Beyond Smart Cities Today: Power, Justice, and Resistance

Date and venue:16 -17 June 2022, Malmö University, Sweden

Hosted by the Institute for Urban Research (IUR)

Submit your abstract hereDeadline for abstracts:1 February 2022. 

Extended deadline: 1 March 2022


Beyond Smart Cities Today: Power, Justice and Resistance

About the conference:

Smart cities appear as city governing strategies and operations of city services through digital platforms and are now emerging in the form of land ownership and developments, where “technology companies move beyond treating the city merely as a place to extract value from and also start thinking of it as a space to exercise domination over”(Sadowski, 2020, p.3). Depending on the context, private tech companies interact differently with local authorities, and issues of security and privacy are managed accordingly. The “actually existing smart city”(Shelton et al.,2015) is always adjusted to the local material, legal, spatial and social context. A common trait for smart interventions is that they reshape power relations, reinforce existing inequalities and create new ones. This prompts a debate about justice and injustice in the smart city. As Rob Kitchin et al. (2019, p.19) argue in The Right to the Smart City, we need to find ways of“genuinely humanizing smart urbanism.” For this two-day conference, we invite contributions that deal with differences within smart cities, focusing on issues of justice and injustice. Contributions that deal with social and spatial inequalities, feminist and postcolonial perspectives, and grassroots resistance are particularly welcomed. We also encourage historical perspectives on smart cities. Although smart cities are regularly presented as an entirely new phenomenon, similarities with historical precursors from the second half of the 20thcentury are not difficult to find. This is especially true for gendered and racialized social relations in digital technology. Furthermore, we are keen to discuss the methodological implications of such themes. For example, how do we empirically investigate justice in the smart city? How can we develop comparative approaches in relation to the different forms of implementations, contexts, and users? How do smart city developments affect the way people live and move around in the future city?

Other possible questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How do smart city interventions affect everyday life, including housing developments and the making of homes? What are the gendered and racialized aspects of such interventions?
  • What are the postcolonial relations between the global North and global South in smart city development? What can be learned from provincializing smart cities?
  • What does working with comparative approaches mean in practice? What methodological and empirical insights can we gain with new ways of understanding smart city projects? (How) are we bridging knowledge between academics and practitioners?
  • How does data, digital twins, and 3D visualisation translate into urban development and planning? What are the feminist perspectives of their inherent power dynamics?
  • How and where does grassroots resistance to smart cities, housing and investments emerge? What are the common threads of such interventions?
  • How can we contextualise the smart city and the pre-history of the smart city from perspectives like urban and architectural history?

This conference marks the continuation of a nascent network of critical scholars seeking to create opportunities for intellectual exchange between academics, practitioners, and activists. The first conference, inspired by the seminars hosted by Maynooth University within the project The Programmable City, was hosted in 2019 by the Centre for BOLD Cities, Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

How can you participate?

Please submit a 250-word abstract hereAbstract submission opens on 30 August 2021 and closes on 1 February 2022.


The conference has a registration fee of 1000 SEK and includes coffee breaks and lunch on June 16th and 17th and a conference dinner on June 16th.

Important Dates

  • Call for abstracts: 30 August 2021
  • Deadline for abstracts: 1 February 2022
  • Decisions on abstract acceptance: 15 March 2022
  • Registration opens: 15 March  2022
  • Registration closes: 15 April 2022
  • Program is published: May 2022

Pre-conference excursion on Wednesday the 15th of June to H22 City Expo in Helsingborg.

Panel with city officials on the 17th of June from the “Smart Cities for City Officials” project. 

We look forward to welcoming you to Malmö!