Urban and Population Geography working group


Ongoing Research Projects

Transnational social and economic development of German and Polish metropolitan regions

  The Collaboration focuses on the question how Polish and German cities and metropolitan regions are developing under the influence of economic and social globalization processes. Specific local framework conditions, the role of economic and cultural creativity for specific urban development processes, and how social geographic perspectives can contribute to the development of space changes at different spatial urban levels are also considered.

The research will take place between 2017 and 2019.

Responsible at the university Kiel: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn

Responsible at the partner university Poznan: Prof. Dr. Tadeusz Stryjakiewicz, Prof. Dr. Tomasz Kaczmarek Dr. hab. Anna Tobolska

Everyday practices and identity constructions in the field of tension of refugee camps. Surveillance, governmentality and action strategies.


Tobias Breuckmann is researching the local negotiation of the EU border regime in and around the Hot Spot Camp on Lesvos, Greece in his current PhD project. The theoretical basis is the theory of governmentality, with a corresponding focus on the mutual and dynamic negotiation of government practices. With a view to social and political geography, the question of how spaces of governance are (re)constructed and which counter-spaces in the sense of stubborn migrations are created in interaction is examined in particular.


Research Assistent: Tobias Breuckmann

For central publications see staff

The production of urban spaces in a perpetuated crisis. Austerity, the reconfiguration of social reproduction and municipalist alternatives in Berlin and Barcelona.


The production of urban life under crisis conditions is the result of many conflicts over the distribution of social wealth. For the capital side, urbanization serves to shift crises in time and space, politics strives to create a consensus for society as a whole, and many people in cities are confronted with the everyday consequences of the crisis. Alternative forms of social reproduction, urban everyday life and political representation also emerge from this. The examples of Berlin and Barcelona will be used to examine the scope for such alternatives and whether institutionalised urban policy is possible beyond macroeconomic and political constraints.


Research Assistent: Martin Sarnow

For central publications see staff

Living (Transit)Spaces in the Maghreb: Space productions in the context of EU border and security policy and so-called transit migration

  For several decades the irregular migration from Africa to Europe has attracted attention from numerous politicians and scholars across different disciplines. Europe and its security policy have been of particular importance. By offering a different perspective on this topic, this dissertation tries to capture the problem more accurate. Considering that most of the migrants do not succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, the Maghreb and the migrants, who settle down in North Africa for some time, are the main focus of interest. The destinations of these so-called transit migrants are the cities, which offer them different ways to finance their temporary stay and a possible onward journey, but in turn are transformed by the migrants. Due to their mostly undocumented status, the migrants face unemployment or employment in the irregular sector, which in turn can lead to several negative side effects, such as illegal labor, prostitution, drug trafficking, human smuggling and human trafficking spreading out in the cities.

Research Assistent: Dipl.-Geogr. Zine-Eddine Hathat

For central publications see staff

The negotiation of dispossession – the case of Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant (Pará, Brazil)

  The construction of the hydroelectric power plant Belo Monte in the Xingu river basin, Brazil, represents an economic model usually labeled neo-developmentalism, which can be regarded as the Brazilian political and economical elites’ favored development model. Following the logic of “internal colonialism”, it aims at integrating sparsely populated and peripheral regions like the Amazon into national capitalism via neo-extractivist mechanisms and large-scale projects. The example of Belo Monte illustrates that the dispossession of thousands of families – mainly fisher(wo)men, resp. riverines – is not limited to the material sphere. Being forced to leave their homes in Altamira and/or on the surrounding islands, they also have to give up their way of life and their respective identities, neighborhoods, histories etc. The research project analyses these complex forms of dispossession. Based on Butler and Athanasiou (2013), dispossession is conceptualized as a relational and multidimensional process that involves the psychosocial dimension. However, those processes of dispossession are not imposed unilaterally but – in the sense of Arendts (2006[1961]) political action and Tullys (1999) agonic game – occur through diverse forms of contentious negotiation between the responsible consortium, the affected, and other involved actors. In doing so, resistance to dispossession is primarily a struggle for recognition. By analyzing those forms of negotiation, the research projected aims at a conceptual enhancement of the term dispossession which helps to understand the complexity of such large-scale projects and so called processes of development-induced displacement and resettlement.

Research Assistent: Dr. Sören Weißermel

For central publications see staff

Interplay between area-based security policies and daily security practices in São Paulo, Brazil

  In residential areas of the broader Brazilian middle class, security policies have been intensified and, particularly, technical security measures have been massively expanded for several years. This progress influences and limits everyday action patterns of the urban population increasingly, and changes communicative and social structures and processes in local urban space intensively. Referring to the discussion of geographical urban and security studies, it is the main purpose of the project to study daily security-oriented actions, at the microscale level of households, neighbourhoods and districts of the urban middle class in the municipality of São Paulo (Brazil), and to understand their interplay with public and private security policies Therefore, it will be interface a human geographical perspective both with actor-oriented as well as praxeological approaches.

