Urban ARC 2024 | Unpacking Marginalities

IIHS Annual Research Conference  | 11–13 January 2024

The eighth edition of Urban ARC, IIHS’ Annual Research Conference, will take place between 11-13 January 2024, virtually and in person, at the IIHS Bengaluru City Campus. The theme for this edition is ‘Unpacking Marginalities’.


An intricate landscape of urban space houses the complex and multifaceted phenomenon of marginalities – an experience that affects the lives of people who reside in diverse forms of margins, and the experiences of multiple marginalities within urban spaces, in both, the Global South, where rapid urbanisation and informality are pervasive, and the Global North, where social polarisation and spatial fragmentation are burgeoning. The current context of climate change, pandemic, conflicts, migration, demographic shifts, financial meltdowns, and technological developments, poses novel and unprecedented challenges as well as opportunities for people living in urban margins and raises ever-evolving questions for different systems that aim to address them. 


Looking at Marginalities and Agencies

Rapid urbanisation and its many discontents have rarely been linear or uniform in their trajectories. Further, the experiences of marginalisation have elicited disparate responses. Moving beyond the canonical core-periphery frameworks, new knowledge has emphasised the need for grounded and contextual understandings. The Urban holds marginalities as experiences and defined spatialities, isolating or segregating people based on factors such as caste, class, religion, ethnicity, race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. The experiences of marginality are multi-faceted. Being unable to find housing in the city; having restricted access to health and educational opportunities due to one’s social or religious identity; not receiving basic living amenities (water, sanitation, electricity) due to area of habitation or migrant status; being denied access to technological innovations (digital devices, internet services, or online platforms) due to lack of education and affordability; lack of access to natural resources or increased exposure to environmental risks due to degradation of natural ecosystems by powerful private or state interest groups are lived experiences in the urban margins. These marginalities manifest themselves along the lines of livelihoods, education, and health among others. 


While urban marginality involves multiple dimensions of disadvantage and exclusion, such as social, spatial, structural, environmental/ecological, economic, technological, political, cultural, and historical (Bradatan and Craiutu, 2012), it also involves diverse forms of agency and expression, such as resistance, mobilisation, citizenship, and culture. It is not only a product of the urban core’s power and norms but also a challenge and a contribution to urban studies and knowledge production. While historical marginal positions affect present or future situations, marginalities are also a product of the government’s response to a crisis (Coffey et al., 2020), necessitating the need to recognise and appreciate new forms of agency (Chipaike and Knowledge, 2018; Brosig, 2021). Marginalised groups have cultures, identities, networks, and strategies to navigate and challenge their marginalisation. They also have their own ambitions, claims, and movements to assert their rights and preserve their dignity. The use of facilities like public spaces, art, culture, language, and social media, by marginalised groups, often speaks to specific forms of presence and visibility in the city. Art and culture can be used as forms of resistance against marginalisation and oppression of certain groups by others (Falkovsky, 2021) while certain literary works can also challenge and transform epistemic injustice and other forms of marginalisation (Mihai, 2018). Cities thus become spaces that not only create those marginalities but also spaces that offer them different avenues of expression. 


The Global South is home to most of the world’s urban population and is witnessing rapid and dynamic urbanisation (Lawhon et al., 2020). Mainstream urban studies have often disregarded or dismissed Southern research, which explores the urban realities and theories of the Global South, deeming it irrelevant or exceptional (Robinson, 2002; Roy, 2009). By promoting innovative and participatory research methods to engage with urban marginalities and resistances, such as action research, ethnography, storytelling, mapping, and visual approaches, (Banks et al., 2019; Miraftab & Kudva, 2015) Southern research emphasises the epistemic rights and contributions of Southern scholars and practitioners (Sheppard et al., 2013; McFarlane & Robinson, 2012). Academic conversations around marginalities need to acknowledge this epistemic history and the complexity of experiences, and recognise that they are not mutually exclusive and often overlap or intersect with each other in complex ways. Thus, it becomes important to recognise and engage with the diversity and richness of marginalities in theory and practice.


A Call to Explore and Reflect

While a lot has been identified to constitute marginality, it remains an elusive concept. (Cullen and Pretes, 2019) Emphasising the need to understand marginalities and their various manifestations, Urban ARC 2024 presents an opportunity for an exchange of knowledge, considering the need for interdisciplinarity, locally recognised and globally relevant knowledge(s), innovative methods and methods grounded in the principles of epistemic justice. The call emphasises the broad spectrum of this complex urban condition of advantages and disadvantages, experienced by individuals and communities, seeking submissions that explore descriptive and analytical approaches to the concept.


