Dipl.-Ing. (Arq.) M.Sc. Helena Cermeno

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin I Fachgebiet Stadt- und Regionalsoziologie

Gottschalkstraße 22
34127 Kassel
Gottschalk 22, Raum 2105
Consultation Hours

nach Vereinbarung (Anmeldung bitte per Mail)

since 08.2023Postdoctoral Research Fellow &  Lecturer | Institute for Urban Developments at the University of Kassel | Department of Urban and Regional Sociology
10.2016 - 07.2023

Research Fellow & Lecturer | Institute for Urban Developments at the University of Kassel | Department of Urban and Regional Sociology


Research Assistant | Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies (BICC)

2013 - 2016

Junior Researcher | Center for Development Research (ZEF) | Department of Political and Cultural Change | University of Bonn


M. Sc. 'Technology and Resources management in the tropics and subtropics' | Thesis: Climate Change Risk Perception and Adaptation Strategies in Central Vietnam: Interlinkages between Climate Change risk Management and Spatial Planning in Danang and Quang Nam Province | Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

2011- 2013

Research Assistant | Center for Development Research (ZEF) | University of Bonn


Employee | Architect's Office Rosauer, Finkenweg 39a; 53773 Hennef-Uckerath


Architecture + Urban Planning(Licenciatura, Spain; eq. Dipl.-Ing. Germany) | Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM) | Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), Spain. Thesis: Sustainable and affordable housing and facilities in Vadaj, Ahmedabad, India. Supervisor: Juan Herreros


  • urban governance practices, urbanization and development
  • access to land, housing and services, conflicts, social in/exclusion
  • sharing practices, urban commons, space-commoning
  • urban heritage

Access to the city: Unravelling urban governance practices, access to housing, services, and resulting processes of social in/exclusion in Amritsar and Lahore

The research was focused on the Punjab province(s), on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, and specifically, on the contemporary cities of Amritsar and Lahore. For their vicinity, their common colonial past and shared socio-cultural context, Amritsar and Lahore, provided an exceptional setting for comparative empirical research on postcolonial urban governance and social transformations. Within this context, the research sought to understand to what extent urban governance practices (from above and below) influence the ability of urban dwellers to benefit from housing and services in specific neighborhoods and, in so doing, to what extent these practices contribute to the (re)production of urban inequalities and socio-spatial in/exclusions.

While housing has long been researched under a “property rights” perspective, such a stance often fails to provide a comprehensible picture of how urban dwellers de facto manage (or not) to benefit from urban resources. I suggested, therefore, an alternative approach drawing on Access Theory by Ribot and Peluso (2003, 2020), which conceptualizes access as the “ability” to derive benefits from things, including material objects, persons, institutions, and symbols. An “access approach” enabled not only to conceptualize inequalities in terms of access to (urban) resources (i.e., housing/services), it also guided the researcher into looking at governance practices by which actors gain, control, and maintain (or are able to transfer) these resources over time and the underlying power relations. Access theory expands this way the classical notion of rights to include a range of mechanisms that enable or hinder the capacity of different actors to establish access to housing (to gain), to mediate other’s access (to control), and to deploy power resources to secure access over time (to maintain). Such a standpoint does not entail legal rights to be irrelevant, though; instead, it posits that “rights-based” mechanisms (based on the observation or ignorance of law and property rights) operate along other “structural” and “relational” mechanisms (such as different sources of capital or authority) that also play a significant role in the distribution of benefits. Underlying access mechanisms are, therefore, sets of relationships (“bundles of power”) between the different involved actors.

While access constituted the primary theoretical lens guiding the research and cut across all papers and selected case studies in Amritsar and Lahore, the different chapters explored too theoretical mergers with access theory (such as access-assemblages, access cum evolutionary governance theory, or city-scapes). These theoretical mergers facilitated the investigation of so far neglected dimensions of urban processes while posing questions regarding human/non-human interfaces, networked interdependencies, and the production of socio-material infrastructures.