Funding: DFG 2012-2015

Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn

Research Assistent: Dipl.-Geogr. Dominik Haubrich

For central publications see staff

New urban-regional development processes and urban governance in Central Europe

  - description soon to follow -

Funding: DAAD (2014-2016)

Head of Project: Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn (CAU Kiel) and Dr. Alexander Tölle (Universität Poznan)

For central publications see staff

Urban Dynamics: Global Perspectives for a Socio-cultural Urban Management

  Currently, Europe’s urban societies are confronted by massive challenges: economic crises have increased the risk of social dislocation; and political and economic factors have given rise to increasing migratory movements that are generating heterogeneous spaces. In order to prepare graduates for these challenges, the Strategic Partnership „Urban Dynamics“ aims to provide proper formation in the field of socio-cultural urban management. In order to realize its goals, the project team of Kiel University established an interdisciplinary and transnational network. Besides two further European partners – Universidade de Santiago de Compostela and Université Paris 8 –, the Latin American Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires and Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Recife form part of the network. Several learning activities will support students’ international mobility and enable free access to innovative, validatable education materials. The students of the five partner universities will elaborate joint case studies by means of a blended-learning platform. A summer school and a concluding start-up academy will serve to move forward international networking of urban social entrepreneurship. Internships abroad are part of the curriculum, too.

Homepage des Projekts: http://www.urbandynamics.eu/

Project webpage: http://www.urbandynamics.eu/

International Meetings
International Symposium March 2016,
Kiel Workshop: „Spaces of/for Urban Cultures“, May 2016,
Santiago (de Compostela) Workshop: „Creative Urban Politics“, 27 March - 1 April 2017

Case Studies:
  Refugee Movements to Europe: Regulation, Distribution, Accommodation? Dipl.-Geogr. Zine-Eddine Hathat, 
  Learning from alternative Spaces? M. Sc. Michael Helten
UD Internship 2016-17

EU Erasmus+ 2015-2017

Prof. Dr. Javier Gómez-Montero, Prof. Dr. Rainer Wehrhahn, Project Manager: Dr. Victor A. Ferretti, Dipl.-Geogr. Zine-Eddine Hathat and Dr. Corinna Hölzl

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

Monographs and Anthologies

Gilles, A. (2015): Sozialkapital, Translokalität und Wissen. Händlernetzwerke zwischen Afrika und China. Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag (Erdkundliches Wissen. Schriftenreihe für Forschung und Praxis, Band 158)


Im Zuge wirtschaftlicher Transformationsprozesse avancierten die ostchinesischen Küstenprovinzen zu Knotenpunkten nationaler wie globaler Waren- und Kapitalströme. Vor allem die Stadt Guangzhou im Perlflussdelta entwickelte sich zu einem Zentrum exportorientierter Industrien und zu einer der am schnellsten wachsenden Metropolen der Welt. Als eine Folge aber auch als Triebkraft dieses Prozesses nehmen nicht nur intranationale Land-Stadt-Wanderungen zu – auch internationale Wanderungsbewegungen führen zu neuartigen Migrationsregimen.

Hier eröffnet die Analyse der Entstehung, Aufrechterhaltung und Transformation translokaler Händlernetzwerke zwischen Afrika und China sowie inhärenter Migrationsformen und Organisationsmechanismen ein junges und noch unzureichend bearbeitetes Forschungsfeld. Die Studie zeigt durch einen Verschnitt individualistisch-handlungstheoretischer und kollektivistisch-praktikentheoretischer Erklärungsmodelle eine relationale, sozialräumliche Perspektive auf diese Netzwerke und liefert mit der Auseinandersetzung um Ressourcen, Organisation und unternehmerische Handlungsfähigkeit einen vielschichtigen Erklärungsbeitrag für die grenzüberschreitenden Lebens- und Wirtschaftsweisen von Migranten.

  Zur Literatur

Hölzl, C. (2015): The Occupation of the Parque Indoamericano in Buenos Aires: Discourse Dynamics and Stakeholder Practices. Bielefeld.


In 2010, some 13,000 people occupied the second-largest park in Buenos Aires, located in the most deprived area of the city. The city and state governments reacted with violent repression leading to three deaths. After government officials promised that a housing program would be provided, the problem was viewed as “solved.” However, four years later not a single home had been built. Interpretive frames and political practices in Buenos Aires were influenced by the conflict, and this ultimately strengthened the positions of the national and local governments. This, in turn, intensified structural discrimination against lower-income groups in Buenos Aires. Thus, far from bringing about sustainable housing solutions, the occupation reinforced policies of security and sanction.

Zur Literatur

Haubrich, D. (2015): Sicher unsicher. Eine praktikentheoretische Perspektive auf die Un-/Sicherheiten der Mittelschicht in Brasilien. Bielefeld.


Warum werden wir immer unsicherer, obwohl wir uns immer stärker absichern? Dominik Haubrich nähert sich dieser dialektischen Frage am Beispiel der brasilianischen Metropole Sao Paulo. In einer empirisch originellen und theoretisch fundierten Erkenntnisreise durch die Alltagsgeschichten der städtischen Mittelschicht betrachtet er das gewöhnliche Tun und Sagen von Sicherheit, Gewissheit und...

