a whole picture for you. Having all these in mind and browsing through internet have a look what I've found in this website:

Members of this Foundation, most of which are large scale for-profit organizations, state that '...building more sustainable and dynamic urban communities can only be done through innovative partnership'. And this is exactly what I've been talking about within the framework of the entrepreneurial cities! See it happening...

See you on Monday at 08:45 (without a jet lag hopefully). I look forward to go down to the main principles of geography: location, location, location!

Have a great weekend !

Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Research team: Urban green is now online!

The ones with the green finger can be followed at:

Research team-Ethnic segregation and participation of immigrants is now online!


Yesterday's lecture was tricky! 8:45 on Monday morning and there I'm talking about location theories, taking the risk of looking straight into a lot of sleepy eyes..but you did well actually. OK there were a sleeping head or two here and there but overall I was surprised with the attention. I guess moving from Christaller's hexagons to Taylor's GaWC world woke most of you up as well. From this point on lectures will be less theoretical and more practical and yes you will steer a lot of things as well. We'll start with sessions in your own research fields as soon as I'm back from New York :)) Meanwhile I hope you will progress with your research plans when I enjoy my congress. You can follow what is going on at AAG from Have a look at it and see the variety of sessions and topics we're dealing with (and follow my session too, it'll be on Neoliberal planning, crisis, contestations and alternatives!).

Last but not least the research team ethnic segregation and participation is now online too. They will focus on the participation of immigrants in urban development. Follow them at

Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be part of it
New York, New York...

See you 1st of March!

Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok

Friday, February 17, 2012

Research team-Urban revitalisation is now online!

This is the 5th research team and they are going to study inner city revitalisaton mainly around railway stations in Antwerp and Rotterdam. Follow their work at:

Currently all the research teams were asked to conduct pilot studies in Middelburg, so you can find the results of these also in the individual blogs.

Have a good weekend!
Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Research team-Gentrification of urban spaces is now online!


We're progressing I guess. And I'm happy that mini Middelburg studies went fine and you were all very enthusiastic. Please note that another research team, gentrification, has just got online:

I tried to focus today's lecture on the general dynamics of globalization and we ended up laughing our heads off on a small video on perception of multiculturality in Antwerp. This fun video shows manipulated opinions of people on the street (funny to even recognise one of them, who is a street singer!) on immigrants. The picture presented there is exaggregated and not showing the reality of course (but may be hinting issues in a kind of funny way?).

Antwerpenaars are known with their tolerance and flexibility towards immigrants and other ethnic groups. Yes, we have our issues and if you read newspapers you see the tensions between different groups is growing sometimes. Yet, being an immigrant myself, my personal experience has different. When I walk along the Driekoningenstraat on which African churches, Polish shops, Maroccan bakeries and Turkish koffie-houses stand next to each other or hang around in the Stadspark on Saturday after Sabbath to see Jewish people with their children in one corner and Indian guys playing cricket in the other I simply feel HAPPY and think that this can work! OK, I accept, this is a rather 'romantic' and limited view on the urban diversity as we have lots of issues within the immigrant community and between different groups but don't you think, if you are from Antwerp, that there is something relaxed in the air? I do!

Weekend is approaching, hope you will have time to enjoy your little city Middelburg...I will definitely enjoy mine!

See you on Monday!

Dr. Tuna Tasan-Kok