Ingrid Holmberg

Senior Lecturer

Department of Conservation
Visiting address
Medicinaregatan 7 B
413 90 Göteborg
Room number
Postal address
Box 130
405 30 Göteborg

About Ingrid Holmberg


Major commissions

  • Research coordinator Curating the City, Centre for Critical Heritage Studies, UGOT
  • Member of Board, SCAS, UU

Research Areas

  • The City as Mnemonic Device
  • Historical landscapes and history of built enviroments
  • Historical places of National minorities and public heritage institutions
  • Participation in heritage planning and management
  • Maintenance and repair of old buildings in the face of the anthropocene

Main supervisor of PhD-students

  • Leidulf Mydland: Skolehuset som kulturminne. Lokale verdier og natsjonal kulturminneförvaltning. Diss. in Conservation, University of Gothenburg. Date for thesis defence: 2015-03-12.
  • Malin Weijmer, preliminary title: Participation in heritage management [I sökandet efter delaktighet]. Diss. in Conservation planned for 2018.
  • Moniek Driesse, preliminary title: An exploration of subjective mapping as a method in analysing heritage as a dynamic process Diss. in Conservation, within Curating the City, CHEurope research school, start Sept 1, 2017.
  • Sigrun Hanna Thorgrimsdottír, preliminary title: Alternate understandings of buildings-as-heritage in the anthropocene. Diss. in Conservation within research project Maintenance Matters. Start Oct 1, 2017

Teaching Areas

  • Urban Renewal and urban transformations
  • History of Built Environments
  • Theory and methodology in heritage and history
  • The professional field of building conservation

Research My research has developed along two research strands. One of them is based in my thesis and concerns the urban built environment, seen as a socio-cultural-material aedifice and put in both contemporary and historical perspectives. This strand has brought a particular interest in the many different ways in which the temporal aspect ‘pastness’ is constructed, perceived, communicated and transferred in urban contexts. The second strand concerns the requirements for an expanded notion of heritage: how can the work of official heritage institutions take up also marginal histories, narratives and experiences, i.e. those that have become silenced through oppression or neglect, or that belong to subaltern subjects? It has the aim to dismantle and question the socio-cultural divisions made up by group identity, ethnicity/race and else, and works towards cultural understanding and social cohesion. This strand comprehends participatory practices and the recognition of heritage work as a means to support people’s engagement. Among other activities I have explored the official heritage institutions’ work with historical places of the Swedish National minorities, in particular the Roma people, in order to understand what happens at the frontline of heritage work – where there is no map or compass.

I gained my PhD in 2006 with the dissertation On the urban Surface:On the historicization of Haga [På stadens yta]. The study (prized by the Kungl. Gustav Adolfsakademin för svensk folkkultur) put a foucauldian perspective on the discursive play that successively in a process ranging over 150 years transformed ordinary urban built environments into heritage objects: old-and-ugly into old-and-nice. In subsequent studies this research field has been methodologically developed in the direction of ANT and mobility studies.

I have been acting director of studies for the BA programme in Built Heritage 2006-2012. Since 2013 I am research coordinator of Curating the city Resarch Cluster, Centre for Critical Heritage Studies. The research cluster is set up in cooperation between HDK and Dept of Conservation at UGOT, and the Urban Lab, UCL, London. A sabbatical leave was spent at the chair of Sybille Frank, Prof. Dr. phil., Urban and Regional Sociology, Department of Sociology, Technische Universität zu Berlin and Technische Universität zu Darmstadt. I became docent in 2018. I am regularly lecturing in scholarly contexts, also internationally, and taking part in public events, but I also have several scholarly commissions. I am principal PI in several research projects – see the list of projects with links.

Overarching Research Themes 1) Curating the City: trans-disciplinary approaches in urban settings. Heritage is at the core of contemporary urban dynamics and urban conflicts. Indeed, it confronts scholars and policy makers alike with a number of questions and dilemmas about how to deal with tangible-and-intangible aspects of the existing city fabric. This research cluster aims to explore how heritage practitioners and heritage practice ‘curate’ the city’s past, present and future, in terms of defining, preserving and mediating urban heritage in a broad sense. This entails negotiation over aesthetic regimes, intervention in planning, as well as proactive measures in order to understand, develop and conceptualize the urban heritage landscape. It also entails promoting dialogue and participation, navigating the threshold between multiple institutional and non-institutional actors, such as grassroots movements, NGOs, private entrepreneurs and various official bodies.”

