Becoming the 'ceative Self': On the Relationship between Urban Environments and Biographical Desires

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Sebastian JUHNKE, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
The relationship between the city and the individual is reciprocal: urban environments influence biographies and life stories, and biographical desires in turn take part in shaping the city. This is the case for members of Richard Florida's (2003) creative class, a demographic attracted to cities that display tolerance in the form of openness and diversity. Whereas this conceptualization has been criticized for its neglect of intra-urban inequalities and often problematic applications by urban policy-makers around the globe, little is known about the relationship between 'creatives' on a personal level and the urban environments that attract them.

Based on qualitative interviews with creative professionals in London and Berlin neighbourhoods attractive because of their diversity and urban change, this paper will shed light on the biographical construction of a 'creative self' that is dependent upon a particular urban form. Furthermore, this paper will discuss the ways in which a 'creative' self-understanding and biographical desires impact upon the city, both materially and discursively (e.g. in the form of representation, gentrification and segregation).

Questions of living together with difference in diverse and tolerant (socio-geographical features), and particularly 'creative' urban environments (materialities such as Victorian/Wilhelminian housing stock, industrial architecture, street markets, the 'right' degree of urban decay) are directly related to the biographical construction of the 'creative self'. This not only relates to working conditions such as the presence of other 'creatives' and being inspired by diverse and 'edgy' neighbourhoods but also to the construction and narration of individual biographies through norms, values and questions of lifestyle, taste and distinction. This becomes particularly evident when creative professionals contrast their arrival to the city with their past in 'non-creative' urban or rural places.