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School of Geography

Methodology and added value of the Network

Tower in Leeds

The network will be composed of four young researchers and a senior research partner as mentor in four different European countries. The network’s ‘added value’ lies in two strengths that derive from combining the work of these researchers together:

  1. Comparative assessment: Researchers’ expertise covers both northern and southern European city-regions belonging to different types of nation states at different positions in a European urban hierarchy (see Table 1).
  2. The combination of participants’ different geographical and theoretical expertise within a shared commitment to Cultural Political Economy (e.g. Gonzalez, 2006; Jessop and Oosterlynck, 2008; Jones, 2008; Ribera, 2009). More specifically their individual profiles cover different urban research dimensions which together amount to an integrative approach (spatial theory, political economy, discourse analysis, economic and political theory respectively).

Table 1: Case Studies

 
Barcelona
Leeds
Cagliari
Brussels
Degrees of regionalization
High
Medium
High
High
Llocal devolution
Medium
Low
High
Medium
Position in the European urban hierarchy
Core
Semi - peripheral
Core
Peripheral
Position in the national space economy
Core
Semi - peripheral
Core
Peripheral
Political cultures
Social-democrat
Liberal
Multi-party coalition
Regionalist

The development of the full potential of these strengths the network will build a cross-national comparison of four European city-region case studies where the four young researchers are located (Table 1). The aim is to:

  1. Compare and contrast uneven local manifestations of the global recession across Europe.
  2. Draw similarities and differences and relate them to particular geographical contexts and/or wider structural processes.
  3. Scale up the cross-national comparison to contribute to theories on urban and state restructuring.

An innovative element of this network’s methodology is the continuous feedback mechanism between global ideas and local experiences which will add to the explanatory power of the theoretical contributions. This is achieved through the active engagement of researchers in the different four city-regions in two ways: rotating workshops and site fieldwork (more practical details on these below):

  1. Six workshops enabling the network participants to work face to face on three distinct areas: (a) theoretical and methodological development: the participants will work towards developing their collective theoretical and methodological approach (Cultural Political Economy) within a comparative framework; b) case study analysis: the workshops will progressively review the contemporary situation in each city-region in terms of the impact of the crisis and emerging urban policy ‘solutions’. Four of the six workshops will have a dedicated ‘on site’ empirical focus led by the host researcher including field visits, workshops or interviews with local policy makers, academics, politicians, business people, trade unionists, community spaces and work places affected by the crisis; and c) comparative analysis: the workshops will allow the researchers to constantly compare and contrast the different approaches to the crisis and explore whether a “new urban deal” can be recognized across European cities.
  2. Four ‘site fieldwork visits’ where each network participant will carry out fieldwork at one of the other three case study city-regions. The methodology will involve the visitor working alongside the local host in examining the variation, selection and retention of discursive strategies through the analysis of media reports, policy documents, carrying out interviews as well as ethnographic inquiries about grassroots responses to the economic crisis. These visits aim to strengthen the comparative nature of the case study analysis by bringing in an outside view to help identify both the specificities of and continuities between the cases. It will consolidate the identity of the network by developing intense research collaboration. 

All in all, the network proposes an intense truly collaborative programme where researchers will together (a) design the main research questions; (b) produce empirically rich and context specific data through collaborative fieldwork; (c) build a comparative methodology to be used in the future within and beyond the network; (d) contribute to theoretical debates by developing a common theoretical approach based on their complementary skills that is powerful enough to be adaptable to different urban contexts; (e) deliver outputs; (f) engage with the policy community at various spatial levels. 

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