I work in the field of urban sociology and my main research interests can be summarized in three themes:
- Privatization of urban spaces: gentrification, displacement and the role of housing
- Urban social movements: squatting, tenants’ mobilizations and the right to the city
- Civil society and non-traditional civic engagement
Empirically I have conducted studies in Poland and Sweden and am currently leading a project focusing on Central and Eastern Europe (2023-2028, see more at www.sustainaction.org). I am interested in how cultural and political contexts are conditioning the emergence and development of particular protests and movements, and above all in the motivations and practices behind these mobilizations.
An important aspect in my research has been to go beyond the division of East and West and the established conceptualizations of civil society. In my research I uphold a critical perspective by taking into account less “successful” or visible cases of mobilization, focusing on the excluded perspectives, and working closely and oftentimes collaboratively with my research objects.
Recently I have done research on residents’ perceptions of costly renovation and displacement, where I have focused on individual and collective resistance to renovations among tenants.
Read more about the research projects I am/have been part of:
Sustaining Civil Society in the Context of Multiple Crises: Hubs of Engagement in Central and Eastern Europe and Sweden
(Östersjöstiftelsen 2023-2028, PI: Dominika V. Polanska)
This project sets out to comparatively analyse civil society’s resilience and resourcefulness in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Czechia and Sweden. It starts with examining the genealogies of the existing local/national/global crises, which include issues related to the economy, housing, the climate, food, the pandemic and gender equality, and focuses on analysing how people respond to these crises collectively. We ask: How does civic action emerge and develop over time in the face of multiple crises and exclusions? How do activists manage to (re)kindle and sustain civic engagement, how do they build multiscalar solidarities under adverse conditions, and how does this transform their life-stories and affective responses? How alliances, cooperation and central relationships are built in contemporary civil societies, with whom and what role these relationships play? What can we learn about the emergence and development mechanisms of mobilisation and civic actions from comparisons of differential patterns and interconnected trajectories? To capture the structural conditions as well as collective dynamics and individual levels of activism, we propose the concept of “hubs of engagement” as an analytical tool, which allows us to bring these dimensions together. Our methodological framework is qualitative and comparative, drawing on the approach of critical participatory action research, triangulating archival research, interviews, observations, online material, and visual maps.
Searching for Sustainable Alternatives in Times of Crisis
(FORMAS 2018-2023, PI: Dominika V. Polanska)
The aim of this project is to discuss housing alternatives in relation to the provision of socially sustainable housing and, crucially, to assess the viability of said alternatives. The project will focus on identifying and examining socially sustainable alternatives from the perspectives of class and gender. We will focus on three core dimensions of housing provision: tenure forms, housing construction and housing finance. Through engaging with a variety of key stakeholders, we seek to interrogate the socio-economic, political and legal challenges currently facing residents with the aim of elaborating pathways towards a more socially sustainable and equitable system of housing, and a more stable, inclusive, and just housing future for all in Sweden. This will be the first major research project that will systematically examine sustainable housing alternatives in Sweden. The project seeks to; 1) answer the broad call for changes that are increasingly articulated in Sweden; 2) understand which alternative tenure, construction and finance models could be implemented in Sweden by creating a deeper understanding of said alternatives, and also by analysing them in relation to gender and class; 3) question the existing hegemony of the Swedish housing regime, exactly by introducing such alternatives; and 4) contribute to participatory action research methodology by including stakeholders in the co-production of knowledge within the project.
PAST research projects:
Displacement and renoviction in housing renewal processes in Sweden – an intersectional feminist perspective
(FORMAS 2018-2020, PI: Irene Molina)
From a gender intersectional perspective, this project will address displacement and renoviction in Sweden caused by currently unregulated housing renewal. An important theoretical perspective is the feminist intersectional perspective. Previous research has failed in covering the perspective of tenants during renovation processes and the perspective of women, who are the hardest hit by the changes on the housing market, though they have historically been key actors in mobilization against renoviction. Furthermore, the project aims to contribute to integrate gendered knowledge on housing and housing renewal to future policies and regulation. Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used. Starting with a statistical national mapping, migration patterns of the residents of the renewed areas will be followed. These patterns will be analysed intersectionally, considering variables of gender, age, national background, and socio-economic variables. Among the qualitative methods used there will be in depth and semi-structured individual interviews, structured interviews with informants, focus groups, observations of meetings and analysis of documents. C rucial for the launching of this project is the participation of stakeholders. The project will finally suggest the terms necessary for a gender sensitive as well as resident keen process of housing and neighbourhood renewal, avoiding renoviction and the reproduction of gender imbalance in the sphere of residence.
