Call for Papers: Comparative urban governance amidst political and economic crisis in Rome and Athen

International Workshop Series at Università di Roma Sapienza, Italy

Supported by UCL Cities Partnership Programme

May 17 and September 20, 2019

Photo by Flickr user dvdbramhall (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cities face critical challenges to governing vital infrastructure services in times of crisis. These challenges arise from the interdependent financial, environmental, political and social factors that underpin infrastructure failure. Comparative research holds strong potential to understand how city governments and broader networks of public and private actors can mobilise resources - financial, political and cognitive – to govern in resource-constrained or dynamic political environments. The recent trajectories of political change and urban development in Rome and Athens provide rich empirical cases for comparative research on these challenges, particularly the long-running issues that escalate to political or economic crises. In Rome, the deterioration of the city’s transport systems is evident with recurring incidents of bus explosions, the prominent collapse of a subway escalator, and a growing ‘pothole epidemic’ across urban streets and road corridors (Horowitz, 2018). Ongoing strike action by the city’s waste management company left waste accumulating in the street, creating public health hazards and spurring repeated political action by residents (Giuffrida, 2018). In 2014, the creation of a new metropolitan government, Citta Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, sought to address economic imbalances across the metropolitan region, but have had limited influence on the entrenched network of public and private actors that govern local decision-making (D'Albergo et al., 2018). Athens has also faced challenges with the imposition of austerity budgets following the Greek debt crisis in 2012. The city has suffered from inadequate waste management services, strike action, decaying infrastructures (Kitsantonis, 2017) and the added environmental threat of wildfires in the summer of 2018. Recent literature shows that since 2012, these challenges spurred new governance configurations, with a greater role for NGO and private sector actors, and new capacities required for civil society groups (Chorianopoulos & Tselepi, 2019).

This workshop series will bring together diverse scholarly contributions to reflect on governance challenges faced in Athens and Rome, in light of the 2012 Greek debt crisis and subsequent austerity reforms, as well as the current Italian budget crisis and political volatility. Contributions may examine local-national relations and the allocation of financial resources, mobilisation of knowledge and discourses in political decision-making and debates, the relationship between regional visions and specific infrastructure projects, and the participation of private sectors actors in infrastructure planning and management. The first workshop on May 17 will focus on comparative methods and individual cases, and the second workshop on September 20 will develop the comparative analysis between cases.

We are especially interested in papers that address the following questions:

  • What are the organisational and political dynamics that lead to ‘crisis point’ for public service provision?

  • How has the framing of crisis in Rome and/or Athens mobilised specific actors or networks in response?

  • What is the role of communities or other non-government actors in responding to the crisis in public service provision?

Paper proposals should be sent to, and with an abstract of 300 words (maximum) by April 12th, 2019.

Extended abstracts and presentations must be submitted prior to the first workshop, and full papers prior to the second workshop. The workshop is free of charge and coffee/tea and lunch are provided, but participants need to cover their own travel and accommodation. Please send any queries about workshop organisation or logistics to


Chorianopoulos, I. & Tselepi, N. (2019). Austerity urbanism: Rescaling and collaborative governance policies in Athens. European Urban and Regional Studies 26(1), 80-96.

D’Albergo, E., Lefevre, C. & Ye, L. (2018). For a political economy of metropolitan scale: the role of public-private relations. Territory, Politics, Governance 6(2): 182-198.

Giuffrida, A. (2018, October 18). Five Star Movement faces ‘populist’ revolt over Rome’s decay. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Horowitz, J. (2018, March 25). All Roads Lead to Rome, Where Potholes Will Destroy Your Tires. The New York Times.

Kitsantonis, N. (2017, June 29). 'Like we don't have enough problems': Trash piles up in Athens. The New York Times. Retrieved from