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New Urban Imaginaries through heritage and resistance

Conference contribution
Authors Feras Hammami
Published in RC21 CONFERENCE 2017 “Rethinking Urban Global Justice”, September 11-13, Leeds, UK
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords Keyword: Resistance, heritage, temporality, irregularity, urbanisation
Subject categories Human Geography, Peace and conflict research, Social Anthropology, Architecture, History and Archaeology


Working class neighbourhoods have been since nineteenth century targeted by modernisation and other forms of neoliberal urban policies. In Sweden, like in many other countries, the destruction of such neighbourhoods sparked diverse forms of social conflicts, and promoted new debates on how to manage these conflicts following issues of social sustainability and justice. This study investigates heritage-resistance relations within the context of social conflicts and (re-)urbanisation. A critical heritage perspective is used to explore the ways resistances emerge, coalesce and revolve, and how they generate impact. Heritage and resistance are conceived here as being deeply enmeshed in everyday negotiations of identity and as productive, continuously evolving and surging practices. Employing ethnographic methodology on urban transformations in Gårda, a working-class neighbourhood, Sweden, and the local responses to it, showed that these transformations are entangled in a process of heritageisation that began during the industrial revolution in the city of Gothenburg. ‘Housing quality standards’ from the 1930s became an ‘intangible heritage’, and unconsciously employed in neoliberal urban policies, giving legitimacy to urban transformations. After six years of ‘irregular’ contestations and protests, accumulative effect of resistance ‘succeeded’ in instigating new heritage values, expressed through a new vision for the future of Gårda, with the slogan, ‘have a coffee in Gårda’. These values and vision helped challenge the two dominant discourses, ‘demolish’ or ‘conserve’ Gårda, and promoted a third discourse that demanded politicians ‘upgrade Gårda’ following a new urban imaginary for Gothenburg in which Gårda becomes a potential partner. Unfolding these heritage-resistance dialogues helped better understand current urbanisation and social conflicts in Gothenburg.

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