For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!

The Centre for Urban Studies and the Department of Human Geography, Planning and International Development Studies (GPIO) are currently inviting applications for a postdoctoral researcher in Urban Studies and Urban History to study existing and historical forms of commoning in urban public space in the project 'Common Spaces? A long-term study of the use of public spaces in Amsterdam, 1880 to the present', supervised by Prof. Robert Kloosterman (Professor of Economic Geography and Planning) and Dr. Claartje Rasterhoff (assistant professor in Urban History and Digital Methods).

Urban Studies logo

The postdoc position is for 2 years (0,7 fte). The post will be held at GPIO, which is one of the six Departments in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and the successful candidate will be affiliated with the Centre for Urban Studies as well as the Amsterdam Centre for Urban History at the Faculty of Humanities.

Project description

This postdoctoral research project is part of the research project Commons: New Chances for the City and Public Space, funded by NWO-SIA in the Smart Culture program, and led by Dr Jeroen Boomgaard of the Research Institute for Art and Public Space at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. The research consortium further consists of the Waag: Institute for technology and society, the Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, and Nautilus, a collective housing project on Zeeburgereiland. This project focuses on the ways in which the notion of ‘the commons’ can contribute to new forms of (digital) public space and initiate different forms of urban development, while taking the potential contribution of design and art towards processes of 'commoning' as the main point of departure. The project zooms in on the Amsterdam neighbourhood Zeeburgereilandand will run for the duration of two years.

In this postdoctoral project, the temporal dimension shifts from the short-term interventions in the overall project to a long term perspective on the role of art and design in public space and processes of commoning. This perspective has two purposes. First, it serves to emphasize that the affordances of commons are dependent on broader social and institutional contexts. And second, it reveals various designs through which the social act of commoning in public spaces has historically been facilitated or hampered, and thereby it provides concrete input for interventions and recipes developed in the projects of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, the Waag and Casco.

In the proposed research, the postdoctoral candidate investigates processes of production, appropriation, contestation, and representation of urban spaces from a long-term perspective. Their project compares the present-day spatiality of commoning interventions in the Zeeburgereiland with, for instance, four selected public spaces in Amsterdam, originating in different periods (1970s, 1950s, 1920s, and 1890s). Each time period is characterized by different dominant artistic and design ideologies as well socio-demographic patterns. The postdoctoral researcher investigates how boundaries between public and private have shifted in the selected urban public spaces. The analysis will not only generate knowledge on the historical trajectories of public spaces, but will also provide useful insights for designing less vulnerable, high-quality public spaces and, hence, help to develop a meaningful, accessible public space in Zeeburgereiland. Although artists and designers are sometimes called upon in imagining urban commons and commoning practices, their role has not yet been critically examined or historically contextualized. This way, we contribute to the growing literature on urban commons by adding an explicit spatial historical dimension that zooms in on the role of arts and design in commoning.


We are looking for a candidate with:

  • a PhD degree;
  • a strong background or demonstrable interest in integrating research topics and methods in the fields of urban studies and urban history;
  • demonstrable knowledge of the history of urban development or urban renewal in the twentieth century, in particular related to public spaces, in the Dutch and international context;
  • a strong background or demonstrable interest in combining archival research with methods from the social sciences, such as interview techniques;
  • experience in engaging in contemporary debates on urban development and communicating academic research to various audiences;
  • a track record of project based work, and the ability to function in a multidisciplinary team;
  • a communicative and flexible attitude;
  • fluency in Dutch and
  • an open mind regarding different forms (i.e. artistic) of doing research and experiments in public spaces.