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School of Geography

16th Annual David M.Smith Lecture

5 December 2019

Time: 6:00 - 8:00pm
Speaker: Professor Iwona Sagan
Venue: Room 1.26, Geography Building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

In the QMUL School of Geography's 16th Annual David M. Smith Lecture, we invite Professor Iwona Sagan (Professor of Earth Sciences, Department of Socio-Economic Geography, University of Gdansk, Poland) to present:"From communism to neoliberalism and back to populism: changing models of (not only) urban policy"

A drinks reception will follow the lecture.


Urban policy has been undergoing dynamic changes that reflect the global societal transition. In the post-communist countries the scale and the rate of multidimensional transformation – systemic transition, joining the EU, and globalisation – have compressed the processes of historical evolution to mere 30 years. Shifting from centrally controlled to market economy, from centrally planned to unplanned development, and from isolated society to inclusion in global flows has radically changed the mode of urban policy. The managerial policy of distribution has been replaced with orthodox entrepreneurial policy. There has been no time to build or educate a civil society capable of ameliorating the forces of free market capital. The institutional embeddedness of young democracy has begun to deteriorate and post-communist societies are plunging into populism. Urban policy makers have to face again the pressure of centralisation and authoritarian rule. Yet, the path from communist dictatorship, which virtually erased local self-governance, to neoliberal policy, focused exclusively on the market, and then to authoritarian populist government that recentralises power again is not simply a circular route back to the mechanisms of communism. Governance – not the government – still remains at the core of urban policy. In this lecture I explore how changing models of urban policy have transformed urban landscapes, spatial social structures and turned inhabitants into citizens.


Iwona Sagan is a Professor of Earth Sciences and Head of the Department of Socio-Economic Geography at University of Gdansk, Poland. She also leads the RECOURSE Center of Excellence in the department. Professor Sagan is the member of the Committee for Space Economy and Regional Planning of Polish Academy of Sciences, a member of both State and Regional Territorial Forums as well as an advisor in both Regional and the City of Gdansk Urban Development Commissions. Professor Sagan’s research focuses on concepts of place and territorial identity and on urban, regional and metropolitan policies, and has been widely published. She has participated in numerous international collaborative research projects under the EU 5th, 6th, 7th and H2020 Framework Programmes, and her work has also been supported by RSA, OECD, Volkswagen Stiftung and national research funding. In her recent book The City. A New Question and New Policy / Miasto. Nowa kwestia inowa polityka (2017) Professor Sagan explores current dilemmas regarding the notion of urbanity.

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