Lead project

Urban Policies on Peripheralisation

Research Department: Regeneration of Cities and Towns

IRS Research Topic: Crisis and Resilience in Multi-level Governance Forms and Implications of Spatial Governance

Project Leader within IRS: Dr. Manfred Kühn

Project Team: PD Dr. Matthias Bernt Daniel Förste Dr. Laura Colini

Duration: 01/2012 - 12/2014

This departmental lead project concluded a six year research period on the peripheralisation of cities. Thereby, peripheralisation was understood as a multidimensional concept that encompasses a number of distinct socio-spatial processes. These include a decoupling from innovation dynamics linked to the knowledge economy and/or infrastructural networks, strcutures of dependency from centralised political and political decision-making, and/or negative effects resulting from brain drain. In many cities, peripheralisation results in demographic shrinkage, vacant buildings, and a concentration of social problems (poverty, unemployment, exclusion).

The lead project studied how urban policies address the above mentioned processes. The following questions were of particular interest:

 How do socio-spatial processes of peripheralisation impact changing modes of governance?

 What influence do changing modes of governance have on socio-spatial processes of peripheralisation?

The lead project has built on and enhanced existing theories of peripheralisation by drawing on theories of segregation, marginalisation and exclusion. As such, the project has contributed to theory-building. The project sought to refine actor-centred and action-centred concepts, and to reflect on whether theories of peripheralisation can be adapted to various spatial scales. The project's theoretical approach was inspired by institutional and governance-based spatial research, as well as by community power structure research.

On an empirical level, the project has made advances in two respects. On the one hand, it reflected on the way in which mid-sized cities are situated within their respective environments. This perspective is vital, as recent studies have argued that peripheral centres are losing importance, while much research in spatial studies and spatial politics has normatively ascribed a stabilising role to mid-sized cities within peripheral, rural regions (deeming them 'spatial anchors' or 'centres of growth'). It was for this reason that the project examined instances of regional cooperation and competition in Pirmasens and Stendal, while also analysing connected modes of governance in these peripheralised spaces. On the other hand, the lead project assessed whether the concept of peripheralised mid-size cities in structurally weak regions can also be applied to better understand the development of metropolitan districts. For this purpose, a large housing estate on the outskirts of Halle was examined.

The project sought to identify in what sense urban development policies contribute to or mollify processes of marginalisation. Case studies conducted on the cities of Pirmasens, Stendal and Halle revealed that peripheralisation processes are in part caused by actors and governance processes, and thus by forms of power. Several explanatory accounts for this 'making' of socio-spatial peripheralisation processes were then developed in numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and a monograph.


