École normale supérieure

Aménagement, urbanisme et études urbaines

Shrinking Places and Cultural Heritage

Séminaire international en distanciel

Teachers : Emmanuèle Cunningham Sabot, Norma Schemschat and Alix de La Gaignonnière

Schedule : mainly Thursdays, from 5.15 PM to 7.15 PM

ECTS : 6 credits

This seminar presents up-to-date researchs on “shrinking places” threatened by the withdrawal of state engineering and shrinking local budgets. The sessions will be linked under the theme of sustainable governance of shrinking places, questioning the capacity of heritage to be mobilized as a resource for the sustainable development of the territory. It also invites international students to gain a unique insight into the French context, compared to other international contexts. After introducing shrinking cities and shrinking places as a well-established research topic, the main objective will be to familiarise students to enable reflections on shrinking places and their cultural heritage, looking at culture-led revitalisation strategies, and at local perceptions, uses, and local practices and drawing comparisons on an international scale.

Seminar format : The seminar follows the format of a weekly series. Online sessions of two to four hours each are planned from October to December 2023.

Zoom link : will be send after registration.

Requirements : weekly attendance and final case study report. Intermediate level of English.


Shrinking Cities research in the global world

  • Thursday, 12 Oct. (2h) | General introduction : the local embeddedness of socio-spatial issues
  • Thursday, 19 Oct. (2h) | The city as a growth machine and the fight against "growth at all costs"
  • Thursday, 9 Nov. (2h) | Shrinking cities in the Global South : The Greater ABC Region (Brazil), from industrial growth to shrinkage : State, economy, inequality and territorial disputes.

Shrinking places : research in progress and revitalisation strategies

  • Wednesday, 15 Nov. (4h) |Shrinking Territories as Learning Territories. This session is planned from 03.00 PM to 07.00 PM. 
  • Thursday, 16Nov. (2h) | Cultural Heritage preservation under conditions of urban shrinkage.
  • Friday, 24 Nov. (2h) | Revitalizing City Centers : An International Policy Comparison (US-UK-France).

Cultural and religious heritage revitalisation in shrinking towns

  • Thursday, 7 Dec. (2h) |Urban shrinkage in French towns and the revitalisation of places of worship.
  •  Thursday, 14 Dec. (2h) |Churches Religious Route in The Greater ABC Region (Brazil)
  • Thursday, 21 Dec. (4h) | Group work presentations and a general conclusion.


Students will be asked to produce individual analysis reports on the conditions under which churches are being transformed around the world. Students are expected to analyse in a problematised and critical way the social, economic, legal, and political contexts, that have enabled these transformations to take place. Each student must choose a country (from the list below) from which they will be free to choose the cases selected for their study.

The assessment will be based on a report of approximately 50,000 characters (including a bibliography), in English or in French, and a final oral presentation (Thursday 21 December 2023).


Leïla Vignal

Directrice du département
48 boulevard Jourdan
75014 Paris

Jean-Etienne Nguimbous

Gestionnaire administratif
48 boulevard Jourdan - 6e étage, bureau 34
75014 Paris
Tel. : 01 80 52 13 40