Urban inequalities: from Right to the City to taking control – 17-19 June 2022

International Forum 17-19 June 2022

Czech Center, 100 G. S. Rakovski st., Sofia

Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is the country’s largest, fastest growing, and richest city. But behind this apparent success story lies a myriad of problems all too familiar to residents. Poor public infrastructure, dangerous air quality, a notorious deficit in kindergartens, a continuous encroachment on the city’s green areas, all significantly mar the quality of life in Sofia.

In recent years, some of these grave issues have been addressed by various NGOs and municipal organizations, mostly from an anti-corruption perspective. Yet, urban inequalities and their systemic sources are an overarching and multifaceted problem that has largely remained outside the scope of their ambitious efforts.

Other urban contexts besieged by the scourge of overdevelopment have developed progresive popular mobilizations such as Right to the City movements that led to victories for progressive forces in places like Zagreb. While this phase has largely been absent from Bulgaria, Bulgarian urban movements are nonetheless busy mobilizing to take power at municipal elections and this forum aims at buttressing their efforts.

With a city as diverse and unevenly developed as Sofia, a focus on inequality is mandatory to effectively – and equitably – tackle urban problems and pave the way to a governance model centered on social justice.

This is all the more pressing given current migration dynamics in a country like Bulgaria, which has seen significant population concentration in major cities, especially Sofia, driving depopulation outside of the capital. With 2023 local elections quickly approaching, it is all the more urgent to supplement the anti-corruption angle with a critique of political economy and offer viable ways toward more just and equitable socio-economic development of the city.

This three-day forum aims to enrich the understanding of urban problems in Sofia by offering critical perspectives to urban inequalities building on the achievements of local and international activists and researchers. Our scope scales from the national and regional contexts where the urban is nested and descales to the people weaving the urban fabric.

We bring together international and local urban activists, policymakers, architects, and academics to discuss topical issues in urban politics ranging from environmental inequalities, uneven access to municipal services and affordable housing, racial segregation, to how new public management reforms impact local inequalities.

Friday, 17 JuneSaturday, 18 JuneSunday, 19 June
10.30 – 12.00Challenges and Perspectives Before Contemporary Urban Planning

Spatial Practices towards Instituting to Live Together
Merve Bedir

The Good and the Bad in Urban Planning: Challenges for Contemporary Cities
Loris Servillo

Pavel Yanchev
The Neoliberal City

Suburbanizing Sofia: Characteristics of Post-socialist Urban Growth
Sonia Hirt

Housing, Class, and Racialized Injustice in Contemporary Capitalism
Enikő Vincze

Neoliberal Policy, Inequality and the Decline of Sofia’s Public Markets
Nikola Venkov

Ognian Kassabov
Designing Just Cities

How to Design a Fair Shared City?
Milota Sidorova
Architecture Design Justice: Conceptualizing the Process for Fair Practices in Architecture and Architectural Education
Rosaura Romero

Pavel Yanchev
13.00 -14.30
Organizing for Justice:

Housing: a National Priority or a Financial Asset?
Rositsa Kratunkova

Tourism, Housing and home. Exploring the Socio-Spatial Inequalities of Airbnb in Sofia
Maartje Roelofsen

Housing as the Cornerstone of Access to the City: Collaborative and Municipal Housing Pathways
Zsuzsanna Pósfai

Georgi Medarov
Integrated Cities

Integration of People, Information, Processes, Resources
Lyubo Georgiev

Public Services and Social Reproduction in the Neoliberal City: A Labor Perspective
Aleksandra Lakic

Georgi Medarov
Decolonizing the City

Decolonizing the City? Traversing Urbanscapes in the World-Systemic Transperipheral Histories of Socialist Hungary and the Global South
Zoltán Ginelli

Broken Solidarities: Visual Culture of the Non-Aligned Before and After 1989
Bojana Videkanic

Nikolay Karkov
15.00 – 16.30

Remunicipalization of Public Goods and Services in Sofia – Is It Possible and at What Price?
Boris Bonev

The Future is Public – The road to Municipalism & Public Ownership
Melissa Koutouzis

Stray Waters: Thermal Springs Between Luxury and Ruination
Slava Savova

Jana Tsoneva
Transportation and Air Quality

Air Quality for Whom?
Ivaylo Hlebarov

Profit-Driven Urbanism and the Hidden Cost of Traffic Congestion
Zoran Bukvić

Infrastructural Barriers and Spatial Segregation
Pavel Yanchev
Teodora Stefanova

Ognian Kassabov
Alternative Modernities

Racism-the Highest Stage of Anti-Communism
Rossen Djagalov

Contested Heritage: architecture, culture wars and contextualizing difficult pasts
Aneta Vasileva

Intimate Colonization and the City: From “Success” to the Good Life
Ovidiu Țichindeleanu

Nikolay Karkov

Supported by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southeast Europe.