On the 'stickiness' of Stigma: Exploring Diverging Resident Experiences of Territorial Stigmatization in Amsterdam's 'most Notorious' Neighbourhood

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Fenne PINKSTER, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands
Myrte HOEKSTRA, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands
Marijn FERIER, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands
On the stickiness of stigma: exploring diverging resident experiences of territorial stigmatization in Amsterdam’s ‘most notorious’ neighborhood

Fenne Pinkster, Myrte Hoekstra & Marijn Ferier (Universiteit van Amsterdam)


In Western Europe, a select number of ‘problem neighborhoods’, ‘no-go areas’ and ‘ghettos’ are at the forefront of public debates about urban inequality and the emergence of so-called dual societies. Residents in these ‘notorious’ neighborhoods are confronted with processes of spatial othering (Driver 2014, Sibley 1995), which may exacerbate their already precarious position and contribute to internal processes of estrangement and spatial alienation (Wacquant 2007, Slater 2015). This paper explores such experiences of territorial stigmatization in the Amsterdam Bijlmer neighborhood, a high-rise, modernist public housing estate that has long been represented in popular media as the Dutch ‘ghetto’ (Aalbers 2011, Van Gent & Jaffe 2017). Through interviews with residents, we investigate how they perceive, and are directly affected by, the stigmatization of their neighborhood. Interviews highlight the complex layered nature of stigma at the intersection of place, race and class as the imaginary of the Bijlmer as a marginal place brings together assumed physical characteristics of place – high-rise buildings, degradation of public space – and notions of a racially marked, criminal underclass. We argue that it is analytically fruitful to untangle these dimensions of territorial stigma and question how they are consequently differentially experienced by residents on the basis of their own classed and racial identities and their personal identifications with place. This allows us to critically examine the ‘stickiness’ of stigma and the ways in which residents of different social positions encounter, negotiate, internalize and are able to distantiate themselves from the blemish of place.