The research Cluster works along five strands, that each create activities and outreach. see…

2) The City as Mnemonic Device. Synthesizing the longue durées and critical moments of the Swedish modern city. This theme aims at synthesizing previsous research - conducted for several years through different activities. My research has examined the memory-history-materiality interface, with a focus on discursive negotiations related to Swedish urban contexts during the last one and a half century. The research hitherto shows that negotiations concerning “the meanings of the past” are especially salient within the fields of politics, planning and ideology, but moreover that they permeate also a number of other important discursive practices. This phenomenon has often arbitrarily been associated with sheer post modernistic nostalgia but my research indicates the contrary; that the tensions between stability and change (historical restriction and futuristic possibility) are a stable nexus over time within urban imaginary geographies. This research thus covers critical moments as well as longue durées in the self-image of the Swedish modern city, that are of relevance for a broad array of praxis related to place marketing, identity politics, heritage management and urban planning.

Project Maintenance Matters: Exploring common contexts of heritage (e)valuation  (Vetenskapsrådet 2017-2021) The overall purpose of the project is to explore some ordinary contexts for ‘maintenance and repair’ in urban settings. Departing from the notion of ‘glue’ (Thrift 2008) and ‘locus’ (Connerton 2009), we aim to address heritage as a core societal concern that is constantly at work against physical and sociocultural disruption. Drawing on recent approaches to (e)valuation practices and hybrid phenomena, the project uses the prevalent engagement with the urban fabric - in terms of buildings-as-heritage - as an empirical node for exploring the longer lines of the survival of cities. The focus is on the way that caring (knowledge and skills of 'maintenance and repari') promotes socio-material continuity of the city, bringing also issues of ethics.

The research is organized within three WP:s making up prisms for understanding ‘maintenance and repair’ as evaluative practices that may respond to current anthropocenic challenges. The WP:s focus on separate ordinary contexts for evaluation of buildings-as-heritage, but research will also be gathered around joint cases of ongoing renovation. The overarching questions are: What is are the conditions for these evaluation practices of ‘maintenance and repair’ in the different contexts? Are there any common denominators between these contexts, and if so, what are they? In what respect may these evaluation practices indicate a non conformist position comprising skills and knowledge for sustainability and care?

Staff: Ingrid M Holmberg (PI & researcher); Elena Bogdanova (researcher); Sigrún Thorgrimsdottír (PhD)…


Re:heritage - Circulation and Comodification of Things with History (Vetenskapsrådet 2014-2017) This project aims at studying the rapidly expanding second hand-, re-use- and vintage market in which small-scale entrepreneurs transform and re-configure objects with a real or imagined history into marketable goods with heritage value. Building on existing research on second hand culture and consumption, the project takes on a neo-materialist approach to explore how this market, here called the re:heritage market, involves circulation and transformations that renegotiate established understandings of heritage, but that also transcends conventional dichotomies between public and private, tangible and intangible, memory and history. Combining perspectives from anthropology, consumption research, integrated conservation and cultural geography, the project will analyse the real and imaginary sites, the relations, networks and assemblages of things as well as the actors and institutions involved in the re:heritage circulation. The research methodology involves ethnographic fieldwork, text and image analysis and archival studies. The research will be carried out through five work packages with complementary focus: the social and material infrastructure of objects in circulation; the market qualification-valuation processes; the interaction of urban localities and heritagization processes; a comparative study in the UK; theory development as well as co-research in interaction with the public.

In my work package “Sites and localities as re:heritage” the focus will be on the kind of circulations that meet in the reverential activities of rebuilding, restructuring, reconstruction, renovation or restoration of the urban built environment: 1) the reshuffling of spatial meanings: from an original (usually) function-based meaning, into one based on heritage conceptions; 2) the circuit of market values: the real estate property market where heritage aspects of the sales items (predominately homes) have become as a core hub for the presentations and spatial rearrangements; 3) the increasing market for old building details or structures (such as used doors, windows and fittings, authentic paint, original tiles); 4) the know-how, skills and craft necessary for its application.

