Divided City

Muuri jakaa kaupungin ja sen ulkopuolisen ympäristön.

Wed 18.9. 5 pm

The urban inequality of large cities and the accumulation of disadvantage present a problem all across the globe. People from similar backgrounds occupy the same areas, resulting in the division of urban space and city districts, among other factors, by ethnicity, income level, religion and language. Why is this and how can this trend be influenced?

The event introduces examples of urban division and development in Finland, Europe and the Global South. Venla Bernelius, Teemu Kemppainen and Katja Vilkama look at the regional differentiation in Helsinki. Florencia Quesada Avendaño, Filip de Boeck and Anja Nygren talk about cities in Latin America and Africa. The first discussion is in Finnish and the latter in English. The event is hosted by Reetta Räty.

The event is part of Think Corner’s Crazy World series which looks for causes and solutions to an unequal and divided world. Take part on the spot, follow the livestream or watch the video recording!


Venla Bernelius ja Katja Vilkama.

Venla Bernelius, Katja Vilkama

Venla Bernelius (@VBernelius) is an associate professor at the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies. She is specialised in the impact of increasing social inequalities in neighbourhoods on schools and the skills of youth. Bernelius is inspired by how her research topics are linked with people’s choices and values, the social inheritance of deprivation, housing policy and education policy solutions at the national level as well as social life in neighbourhoods. Tip for reducing inequality: “We must pay attention to children and their future. Realisation of equal opportunities regardless of background, place of residence, gender or ethnic group is one of the biggest factors in social change.”

Katja Vilkama (@KatjaVilkama) works as a research director at the Urban Research and Statistics Unit of the City of Helsinki. Among other issues, her research has focused on questions of housing, migration and immigration, as well as the development of residential areas and segregation between urban districts. “Phenomena related to housing, migration and the development of residential areas affect all of us. It’s interesting to try to understand the mechanisms underlying these phenomena,” Katja says. Tip for reducing inequality: “Inequality is closely connected with the unequal distribution of welfare, income and opportunities to have an influence. It is essential to tackle these factors by means of income distribution, employment and social policies. To prevent the further intensification of inequality, supporting the welfare and educational opportunities of children and adolescents is particularly important.”

Filip De Boeck, Anja Nygren ja Florencia Quesada Avendaño.

Filip De Boeck, Anja Nygren, Florencia Quesada Avendaño


Filip De Boeck is a professor and urban anthropologist at the Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA) at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He works in and on cities in (central) Africa, most notably Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I am fascinated by diverse narratives of urban place-making, the city's affective landscapes and moods, the changes that take place in how cities and territories in Central Africa are imagined by different kinds of people, and the new geographies of inclusion and exclusion that are grafted onto urban locales today.” Tip for reducing inequality: “To highlight one element to reduce inequality is to over-simplify the complex imbrications of the various dynamics driving current patterns of unequal distribution.”

Anja Nygren is professor of development studies at the University of Helsinki. She is specialised in urban social inequalities in Latin America, for instance displacements, urban environmental risks and the segregation of residential areas. She is inspired by the fact that understanding her research topics requires constant review of presuppositions and the consideration of rapid change. “It is hard to get used to the many manifestations of inequality. At the same time, people’s inventiveness surprises me,” Nygren says. Tip for reducing inequality: “Neighbourhoods inhabited by people from many different social classes, educational backgrounds and cultural backgrounds.”
Florencia Quesada Avendaño (PhD) is a docent, researcher and lecturer at the University of Helsinki. She is inspired by how cities are so diverse and complex systems. Quesada Avendaño sees cities as opportunities, not only as conglomerations of problems. She wants to understand how Latin American urban spaces have been shaped and find more democratic ways to reduce the extreme socio-spatial segregations and inequalities. Tip for reducing inequality: “Inclusion. Better redistribution of wealth and opportunities through education and health.”