Ultimately, the research showed how by unraveling present contestations over access to urban land, housing, and services in these two cities, that manifest and produce different forms of in/exclusion, one can trace the governance arrangements at play, their underlying evolutionary paths and the different dependencies that structure potential future adaptations and governance trajectories. Understanding how governance practices operate and evolve in ever‐changing contexts, I argued, is crucial for envisioning future urban planning attempts and housing policies to steer more inclusive and just urban environments.

While the research generated situated knowledge(s) on inhabitation processes—complex, multifaceted, and conflictual—in Amritsar and Lahore, the context-sensitive findings have been scaled up to hold relevance for other similar border cities and post-conflict societies. Findings hold, therefore, relevance beyond these two cities, across South Asia and the Global South-East, in different geographical contexts, postcolonial border cities, and “divided” territories. From a theoretical perspective, the conclusions from the collected papers contribute therefore to current debates on South(east)ern urbanism and, in particular to questions of urban governance, access to urban land, housing, and services in postcolonial societies at the disciplinary crossroads of urban sociology, conflict and development studies, and urban planning.

Bernhardt, F.; Bretfeld, N.; Buzwan-Morell, J.; Cermeño, H.; Doukas, S.; Güde, E.; Hörburger, C.; Keller.; Koch, F.  (2024).  StadtTeilen: Neue Praktiken gemeinschaftlicher Nutzung urbaner Räume.  Bielefeld: transcript. ISBN: 978-3-8394-6633-9. (Open Access)

John von Zydowitz, S. & Cermeño, H. (2024) Must Gandhi also Fall? Reassembling #BlackLivesMatter’s Translocal Activism and Urban Fallist Movements. In G. Bozoğlu, G. Campbell, L. Smith and C. Whitehead, Routledge Handbook of Politics and Heritage, New York: Routledge.

Cermeño, H., & Mielke, K.. (2023). Endangered urban commons: Lahore's violent heritage management and prospects for reconciliation. Urban Planning, 8(1), 83-98. doi. org/10.17645/up.v8i1.6054

Petrescu, D., Cermeño, H., Keller, C., Moujan, C., Belfield, A., Koch, F., Goff, D., Schalk, M., & Bernhardt, F.. (2022). Sharing and Space-Commoning Knowledge Through Urban Living Labs Across Different European Cities. Urban Planning, 7(3), 254-273. doi. org/10.17645/up.v7i3.5402

Cermeño, H., Bretfeld, N., & Bernhardt, F. (2022). Knowledge Practices Within and Beyond Sharing and Commoning Urban Initiatives. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, 4, Articles 767365. https://doi.org/10.3389/frsc.2022.767365

Cermeño, H. (2021). Looking at the city from below: How 'access' approach and 'city-scapes' contribute to the understanding of marginalization in Amritsar, India. In N. Kirmani (Ed.) Marginalization, Contestation and Change in South Asian Cities. Karachi: Oxford University Press, Pages 56-84.

Bernhardt F.; Cermeño, H., Keller C. and Koch F. (2021). Netzwerke des Teilens in Quartieren unter Spannung: Typen und Logiken des Teilens in innerstädtischen Nachbarschaften. In Gesellschaft unter Spannung, 40th Congress of the German Sociological Association (GSA)

Mielke, K., & Cermeño, H. (2021). Mitigating Pro-Poor Housing Failures: Access Theory and the Politics of Urban Governance. Politics and Governance, 9(2), 439-450. https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i2.4113

Cermeño, H. (2021). Living and Planning on the Edge: Unraveling Conflict and Claim-Making in Peri-Urban Lahore, Pakistan. Urban Planning, 6(2), 189-201. https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v6i2.3858

CCermeño, H. and Baldewein T. (2021). Digitale-Konferenzen in der Stadtplanung: Fachtagungen im digitalen Raum als Chance für die Entwicklung inklusiver, kreativer und resilienter Lernformate. In RaumPlanung Volume 210, Issue 1, Pages 66-72

Bernhardt F.; Cermeño, H., Keller C.and Koch F. (2020). Stadtmachen durch StadtTeilen: Types and logics of sharing in inner-city neighborhoods. In Forum Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung  (Journal of vhw - Bundesverband für Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung e.V.), Pages 123-127.

