Activist*scholar collaborations in times of crisis, and beyond

reflections on ‘Urban Activism: Staking Claims in the 21st Century City’

Stefano Portelli and Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe

Published in Issue 2.2 // Conversations

Keywords: Evictions, dispossession, displacement, urban activism, engagement, social contract


A conference organized in September 2019 at Harvard University brought together a group of activists and scholars from North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, to discuss the political and theoretical implications of the convergence between urban activism and urban scholarship. The interventions and debate are summarized here in relation to the shifting political context that followed the conference. We argue that the global demand to reframe the relationship between people and institutions should be addressed by reframing the production of knowledge, and we put forward three proposals: that academic departments develop permanent relationships with social movements that struggle against housing and resource dispossession, that research institutions demand that binding social impact assessments are undertaken for each development project, and that activists and scholars develop forms of collaboration on a broader scale to connect different models of grassroots governance into designing a new social contract.

Stefano Portelli is an anthropologist, he has a PhD in urban studies, and long experience of involvement in the struggle against evictions in the neighborhood of Bon Pastor in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently writing on the social consequences of urban resettlement in Rome, Barcelona and Casablanca.

Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe is an anthropologist and architect. Her transdisciplinary work is centered around inclusionary urban practices, whereby she connects Anthropology, Gender Studies and Urban Studies. Currently, her research is focused on participatory communities who negotiate belonging to the city over collaboratively produced artifacts (

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