Geographisches Institut
Berliner Straße 48
69120 Heidelberg


Fields of Research

Urban inequalities

Inequality exists on different scales: Between the Global North and the South, between national contexts, or on the regional and urban scale.This field of research is composed of different research projects. Firstly, a comparative perspective of North- and South American cities is applied. Here we want to move beyond epistemological divide between development studies (looking at the global South from a rather empirical perspective) and urban research (mainly focusing on the Global North, claiming theoretical issues) in order to understand what we can learn from similarities and dissimilarities between cities. Our aim is to analyze power constellations, social exclusion processes as well as forms of stigmatisation that cause unequal cities. Our second focus is set on the perpetuation of urban inequality in the context of urban development within the knowledge society. Six European and North-American cities are examined with regard to the marginalization and fragmentation of urban space. How does that relate to the growth of the creative industries? What can we learn from the study of different – rather middle-sized – cities? By using different case studies as well as different theoretical approaches the disparities within cities are monitored and analyzed.

Discursive structuring of cities

The main interest of this interdisciplinary research cluster lies in the interplay between language and urban development. In focus is the significance of language concerning the development and commodification of urban space leading to a transformation of urban forms and functions. Concerning the widely spread Spatial Turn in humanities and social science, Geography shall be strengthened as a connecting link for the research on discursive structuring of urban spaces. Close cooperation on different levels exists with German Linguistics, American Studies, Canadian Studies as well as Anthropology.

Current processes in urban development

Various research projects discuss questions of recent urban developments. These projects are concerned with processes of re-urbanization and globalization, city planning and urban transformation as well as retail development patterns and the festivalization of cities. One recent research project sits directly in front of our doors: Heidelberg, serving as the site for an International Building Exhibit (Internationale Bauausstellung) under the heading “Knowledge and the City,” which provides grounds for a wide field of geographical analysis

Social innovation

Social innovations have received increased attention in order to meet societal challenges that have gained new dynamism especially in times of demographic changes, processes of social inequality and social exclusion as well as demographic changes. As part of an interdisciplinary pilot study on self-regulation and regulation, funded by the Research Council FoF4 at Heidelberg University, we are working on the development of a social innovation indicator suite. The indicator suite will be designed to capture spatial patterns of social innovation potential and to test how effective a society is in coming up with social innovations to emerge due to specific structural conditions and recent societal challenges.


Current Projects Former Projects
Nachhaltiges Handeln in der urbanen Gesellschaft

Sustainable Actions in Urban Society

Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE)

Prof. Ulrike Gerhard, Philipp Schulz, Sebastian Nies

Graduate School: Authority and Trust in American Culture, Society, History, and Politics

Graduate School: Authority and Trust in American Culture, Society, History, and Politics

DFG (2017–2022)

Prof. Ulrike Gerhard, Cosima Werner, Judith Keller (together with HCA)

Reallabor Sustainable Urban Development in the Knowledge Society

Reallabor Sustainable Urban Development in the Knowledge Society. Urban Office at Heidelberg University

Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg (2015–2018)

Prof. Ulrike Gerhard, Dr. Editha Marquardt, Kerstin Fröhlich, Christina West

Town and Gown

Town & Gown- Optimizing the Cooperation of a Municipality with Regional Scientific Institutions

BMBF (2018–2022)

Dr. Editha Marquardt, Prof. Ulrike Gerhard, Prof. Michael Hölscher (Uni Speyer)

Jenseits von Nord und Süd

Traversing North and South: Comparitive Urban Research from an Interdisciplinary Perspective

Marsiliusprojekt (2016–2017), ongoing

Prof. Ulrike Gerhard, Prof. Christiane Brosius, Prof. Katja Patzel-Mattern

Reallabor Asylsuchende in Heidelberg

Real Lab Asylum seekers in the Rhine-Neckar Region: Language Competence, Employability and Social Contact

Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg (2016–2019)

Christina West, Svenja Kück


Food-Practices and Space Establishments of Convenience Stores in impoverished US-american urban districts

DFG-Graduiertenkolleg GKAT (2017–2021), Dissertationsprojekt

Cosima Werner

Messung gesellschaftlicher Innovationsfähigkeit

Measuring Societal Innovation: Analysing Immigration and Integration in German Cities

Research Council des Field of Focus 4 der Universität Heidelberg (2013–2014), Dissertationsprojekt

Eva Bund

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