Cermeño, H. (2019). Heritage of inclusion or exclusion? Contested claims and access to housing in Amritsar, India. In M. Ristic and Frank, S. (Eds.) Urban Heritage in Divided Cities. Abingdon, Oxon, New York, Routledge, Pages 125-144. doi. org/10.4324/9780429460388-10

Cermeño, H. and Mielke, K. (2016). Cityscapes of Lahore: Reimagining the Urban. In THAAP Journal, Issue 2016, Pages 110-139.

Barrera, A. and Cermeño, H. (2012). OPPTA Intervenciones para la emergencia - Emergency Interventions (OPPTA Context, winner projects). In: AV. Proyectos, Volume 53, Pages 20-21.

Cermeño, H.; Jüssen, J.and Reynolds, C. (2012). The nexus of conflict and migration in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan Info, Issue 71, Pages 16-18.

Álvarez, E.; Calatrava, B.; Cermeño, H.; García de Blas, M.A.; González, D.; Sastre, M.J. and Sevillano, E. (2010). Asentamientos Precarios en África ¿Existen Alternativas? Informe de la Fundación CEAR Habitáfrica, Pages 49.

Fernández, B.; Morán T.; Barrera, A. and Cermeño H.; (2009). Entrevista con Yatin Pandya. In 'Arquitectos sin recursos' Revista del Consejo Superior de Colegios de arquitectura de España (CSCAE), Volume 1, Issue 186, Pages 42-45.

Garam Masala [Collective of Architects and Planners; Cermeño, H. as co-author and co-editor within the collective] (Eds.) (2009). 'HABITA-INHABIT INDIA', Madrid: Mairea, Pg. 355 (ISBN - 52551988).


2023Chaired Panel: “Access to Land & Infrastructure” | 21. N-AERUS-Conference: Transforming the Role of State in Addressing Inclusive Urban Development, Khulna University, Bangladesh & University of Kassel, Germany (hybrid /multi-site) | 27 - 29. October 2022.
2023Chaired Panel: “Pathways into Sharing: From Space-Commoning to Collaborative Housing Practices” | Session organized together with C. Keller | XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Melbourne Australia | June 25 - July 01, 2023.
2022"Potentials for peacebuilding through heritage management in Lahore (Pakistan)". | Presentation held together with K. Mielke at the "Mapping 'Post-Conflict'" Cities" conference at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (IRS), Erkner (hybrid), 20-21 October 2022 | Convener: L. Demeter.
2022Co-chaired Panel: "Scrutinizing the trend towards sharing in European cities: between (re)production and combating of socio-spatial inequalities" | Session organized together with C. Keller, A. Hamedinger and E. Holmqvist | RN37 (ESA) midterm conference "Seeing Like a City /Seeing the City Through, in Berlin, Germany, 5-7 October 2022.
2022"Ordinarily Massive Urbanization in Peri-Urban Lahore: Reassembling Access to Land amidst the Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project" | Presentation held at the RC21 Conference in Athens, Greece, 24-26 August 2022 | Panel No.24, Ordinarily Massive: Revitalizing Approaches to Large Scale Urbanization | Convener: Abdoumaliq Simone.
2022"Governing Sharing Practices: The Role of Planning in the Co-production and Collaborative Use of Urban Resources " | Co-authored abstract | AESOP Annual Congress (hybrid), 25-29 July 2022 in Tartu, Estonia: "Space for Species: Redefining Spatial Justice". Track: Governance | Co-authors: A. Hamedinger [presenter], E. Holmqvist [presenter]; M. Schalk, H. Cermeño, C. Keller, and D. Petrescu.



"Silenced Urban Common Heritage: How Lahore's Heritage Management hinders Peacebuilding" | Presentation held together with K. Mielke at the 17 Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA): "Transformation, Hope and the Commons" (hybrid), 26-29 July 2022, Belfast, United Kingdom.