Renovation and participation: towards an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable Million Program?
(FORMAS 2018-2022, PI: Håkan Thörn)
This project analyses tenants’ participation in renovation of rental housing built in the period between 1960 and 1975 in Sweden. Previous research indicates that tenant participation has a positive effect first and foremost on social sustainability (by affecting affordability), and also to some extent on ecological sustainability, but so far no systematic comparative research has been done. More specifically our aim is to investigate if and how, tenants’ participation has an impact on the way the renovation programme fulfils sustainability goals 11 of the 2030 Agenda (Sustainable C ities and C ommunities).
Our main research questions include:
1. How are tenants invited to participate in renovation processes, and how are these dialogues organised? To what extent and how do they involve conflicts between different stakeholders? Does the dialogue influence the social, economic and ecological sustainability of the renovation, and, if so, in what ways?
2. How do tenants self-organise in order to influence renovation? How does this self-organisation relate to formal dialogues organised by the estate owner? To what extent, how, do tenants’ protests influence the social, economic and ecological sustainability of the renovation, and, if so, in what ways?
3. To what extent and how are concerns based on class, gender, and ethnicity included in the renovation process? How do these concerns influence the social, economic and ecological sustainability of the renovations?
Squatting and Urban Commons
(2018-, with Miguel Martínez)
Is squatting a significant experience for promoting urban commons? We assume that a squatted Social Centre, squatted houses and squatting activists were the main actors or participated in an activist network that defended, produced or managed a specific urban common (e.g. local public services, goods, infrastructures, spaces and institutions… but its definition is open to discussion). This is a collective research process within SqEK (Squatting Everywhere Kollective) which deals with the politics of self-management (in other words – autonomy and self-organisation) as it is practised in squats inside out. We want to interrogate the achievements and limitations of self-management as it has been practiced by squatters and to gather interesting cases assessing the outcomes produced by urban activism/movements in which squatting is a relevant feature. Therefore, both activists and academics could learn from the struggles in which squatting is concerned.
This means we aim to analyse significant cases of “success” and “failure” in the production of urban commons (according to the activists’ and researchers’ judgements and by taking into account different meanings, possibilities and types of “success-failure”) in order to learn from them. Both ongoing and past experiences can be included as cases. A significant involvement of activists in the research process, not as mere informants, is also crucial (i.e. bridging academia and activism).
Challenging the myths of weak civil society in post-socialist settings
(Östersjöstiftelsen 2014-2018, PI: Dominika V. Polanska)
There are many gaps in the scientific literature on social movements dealing with housing during state socialism and after the regime change. Along with the gaps, there are also partly misleading views of the state of the civil society and social movements in postsocialist settings. Studies on social movements and civil society mobilizations in the postsocialist context tend to use tools and yardsticks developed in the West that applied on the conditions in post-socialist societies result in misleading and outdated interpretations. These interpretations have resulted in a conventional view of civil society and social movement activity in post-socialist societies as “weak”, “uncivil” or suffering of
“civilizational incompetence” (Howard 2003; Kotkin 2010; Sztompka 2004). However, this view on the functioning of civil society has recently been nuanced and new research demonstrates that there are frequent mobilizations taking place in the post-socialist countries that are either not taken into account, or misinterpreted due to the use of blunt theoretical or methodological tools (Jacobsson & Saxonberg 2013; Ekiert & Kubik 2014; Ekiert & Foa 2012). The argument I would like to put forward in this project, by focusing on Poland, is that there has been a thriving activity in the sphere of civil society and social movements in the last decade that has been under-studied or studied with the help of tools developed for other contexts. In the project I would like to show that the picture is more nuanced and that the assumptions on the lack of grassroots connections and the dominance of friendship and family connections (and thus an inability to cooperate with “unknown” others) in the collective action field are not fully adequate. This I will do by studying previously under-studied social movements dealing with housing: the tenants’ movement and the squatting movement in Poland, and how the two- rather diverse movements- cooperate.
Institutional constraints and creative solutions: civil society in Poland in comparative perspective
(Vetenskapsrådet 2011-2016, PI: Kerstin Jacobsson)
For more info see link