Introduction: Narrating the City and Spaces of Contestation


  • Ragnhild Claesson Urban Studies, Malmö University, Sweden
  • Pål Brunnström Institute for studies in Malmö’s history, Sweden / Institute for Urban Research, Malmö University, Sweden to the Institute for Urban Research at Malmö University



City Narrative, City Branding, City Identity, Urban Regeneration, Urban History


While nation states have a disputed status in a globalised world, cities are often regarded as sovereign and global actors. Along with de-nationalising processes of increased privatisation, supranational governing and networks of transnational corporations, city administrations have developed new capabilities of orientation and governing in a global context (Sassen 2006). Inequality, poverty and segregation are some of the pressing issues that city administrations are grappling with – issues of local challenge with global relevance and repercussions, and vice versa. We wonder, if city administrations also address cultural issues that traditionally were of national concern, as fostering and narrating a sense of identity and belonging? If so, we think this shift needs to be further inquired, as we know that narrating and uses of history are not innocent practices. Rather, these are activities which consciously and unconsciously can push developments and futures in specific directions (Sandercock 2003). Further, narrating and history-writing have a spatial dimension and a performative force which may manifest in the physical environment, making changes, or sustaining status quo (De Certeau 1988, Hayden 1997 and Massey 2005). A critical engagement in the making and use of history in urban space is needed to disclose power relations and constructions of categories, such as gender identities (Scott 2011), and to problematize bias perspectives on cultural heritage and an “authorised heritage discourse” (Smith 2006). Processes of narrating the city in urban development and regeneration are often processes where not only urban history, but also urban futures, are negotiated in a very concrete and physical sense.


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Narrating the City and Spaces of Contestation