"Living and Planning on the Edge:Unraveling Conflict and Claim-making in Peri-urban Lahore", GAA 'Best article' | GERD ALBERS AWARDS 2021 | Presentation of the awarded paper at the 57th World Planning Congress of the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP): "Planning Unlocked: New Times, Better Places, Stronger Communities", Doha, Qatar (hybrid), 28-29 October and 8-11 November, 2021.


"The role of the Amritsar Improvement Trust in Affordable Housing: Social Mix and Practices of Inclusion and Exclusion" | Presentation held at the IV ISA Forum of Sociology | Vista Alegre, Brazil (online) 23-27 February 2021 | RC43 Housing and Built Environment Session: The Role of Real Estate Developers in Affordable Housing - Boon or Bane.


"Figurations of Social Innovation and Knowledge Sharing: An exploration of Urban Initiative Networks in Kassel, Stuttgart, and Berlin" | Presentation held together with N. Bretfeld at the RC21 Conference: "Sensing the City / Place, People, Power" in Antwerp, Belgium (online), 14-16 July 2021 | Session: PS122 "BOTTOM-UP URBANISM: Growing Social Policy from the Grassroots Upward and Across Scales".


"Tracing cognitive maps of everyday urbanism: city-scapes as imaginaries and enacted everyday practices" | Presentation held at the III Midterm Conference: "Inequality and uncertainty: current challenges for cities" Research Network 37 (Urban Sociology) of the European Sociological Association (ESA) at the UNED & Universidad Carlos III, 27-29 June 2018, Madrid, Spain.


"Living on the Edge: Conflict and claims-making over resources in the peri-urban fringe of Lahore" | Presentation held at the Young South Asia Scholars Meet (Y-SASM) Conference "Claims Making", 15-17 June 2018, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


"Processes of inclusion and exclusion within the urban development and improvement of the Lahore's Androon Shehr" | Presentation held at 10th Annual Seminar of the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS) "Inclusion and Exclusion - New Perspectives in History and Sociology", 5-7 July 2018, Bielefeld, Germany.


"The Politics of Urban Heritage: Access to urban resources, distributive conflict and allocative (in)justice in Old Lahore" | Presentation held atthe Annual RC21 Conference: "Rethinking Urban Global Justice: An international academic conference for critical urban studies", 11-13 September 2017, Leeds University, UK | Panel 70: Disputes in the Urban Territory, Groups of Interests, Distributive Conflict and Injustice in Cities Budgeting.


"Access assemblages: a comparative research of two mohallas under the Walled City of Lahore Improvement Project" | Presentation held atthe 5th International Crossroads Asia Conference: "Area Studies' Futures", 22-23 September 2016, Centre for Development research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany.


"Looking at the city from below: City-scapes of Amritsar, India" | Presentation held at the10th Annual LUMS HSS conference: "Urbanism, exclusion and change in South Asia", 04-06 March 2016, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore, Pakistan.


"Lahore Cityscapes: Reimagining the urban" | Presentation held at the THAAP 6th International Conference 2015: "People's history of Pakistan", 06-08 November 2015, THAAP (Trust for History Art & Architecture, Pakistan), Lahore, Pakistan.


"Emergencia y desarrollo urbano en la región del Canal del Dique, San Cristóbal, Colombia" | Presentation held at the ADLAF Arbeitsgemeinschaft Deutsche Lateinamerika-forschung, Nachwuchstagung, 17 May 2013, Cologne University, Germany.


"Urban Development in Borderlands" | Presentation held at the "Asian Ecologies" International Conference, 06 April 2013, at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan | Panel Session VIII: Urban Ecologies.


2021 2022

ProSHARE - Enhancing Diversity, Inclusion and Social Cohesion through Practices of Sharing in Housing and Public Space I JPI Urban Europe (Urban Migration)

2018 2022

StadtTeilen - Public space and housing as new commons in socially mixed neighborhoods I Robert Bosch Stiftung


 since 2024DGS
 since 2022AESOP
 since 2021            ISOCARP 





  • European Sociological Association/s 
 since 2020ACHS 
 since 2018ISA
  • International Sociological Association
    • RC21(ISA) - Urban and Regional Development Research Committee

    • RC43 (ISA) - Housing and Built Environment Research Committee

 since 2016COAM