The future of cities is negotiated on the basis of different actors´ conflicting visions. Research project by Anna Zhelnina.
Urban Academy partner cities Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa are funding postdoctoral researcher posts in urban studies at Aalto University and University of Helsinki for the period 2018-2023. The research themes are selected in collaboration with the cities so that they support strategic development and planning of the cities. Urban Academy asked researchers to share their thoughts about their research and interests.
In August 2020, Anna Zhelnina defended her PhD dissertation “Engaging Neighbors: Housing Strategies and Political Mobilization in Moscow’s Renovation” at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Anna Zhelnina will be working with city partners in the Helsinki Capital region to co-develop research projects related to resident participation in urban development.
1. Could you describe your current research project(s) briefly? What are the main characteristics of your research (methods, questions, goals)?
I study urban politics and civic engagement in urban redevelopment projects. Residents’ engagement in urban transformations involves imagining alternatives for a neighborhood’s or a city’s future, negotiating these different visions and aspirations with neighbors, city officials, and developers, and taking action to support or oppose specific projects. In diverse urban neighborhoods, it is almost inevitable that neighbors and other stakeholders disagree; they often have different ideas of what a good home and a desirable living environment are.
I am interested in the interactions of different participants of urban redevelopment processes as they try to promote their ideas about the urban future. I also focus on the outcomes of these interactions – changes in the urban physical space as well as social and political consequences of urban controversies. I am a qualitative sociologist, and my preferred methods include interviews, observation, and digital ethnography.
2. What are your current special interests or sources of inspiration? What has inspired you recently?
New urban experiences inspire me. I am a big enthusiast of comparative urban research; I believe that living in and studying different cities can help us appreciate each city’s unique challenges and ways of dealing with them. Moving to Helsinki certainly gave a boost to my own urban imagination.
3. Is there anything specific that you would like to highlight in your research? What kind of impact do you wish that your research or research field in general has on the society?
I would like urbanites in big cities to acknowledge and accept their increasing diversity – ethnic, social, and political. Taking the “invisible” differences into account when redeveloping urban territories is an important factor in creating comfortable urban spaces and supporting healthy civil societies.
4. Can you name a city or cities that have played important role in your life? What is your favorite city in the World?
Saint Petersburg and New York City, however different they are, are the cities where I got my most formative urban experiences.