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Honoursmodule: Urban transformation, gentrification & inequality in Amsterdam

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Wouter van Gent

Entry requirements 

  • For 2nd or 3rd year honours students only and be aware of the overlap with social science courses on cities and urban living.
  • 'Urban' students who do want to follow the course must request permission from their examination committee.

Recommended prior knowledge

Please note: this course is aimed at a variety of students who wish to know more about the social and built environment of Amsterdam using a few basic urban concepts, as well as a deeper understanding of gentrification literature. For this reason, it is less suited for students with a background in urban sociology, urban studies and urban geography.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • To understand the social transformation of Amsterdam from perspectives on gentrification and urban inequality in human geography, sociology, environmental studies, and housing
  • To analyse social processes related to gentrification and urban transformation at the neighbourhood level through various methods
  • To present research in an excursion setting (dependent on pandemic)


When young households migrate to Amsterdam for work or education in the last century, they often enter the city in the most deprived areas. In the early 1980s, this meant that students and labour migrants would often find housing in nineteenth century neighbourhoods like De Pijp, Staatsliedenbuurt or Indische Buurt. Amsterdam was shrinking in population and there were serious concerns over the economic and social viability of urban living. The ‘urban crisis’, however, would come at an end soon. By the end of the 1990s, it had become clear that Amsterdam was flourishing economically and was growing again. Ten years later, academics, planners and politicians were proclaiming the ‘triumph of the city’. Yet, Amsterdam’s resurgence has also had profound social and spatial effects. Whereas Amsterdam use to be a poor city, the income levels are now above the national average. The city is growing in population and demand for housing is high. Nowadays, a typical apartment in De Pijp costs half a million Euros. At the same time, low income households are having a hard time finding housing or staying put. These processes, in Amsterdam but also elsewhere, have been conceptualized, and critiqued, as gentrification.

The aim of this course is to understand this urban social transformation -  why and how did it happen? - but also to contemplate how social changes may lead to social inequality and other forms of inequity at the level of the neighbourhood. 

The course will consist of small lectures, seminars and – if possible- several excursions in Amsterdam. The gatherings will introduce students to basic concepts related to segregation and gentrification. We will cover theoretical foundations of gentrification, displacement, commercial change, public space, greenery, and urban renewal. In addition, a final paper will leave room for students to explore and research aspects of urban change in an Amsterdam neighbourhood from their own perspective. Students from all backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to register, yet those with experience in urban studies will find some of the material to be redundant.

Class contents

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Fieldwork/Excursion (if possible)
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project / thesis


For each thematic session (lecture, seminar, possibly excursion) students are expected to read two, sometimes three, academic articles, and hand in a preparation assignment (mandatory, not graded). After the session, students will work in small groups on small research assignments which apply the literature to a case study (graded). If the COVID19 situation allows, these assignments may also involve fieldwork (i.e. going to Amsterdam neighbourhoods for data gathering).There is also a final individual paper.

Min/max participants



Check Datanose for the exact information.

Study material

Will be announced soon.


No unusual costs. Excursions may include public transportation costs (within region of Amsterdam), and in some cases bike rental (OV fiets).


Registration is possible for students participating in an Honours programme via an online registration form which will be made available on December 1, 10 am till December 5, 11 pm on this website. 

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register after December 5, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 


Part of the group work assignments rely on studying Amsterdam neighbourhoods. Because some level of passive Dutch is required for a few of these assignments (e.g. to be able to navigate statistical or government websites), the groups will be mixed based on Dutch speaking and non-Dutch speaking. To be clear, the course is fully accessible to non-Dutch speaking students.


Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in March