Urban and Population Geography working group

Completed Research Projects

Constitution of transnational trader networks. Socio-economical organization of African migrants in Guangzhou/China

  - description soon to follow -

Funding: DFG 2010-2014

Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn
Research Assistant: Dipl.-Geogr. Angelo Müller

For central publications see staff

Urban conflicts in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. On the transformation of frameworks and political practices in urban development through social movements and citizens' initiatives.


Urban development conflicts in Latin America are characterised by growing resistance to neoliberal urban logic. It is noticeable that a comparison of different forms of resistance and the associated political effects has so far received little attention in research. While middle (to higher) income strata demand more say in issues such as structural densification and high-rise construction, the demands of marginalised strata refer to issues such as access to decent housing, gentrification and displacement. The research project investigates the extent to which urban conflicts contribute to a change in urban political arrangements and to an emancipation of the urban in depoliticized urban constellations. Four conflicts are being investigated in Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. In every city, one conflict is located in a district of the (upper) middle class and another in a poorer to socially heterogeneous part of the city. Theoretically and conceptually, the study uses above all approaches of radical democracy and spatially contentious politics. In order to answer the central research question, a framework analysis is carried out.

Funding: Elsa Neumann Stipendium, Exzellenzinitiative der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin: 2010-2014

Research Assistent: Dr. Corinna Hölzl

Analysis of Informal Dynamics in Mega Urban Areas – Based on Spatial Structure and Steering Mechanisms Focused on Water in the Pearl River Delta


Megacities as new phenomena of global urbanization processes are increasingly characterized by an unprecedented loss of governability and controllability, with the consequence that highly complex mega-urban development processes increasingly take place informally or illegally. Today's megacities are not only subject to a growing concentration of population, infrastructure, economic power and capital or an excessive acceleration of all developments, but above all to a simultaneity and overlapping of various processes with mutual feedback.

The aim of the DFG project is to use the example of the Pearl River Delta in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong to investigate the effects of global change on the development and reorganisation of socio-economic and institutional relationships and to develop theoretical and model approaches that are suitable for the general explanation of informal processes and structures in megacities. The project is carried out in cooperation with colleagues from RWTH Aachen University: Prof. Dr. Rafig Azzam, Chair of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology (project phases 1-3), and Prof. Dr. Christian L. Krause, Chair of Landscape Architecture (project phase 1).

Project phase 1 (2007-2009): Global change, in/formality, social and ecological vulnerability, urban and regional planning Guangzhou/Pearl River Delta.

Main topics Project phase 2 (2009-2011): Stress, emotions, cognitions and coping in the context of urban transformation processes, interface psychology/geography, in-/formality.

Priority topics Project phase 3 (2011-2013): resilience, risk/protection factors, glurbanization, urban governance, inter- and transdisciplinarity.


Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn

Research Assistant: Anna Lena Bercht

Funding: DFG-Schwerpunktprogramm 1233 "Megacities-Megachallenge – Informal Dynamics of Global Change" (Projektphasen I-III)

Period of time: 2007-2013

For central publications see staff

Housing Submarkets and Rationales behind Local Actions: The Example of the Student Housing Market in Hamburg


In many german university cities the pressure on the housing market has increased over the last years (vgl. BBSR-Analysen KOMPAKT 09/2014). Especially inner city neighborhoods – traditionally prefered by students - are characterised by excess demand for housing. At the same time, the amount of young people, which obtain a university entrance qualification and decide to study, is rising. Therefore, in the following years a constantly high demand of students searching for affordable accomodation can be expected.

Different actors react to this situation: Nonprofit landlords increase their supply, private investors recognize student housing as profitable assett class and local authorities try to direct the demand into neighborhoods, which are not yet in the students' focus. The interaction of local stakeholder actions, the residential distribution of students and their access to the housing market are the main objects of investigation in this research project.

If you are a student in Hamburg and interested in participating in this research project, please follow this link.

For central publications see staff

City expansion through large-scale projects: Actors, Interests and Strategies in Santiago de Chile


The dissertation project deals with the actor-oriented analysis of the planning of large-scale urban development projects on the outskirts of Santiago de Chile. As in other metropolises in the region, Santiago has for several years been the setting for large-scale private projects of a 'quality'; that break with traditional patterns of urban development. Private real estate developers, who often have considerable amounts of international financial capital and locally anchored social capital, initiate, plan and implement new urban districts on the 'greenfield site'; as a package solution, i. e. housing projects for up to 100,000 inhabitants each including supply, transport and social infrastructure. While the competent public authorities at regional and national level promote this form of private, island based urban development and make it an official urban development policy, local authorities in the affected districts as well as local residents and other civil society actors are finding it increasingly difficult to make their voice heard.

The interests, strategies and action rationales of the individual public and private actors in the interaction of the different levels of action (local, regional, national) are examined using the example of two municipalities that are subject to particularly strong development pressure and where a whole series of major private projects have already been launched or are about to start construction. To what extent is a new mode of public-private urban development institutionalised in Santiago, and what does this mean for the principles of democratic decision-making such as participation and transparency, which are actively propagated at the urban level in Chile?


Research Assistent: Dr. Michael Lukas

For central publications see staff

Transnational migration: Ecuadorians between home, Germany and Spain


Research Assistant: Dr. Ina v. Schlichting

For central publications see staff