The Global Research Programme on Inequality (GRIP) along with partners from the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research (SKOK) and the Department of Contemporary Art have been granted funding by the strategic unit Global Challenges at the University of Bergen. The funded project “Speculative Urban Futures: Inequality and Migration” will explore the possible futures of cities.
Global cities have always been sites of transnational imagination. These range from the imagining of utopian cities, being sites for development in the 20th century era of modernity to, in our current era, being the loci for adaptability, resilience and inequality in terms of smart cities, climate change and extensive migration. Thus, cities are inextricably linked both to hopeful imaginings of the future and to being places of profound inequality. With the COVID-19 crisis, cities have again become places of contagion, risk, and deep uncertainty about the viability of the urban form. The need to speculate and probe possible urban futures is therefore more urgent than ever.
Speculative Urban Futures: Inequality and Migration
In order to disclose potential urban futures, the project will invite differently situated scholars, artists, activists and the general public to speculate about the possible futures. Speculation in this regard refers to a cross-disciplinary open-ended discussion bringing forth experiences, practices and perspectives that are often marginalized in hegemonic discourses on urban futures. The project is particularly concerned with looking into unequal experiences of time, relations between human and non-human worlds and the emergence of new forms of urban agency in relation to migration.
Project partners and activities
Exploring inequality and migration the project weaves together the scholarly and artistic work of the three project partners – Brandon LaBelle, Christine M. Jacobsen and Bjørn Enge Bertelsen – in the fields of critical race studies, gender and queer studies, and anthropology.
Brandon LaBelle from the Department of Contemporary Art is an artist, writer and theorist working with questions of social life and cultural agency, using sound, performance, text and sited constructions. His current research focuses on sonic agency, poetic knowledge, commonism and the aesthetics and politics of invisibility. Brandon comments the upcoming project in a following way:
“I’m looking forward to being involved in such an interdisciplinary project, which can foster encounters across methods and knowledges. In particular, I feel a sense of urgency in terms of addressing global and societal challenges, and how the city can act as a performative space or scene of inquiry and creative testing. Speculating on urban futures is about capturing an imaginary that can assist in articulating more equitable and experimental ways of co-existing.”
Christine M. Jacobsen from SKOK works in the fields of gender studies, international migration and ethnic relations. She is currently working on temporalities of irregular migration and on vulnerability and the governance of international protection. Christine notes that:
“I am really excited about this possibility for pursuing my interest in the question of temporality and power, through speculating and probing possible global futures. Currently, important temporal rearrangements of the relationship between past, present and future seem to be happening across a number of domains. Such rearrangements have consequences not least for how migration is imagined, practiced and governed – which is my field of study. This cross-disciplinary endeavor will allow us to critically engage with such temporal rearrangements, and to open our imagination to knowledges, experiences, practices and perspectives that conjure global futures differently.”
Bjørn Enge Bertelsen from GRIP is an anthropologist working on the issues of egalitarianism, urban transformation, future practices, violence, state, memory and tradition within political anthropology.
Among the various project activities, several workshops will be held throughout 2021 and a creative lab as a pop-up workshop in Bergen’s city centre will be organized to draw in urban citizens in the project’s speculations about the urban futures.