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Kühn, M. (2016). Kooperation und Konkurrenz: Variationen der Stadtpolitik in schrumpfenden Regionen. In M. Barbehön, & S. Münch (Eds.), Variationen des Städtischen - Variationen lokaler Politik (pp. 149-172). (Stadtforschung aktuell). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Bernt, M., Förste, D., Colini, L., & Hebsaker, J. (2014). Studie zur kleinräumlichen Untersuchung sozialstruktureller Veränderungen in Halle (Saale): Ergebnisse der Auswertung von Daten der kommunalen Statistik. Erkner: Leibniz-Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung.
Kühn, M., & Bernt, M. (2013). Peripheralization and Power - Theoretical Debates. In A. Fischer-Tahir, & M. Naumann (Eds.), Peripherization: The Making of Spatial Dependencies and Social Injustice (pp. 302-317). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Kühn, M., & Weck, S. (2012). Peripherisierung - Prozesse, Probleme und Strategien in Mittelstädten. disP: The Planning Review, 48(2), 24-26.
Bernt, M., Colini, L., & Förste, D. (2017). Privatization, Financialization and State Restructuring in East Germany: The Case of Am Südpark. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 41(4), 555-571. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12521
Bernt, M., Liebmann, H., Weck, S., Bürk, T., Beißwenger, S., Kühn, M., & Dunkel, T. (2012). Mittelstädte im peripherisierten Raum zwischen Abkopplung und Innovation: Ergebnisse eines Experten-Workshops in Günne/Möhnesee am 08. und 09. September 2011. Bonn: Denkwerkstatt der Montag Stiftungen.
Stein, A., Wiegand, T. S., Dehne, P., Hülz, M., Kühn, M., Kujath, H-J., ... Stahlkopf, E. (Eds.) (2016). Wissensgesellschaft als Herausforderung für ländlich-periphere Regionen: Beispiele aus Nordostdeutschland. (Forschungsberichte der ARL; No. 6). Hannover: Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung.
Kühn, M., & Lang, T. (Eds.) (2017). Metropolisierung und Peripherisierung in Europa. (Europa Regional, Special Issue; Vol. 2015 (2017), No. 4).
Bernt, M., & Liebmann, H. (Eds.) (2013). Peripherisierung, Stigmatisierung, Abhängigkeit? Deutsche Mittelstädte und ihr Umgang mit Peripherisierungsprozessen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Nelle, A. (2014). Die Anpassungsfähigkeit schrumpfender Städte: Erfahrungen aus dem Stadtumbau Ost. In U. Altrock, S. Huning, T. Kuder, & H. Nuissl (Eds.), Die Anpassungsfähigkeit von Städten: Zwischen Resilienz, Krisenreaktion und Zukunftsorientierung (pp. 251-270). (Planungsrundschau; No. 22). Berlin: Altrock.
Bernt, M. (2014). Schrumpfung. In B. Belina, M. Naumann, & A. Strüver (Eds.), Handbuch Kritische Stadtgeographie (pp. 118-123). Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.
Bernt, M., & Milstrey, U. (2017). Quartiere auf Zeit revisited: neue Herausforderungen für Politik und Planung. In U. Altrock, N. Grunze, & S. Kabisch (Eds.), Großwohnsiedlungen im Haltbarkeitscheck: Differenzierte Perspektiven ostdeutscher Großwohnsiedlungen (pp. 145–167). Wiesbaden: Springer VS. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-18579-4_8
Kühn, M., & Sommer, H. (2013). Periphere Zentren - Städte in peripherisierten Regionen: Theoretische Zugänge, Handlungskonzepte und eigener Forschungsansatz. (Working Paper / Leibniz-Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung; No. 48). Erkner: Leibniz-Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung.
Kühn, M., & Lang, T. (2017). Metropolisierung und Peripherisierung in Europa: Eine Einführung. Europa Regional, 2015 (2017)(4), 2-14.
Haase, A., Rink, D., Großmann, K., Bernt, M., & Mykhnenko, V. (2014). Conceptualizing Urban Shrinkage. Environment and Planning A, 46(7), 1519-1534. DOI: 10.1068/a46269
Kühn, M., Bernt, M., & Colini, L. (2017). Power, Politics and Peripheralization: Two Eastern German Cities. European Urban and Regional Studies, 24(3), 258-273. DOI: 10.1177/0969776416637207
Kühn, M. (2016). Thilo Lang, Sebastian Henn, Wladimir Sgibnev and Kornelia Ehrlich (eds.) (2015): Understanding Geographies of Polarization and Peripheralization. Perspectives from Central and Eastern Europe and Beyond. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(4), 892-893. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12398
Kühn, M. (2015). Peripheralization: Theoretical Concepts Explaining Socio-Spatial Inequalities. European Planning Studies, 23(2), 367-378. DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2013.862518
Bernt, M. (2017). Phased Out, Demolished and Privatized: Social Housing in an Eastgerman Shrinking City. In P. Watt, & P. Smets (Eds.), Social Housing and Urban Renewal: A Cross-National Perspective (pp. 253-276). Oxford: Emerald Publishers.
Bernt, M. (2014). Die Herausforderer der "Behutsamen Stadterneuerung". In U. Altrock, R. Kunze, G. Schmitt, & D. Schubert (Eds.), Jahrbuch Stadterneuerung 2013: Schwerpunkt "Das Ende der Behutsamkeit?" (pp. 53-67). Berlin: Universitätsverlag der Technischen Universität Berlin.