Building on IIHS’ goal of recognising and understanding the ever-changing nature of cities, Urban ARC 2024 aims to explore the concept and practice of urban marginality from various perspectives, methodologies, and disciplines and create a space for dialogue and exchange of knowledge on urban issues, fostering collaboration, discussion and exchange among researchers and practitioners working on this urban issue. The conference invites researchers and practitioners to a space that allows for reflection on their practice(s), against the background of economic, environmental, socio-cultural, technological, political and historical marginalities, using diverse modes of engagement, in ideation, methodology, history, investigation and implementation. 


To understand the dynamism of marginalities that urban spaces have grown to house, the conference encourages bringing together an assortment of methods, questions asked, geographies covered, disciplines explored, and outcomes reached. We welcome panel as well as paper submissions covering several sectors (e.g. environment and sustainability, planning and policy, among others), disciplines (e.g. social sciences, climate sciences, humanities, economics, architecture, planning) and methods (quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods), using the lens of research, academia, policy and practice. We invite work that looks at both contemporary and historical ways of studying the urban. 


Dates and Procedures

27 November 2023Deadline for submitting abstracts
2nd week of December 2023Announcement of selected papers
11-13 January 2024Urban ARC 2024 conference dates


Please submit your extended abstracts (minimum 1500 words) with the following guidelines – 

  1. Full paper title, author(s) name and institutional affiliation should be included
  2. Complete end-text and in-text referencing in APA format
  3. All tables/images/graphs/figures should be numbered, have a title and have sources mentioned below them
  4. Font: Open Sans; Font size: 11; Margin size: 1-inch
  5. Submissions should be Word documents (in .docx format) only


Abstracts not in the prescribed format will not be considered for inclusion in the conference proceeding.  


Contact: For queries regarding the conference, please write to research@iihs.ac.in.


Location: Urban ARC 2024 will be in hybrid format, online on Zoom, and in person at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements’ Bengaluru City Campus (BCC), 2nd Main Road, Sadashivanagar, Bengaluru – 560 080. 


Copyright: All copyright for original work will lie with the author. IIHS will use material only with prior permission.


  1. Banks N et al. (2019) Urban informality as a site of critical analysis. Journal of Development Studies 55(6): 1099–1117.
  2. Bradatan, B. and Craiutu. A. (2012). Introduction: The Paradoxes of Marginality. The European Legacy. pp 721-729. https://doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2012.715804
  3. Brosig, M. (2021). Conceptualising Marginality: Africa’s Place in the Global Order. In: Africa in a Changing Global Order. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-75409-9_2
  4. Chipaike, R. and Knowledge, M. H. (2018). The question of African agency in international relations. Cogent Social Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2018.1487257
  5. Coffey J, Cook J, Farrugia D, Threadgold S, Burke PJ. Intersecting marginalities: International students’ struggles for “survival” in COVID-19. Gender, Work and Organization. 2021;28(4):1337-1351. DOI: 10.1111/gwao.12610
  6. Cullen, B. T. and Pretes, M. (2019). The meaning of marginality: Interpretations and perceptions in social science. The Social Science Journal. pp 215-229. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0362-3319(00)00056-2
  7. Falkovsky, I. (2021). Art and resistance: How a small national minority struggles to defend its cultural identity. In S. Gonçalves & S. Majhanovich (Eds.), Art in diverse social settings (pp. 117–129). Emerald Publishing Limited
  8. Lawhon M et al. (2020) Disambiguating the southern urban critique: Propositions, pathways and possibilities for a more global urban studies. Urban Studies 57(1): 3–20.
  9. Mihai, M. (2018). Epistemic marginalisation and the seductive power of art. Contemporary Political Theory, 17(4), 395–416
  10. McFarlane C and Robinson J (2012) Introduction: Experiments in comparative urbanism. Urban Geography 33(6): 765–773.
  11. Miraftab F and Kudva N (eds) (2015) Cities of the Global South Reader. London: Routledge.
  12. Robinson J (2002) Global and world cities: A view from off the map. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26(3): 531–554.
  13. Roy A (2009) The 21st-century metropolis: New geographies of theory. Regional Studies 43(6): 819–830.
  14. Sheppard E et al. (2013) Introduction: Why theorize cities now? In: Sheppard E et al. (eds) The New Companion to Urban Studies. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.