Impossible Dream? Imagining an ‘Alternative' City

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Chris HUDSON, Umea University, Sweden
The images cities project of themselves as safe and attractive places for all not infrequently collide with the everyday experiences of groups not fitting the city’s dominant norms and thus constructed as ‘out of place’ in the public space. This can lead to feelings of fear and exclusion that bring into question planners’ and politicians’ visions of the inclusive, sustainable city open to all. Changing the city’s physical form is relatively easy compared to changing the social relations, cultural meanings, traditions etc. in which that materiality is embedded (Plate & Rommes 2007). This paper explores how visual images and experiences of the city as an emotional space conjuring up feelings of e.g. pleasure, excitement, safety and fear can be used to challenge the ‘straightjacket’ of accepted meanings and “reimagine” the city. Narratives of the city developed in focus groups of women from different backgrounds (class, ethnicity and age) in 4 Swedish cities, together with photographs taken by the women of places where they felt safe, welcome, insecure, excluded etc. were incorporated in a form of photo-elicitation (Rose 2012). This was used to stimulate alternative visions of the city. The analysis of the visions and the narratives was informed by a Foucauldian understanding of power as relational and productive (Mouffe 2005) and the city as discursively constituted and always in a process of becoming (Massey 2005, Sandercock 2003, Grosz 1992) and thus amenable to re-imagination. Although the gendered norms concerning the roles and behaviour of women and men in the city space continue to haunt, we found challenges to the dominant constructions of women as ‛in place’ in the private and as ‛out of place’ in the public. This opens up for using imagination to (re)claim and change the city and the way it is planned.