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Negotiating the risk of segregation - public and civic responses to growing social inequalities in a "not yet" divided city

Research project There is much research on residential segregation in large cities, but little knowledge on how the risk of increasing socio-spatial divisions is handled in smaller urban environments. By following municipal and civic efforts for social cohesion in Umeå in northern Sweden, this project will explore how social problems associated with large cities can be avoided when a smaller city is growing.

By following municipal and civic efforts for social cohesion in Umeå, this project will explore how social problems associated with large cities can be avoided when a smaller city is growing. The aim is twofold: 1. To study how public and civic responses to (a perceived) increase of socioeconomic segregation shape community and the meaning of belonging in the city, and 2. To identify key factors for a sustainable and democratic collaboration between public and civic actors in counter-segregation work. How is the risk of segregation negotiated by different actors?

Head of project

Hanna Bäckström
Postdoctoral fellow
E-mail
Email

Project overview

Project period:

2022-09-01 2025-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies

Research area

Public health and health care science

External funding

Formas

Project description

By studying municipal and civic efforts for social cohesion in a rapidly growing Swedish city, this project will explore how social problems associated with large cities can be avoided when a smaller city is growing. As such, it will offer knowledge of direct relevance for urban planning and civic action in the wake of increasing social inequalities. The overall objective is to explore how the risk of increasing segregation can be dealt with in a way that also strengthens local democracy.

Compared to other Swedish cities of similar size, Umeå has long been characterized by a low level of segregation. However, reports have suggested that the social stratifications are growing, and the local police have called attention to increasing social unrest in some areas. The development has spurred a local debate on the risk for segregation and several measures to strengthen social cohesion have been initiated by the municipality. The interventions stretch from camera surveillance to social projects in the identified “risk-areas”. At the same time, civil society actors have taken initiatives of their own, that partly question the municipal strategies.

Against this backdrop, the aim of this project is twofold: 1. To study how public and civic responses to (a perceived) increase of socioeconomic segregation shape community and the meaning of belonging in the city, and 2. To identify key factors for a sustainable and democratic collaboration between public and civic actors in counter-segregation work.

The study comprises multiple qualitative methods, including interviews and workshops with public and civic actors and an analysis of municipal policy and civil society strategies. With theoretical footing in intersectional analyses of conviviality and belonging, the study will explore the nexus between urban development policy and changing state-civil society relations, as well as the gendered and racialized dimensions of these intersecting processes.

External funding