Research groups webpages:
Human Geography deals with the study of a variety of intermediate entities that are generated from relations of humans and social groups, institutional arrangements, technology, and material conditions. They comprise inter alia :
At the Geography Unit of the University of Fribourg, research in Human Geography focuses on Social Ecology and Socio-spatial Complexity.
Environmental change is of great and wide spread concern â€“ it comprises issues from the ozone hole and global warming to the loss of biodiversity and the water crisis. National politics and many international organisations are seeking solutions, also revealing how societyâ€™s perceptions and definitions of nature is evolving according to different constraints and interests.
Social and political ecology seeks to understand the society â€“ nature relations by putting ecological and resource management problems in the context of social change and the political economy of production, distribution and consumption. One research focus is analysing how environmental problems are intertwined with global, national and local distributional disparities in connection with social and power relations. The other domain of research is concentrating on theoretical approaches trying to grasp our relationship to the physical, non-human world.
As geographers we view â€˜spaceâ€™ as an order of concomitance. Different and often conflicting rationalities, economic systems, and cultures exist simultaneously, often also in close proximity. This situation urges us to examine the interrelations of diverse phenomena and their often-unexpected resulting emergent properties. Notions of complexity and evolution help us tracing the manifold relations of technology, space and human action, and their roles in shaping the trajectories of city regions and economic systems.
We define two fields of research that choose different empirical foci, but which share the goal of contributing to a theory of social complexity and a re-conception of materiality and technology for the social sciences.
There is a traditional cleavage between the fields of urban design and spatial planning both in practice, education, and in research. This drives the misleading notion that planning is political whereas architecture is not. Taking spatial settings seriously and allowing for aesthetics to enter geographical research we map out the liminal spaces between the disciplines of planning, architecture and (more traditional) urban geography. Geography of Architecture works on architectural and urban design competitions, on the role of urban images for investors, developers and households, and on interdependencies of housing and urban development. Furthermore, horizontally and vertically gated communities, architectures of fear and control, control technologies and (new) military urbanism define fields of interest and study.
(for fun: check this out: http://vimeo.com/8332956)
With the shift towards collaborative planning and governance modes of spatial planning policy-making in both planning theory and practice, civic engagement beyond Arnsteinsâ€™s (1969) rungs of manipulation, therapy and informing (nonparticipation and tokenism) at the bottom of her ladder of citizen participation has become a key issue. More precisely, as the conceptualization of collective decision-making and the role of place in post-liberal democracy challenge planning research, the crucial question is this: why do assemblages of spatial settings, people and the (socio-political and material) issues around which they are gathered at some times and places pick up speed and generate a dynamic on its own (we refer to this as a Deleuzian â€˜eventâ€™), while at other times, in other places, similar action does not produce any agency?
The field of collective (planning) decision-making is currently reshuffling around contemporary core issues/challenges of uncertainty, diversity and incommensurability, but also in the light of new technologies of representation and control. By putting those terms at center stage several authors have suggested to refer to conceptions of social complexity in order to dispose of an adequate foundation. Ongoing debate points at the need to revisit the â€˜politicalâ€™ in participative planning policy-making, collaborative neighborhood development, community organization, but also with regard to citizenship in an era of securocratic practice. We aim at an empirically founded conceptual contributions to re-thinking â€˜places of democracyâ€™ as we draw on the view of democracy as a promise in the political field. The conception of the event and the need for its enunciation open up for a re-conception of place based democracy. Atmospheres of Democracy empirically works on processes of planning for the elderly, on community organisation and on emerging modes of governance.
(see also: http://www.spaceofdemocracy.org/)