Graduate School of Social Sciences

Urban Studies: Sense, Space and Strategy

Urban space is perceived on the basis of the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste), context, and memories. The sensory landscape of a city is called the urban ‘sensescape’, and each city has its own, distinctive one. It has symbolic meaning and inspires a sense of belonging among its inhabitants. Changing a sensescape might therefore touch on emotions and fuel processes of contestation. This three-week, interdisciplinary programme explores the historical and present sensescape of Amsterdam and the processes of spatial contestation, due to urban renewal, increasing tourism and economic transformations, as expressed in activism and art.

Programme at a glance

Academic dates: 7 July - 25 July 2019
Housing dates: 6 July - 26 July 2019
Academic fee: € 1575
Housing fee: € 500 and € 75 deposit. For more information, see Housing and practical matters.
Credits: 6 European Credits
Who is this programme for? For current university students (Bachelors and Masters) in the arts and social sciences with an interest in urban studies. For working professionals with a desire to continue their education in this field.
Academic director: Thea Dukes
Early application deadline: 10 January 2019
Regular application deadline: 1 April 2019


Programme description

If urban sensescapes are subject to change (in whatever form), this influences the way in which people experience their urban environment and might influence their sense of belonging. This can therefore be a strong motivation for contesting urban space, for forming groups with similar interests and using particular (discursive) strategies, to defend them. As cities are densely populated, urban space is subject to constant negotiation and contestation.

In a rapidly changing and hyper-connected world, people have become global citizens. Seen from this context, nowadays it is often (colliding) local- and global interests that are at issue and fuel processes of negotiation. Due to globalization, contemporary urban sensescapes are under threat of both homogenization (standardization of spaces) and heterogenization. In Amsterdam this is reflected in heated debates on, amongst others, the impact of increasing tourism and widespread gentrification.

By the end of the programme, you will have a good understanding of the Amsterdam sensescape and of the emotional geographies involved in its changes over time. We will explore the Amsterdam sensescape by walking and biking through different areas of the city. You will participate in a combination of academic lectures, site visits and city excursions. By the end of the course, you will leave the UvA with a deep and thorough understanding of important periods in Amsterdam’s history and important debates at present.

Topics addressed include the history of Amsterdam, Amsterdam as a sensescape, the city as a site of contestation, the effects of tourism on urban centres, and the economy and spatial development of Amsterdam as the city plans for its future.

Study load

The programme schedule from Monday to Thursday includes:

  • Morning lecture (2.5 hours)
  • Lunch break (1 hour; provided by the University)  
  • Afternoon workshop (2.5 hours; includes film screenings, debates, and city excursions).

On Fridays, participants will have either an excursion to another city, or the final presentations for their programme.

Credit Transfer

As a Summer Institute student you receive a participation certificate with an official seal from the Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Students who wish to earn credits receive an official transcript stating the courses taken, credits earned and grades obtained. The programme is the equivalent of a 6 European Credits (or 3 American credits) module. Students are responsible for ensuring that their home university will accept the credits and final credit conversions need to be made by the home university. If you have questions about credit transfer, or need more information on the programme for your home university's administration, please email us at


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6 ECTS, 3 weeks
Language of instruction
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Published by  GSSS Summer Programmes Office