Dissertation erhältlich bei Transcript Verlag

Bercht, A. L. (2013): Stresserleben, Emotionen und Coping in Guangzhou, China. Mensch-Umwelt-Transaktionen aus geographischer und psychologischer Perspektive. Stuttgart.


Noch vor rund 35 Jahren war die Volksrepublik China vom Ausland und von zunehmenden Globalisierungsprozessen weitestgehend politisch abgeschottet und nur marginal in den Welthandel integriert. Heute zählt China im Zuge der 1978 eingeleiteten Reform- und Öffnungspolitik zur zweitgrößten Volkswirtschaft weltweit. Bislang unbekannte Dimensionen wirtschaftlichen Wachstums, städteräumlicher Expansionen und urbaner Transformationsprozesse kennzeichnen den dynamischen Entwicklungsprozess, der sich vor allem am Beispiel der im südchinesischen Perlflussdelta gelegenen Megastadt Guangzhou vertiefend demonstrieren lässt. Vor dem Hintergrund eines stark wachsenden Positionierungs- und Profilierungsdrucks im regionalen, nationalen und internationalen Städtewettbewerb verfolgt die Stadtregierung von Guangzhou das Ziel, mit der Konstruktion der „Guangzhou South Railway Station“, dem größten Bahnhof ganz Asiens, die Stadt zu einem der wichtigsten Drehkreuze für den Personentransport Chinas aufrücken zu lassen.

Anhand dieses – in dem im periurbanen Raum gelegenen Dorf Shibi Village – durchgeführten Megaprojektes als Fallbeispiel für urbane Transformationsprozesse ist es eines der zwei Hauptziele dieser Arbeit, den Einfluss der sich innerhalb weniger Monate und Jahre vollziehenden sozioökonomischen, ökologischen und sozialräumlichen Veränderungen (z. B. Landenteignung, potentielle Umsiedlung) auf die Mensch-Umwelt-Transaktionen der betroffenen (interviewten) Einwohner von Shibi Village im Hinblick auf ihre subjektiven Wahrnehmungs- und Bewertungsprozesse von Stresserleben, Emotionen, Coping und Resilienz auf der Grundlage des transaktionalen Stressmodells von Lazarus eingehend zu analysieren. Im Rahmen eines interpretativ-verstehenden Forschungsdesigns, das die Methoden des problemzentrierten Interviews (mit narrativen Sequenzen) und der Autophotographie umfasst, werden die komplexen Wirkungszusammenhänge und Sinngehalte der verschiedenen Mensch-Umwelt-Transaktionen erkenntnistheoretisch aus der Perspektive der insgesamt 62 interviewten Einwohner interpretierend rekonstruiert. Der Untersuchungszeitraum erstreckt sich über die Jahre von 2007 bis 2011.

Aufgrund der Komplexität und Vielschichtigkeit der vorliegenden Forschungsinhalte ist es das gleichwertige Anliegen, die für diesen Beitrag relevanten Konzepte – Mensch-Umwelt-Transaktion, Zeit, Wahrnehmung, Bewertung, Emotion, Verhalten, Handeln, Stress, Coping und Resilienz – ausführlich zu diskutieren und gleichermaßen sowohl geographische als auch psychologische Ansätze aufzugreifen und somit den Mehrwert einer transdisziplinären Forschungsperspektive aufzuzeigen. Der gegenwärtigen Fachliteratur fehlt es diesbezüglich bislang an einer transdisziplinär ausgerichteten Reflexion, die jedoch als Integrationskraft zu einer disziplinübergreifend geführten „Diskurskultur“ verhelfen kann. Die Ergebnisse der empirischen Untersuchungen machen deutlich, dass über intrapsychische Wahrnehmungs-, Bewertungs- und Handlungsprozesse, über kognitive vorbewusste Verhaltensweisen sowie über offene (direkt beobachtbare) Handlungen eine aktive Auseinandersetzung der Interviewpartner mit ihren Umwelten erfolgt und vor allem intrapsychische problem- und emotionsfokussierte, offensive Copingformen und Persönlichkeitsvariablen wie internale Kontrollüberzeugungen oder Optimismus Stresserleben positiv beeinflussen und verstärkt zum individuellen Resilienzerleben beitragen.

Die Analyse von Stress, Emotionen, Coping und Resilienz eröffnet im Zusammenhang mit den in Bezug auf ihre Dynamik, Geschwindigkeit und Ausmaße (derzeit) weltweit einmaligen Urbanisierungsprozessen in China ein vergleichsweise junges und bislang nur unzureichend bearbeitetes Forschungsfeld, das aufgrund seiner Aktualität und auch zukünftigen Relevanz einen grundlegenden Forschungsbedarf erhebt.



Dissertation erhältlich beim Steiner Verlag

Wehrhahn, Rainer und Alexander Tölle (Hrsg.): Aktuelle Entwicklungen in norddeutschen und westpolnischen Stadtregionen. Kieler Arbeitspapiere zur Landeskunde und Raumordnung. Heft 53. Jahrgang 2012.



Zu bestellen unter: Kieler Arbeitspapiere Heft 53