A short film introducing some of the research results and discussing the theme: 

Landscape dimensions of Roma heritage (Riksantikvarieämbetet 2012-2014). This project focusses on public heritage management of Roma historical places in Sweden. Although celebrating their five hundred years in Sweden in 2012, there has been very little recognition of the Roma’s corporeal long-term presence on Swedish grounds. There are severe difficulties in reconstructing the Roma’s historical presence in Sweden, not at least because of their persistent travelling (mostly forced). Leaving aside here the issue of a parching and well documented anti-romanism that permeates most accounts of the Roma’s history, this project will present a study of some interesting contemporary efforts to gain new knowledge about the Romas’ historical places in Sweden: projects run by the official state heritage sector during the last years.

The research project presents what has become known of Roma historical places, itineraries, travelling and locations in Sweden trough these projects, and also which are the particular conditions, discourses and ambitions within the official heritage sector that have promoted and facilitated these projects. The project puts the findings in relation to the spatial concepts territoriality, place-making and mobility, but goes on to discuss them from foucauldian notions of knowledge-power. According to the AHD theory (Smith), ‘heritage’ as an official practice is normally understood and performed within the discursive realms of a white-male-middle class history, and prioritizes material artefacts (such as buildings or cultural landscapes) over intangible and ephemeral forms of culture. In trying to gain knowledge about Romas’ historical places, these heritage projects are forced to overcome the internal knowledge regimes, and in doing so, they can help to pinpoint the epistemological obstructions that appear when ‘the travelling (subaltern) Roma’ is to be situated within a particular ‘heritage-biased historical landscape’.

The project's results are published in the comprehensive report Vägskälens kulturarv - kulturarv vid vägskäl, Holmberg (ed.) Makadam 2014.

Press release…

Announcement Sveriges Radio / Radio Romano

Conference presentation ACSIS 2015, Spotlight session

Review in SvD / Under strecket

The doctoral thesis, On the Urban Surface: Historicizations of Haga, laid the ground for studying long term changes in popular attitudes towards 'urban old buildings', i.e issues related to modernism and modernist urban plannning as a particular moral-aesthetic regime, and the role of knowledge production as a means and site of resistance. In subsequent research this is developed towards a focus on heritage conceptions within new urbanism with particular focus on the emergence of non-official actors.

In the dissertation I used the case of Haga, Gothenburg, a long-term neglected central area that was comprised in an 1960's urban renewal programme and which on national level became a key site of resistance against modernist general urban renewal. Asking questions about the different discursive plays in which Haga's identity was negotiated over 150 years (the source material included over 150 years of discursive statements about Haga), I was able to distinguish four distinct imaginary geographies: a 'geography of attraction', a 'geography of memory', a 'geography of slum clearance', and a 'geography of conservation' within which the area's identy was forged. Apart from the geography of conservation, these imaginary geographies have essentially developed in parallel over time. The discovery of this parallelism has led to a new understanding of the dynamics of urban transformation: the most important components of and incentives for the changes in the meaning of built environments are the internal contradictions among various parallel imaginary geographies.

The study thereby shows that the reevaluation of the Haga arises out of previously existing moral landscapes. But it also shows that the concept of gentrification, which recurs frequently in research, only covers a minor part of the character and sequence of events of urban transformations. A third and central result of my research is the identification of a 'geography of conservation' as distinctly different from the other imaginary geographies in terms of two characteristics: first, that an anonymous, dilapidated old urban neighborhood of wooden buildings, and particularly those of the typical Gothenburg “county governor’s buildings”, were considered nice; and second, that the most important factor in this popular reevaluation of the vernacular was scholarly research. This research, neither coordinated nor systematic, fuelled a new a new discourse. The thesis also contributes to a theoretical development concerning the creation of new 'objects', in a foucauldian understanding. In a subsequent reserach projects, Structural Transformation and Cultural Heritage Processes, this perspective has proven proliferous for detecting underlying moral geographies influencing a series of contemporary planning decisions in several cities.