The overall aim of this project is both to scrutinize how policy is framed and filled with meaning and to work with visions of what local democracy could look like if central analytical categories such as gender, ethnicity/race, class and sexuality, were included. At the centre of the project lies the relationship, or tension, between democracy and (sustainable) growth – and how this could be understood within a critical framework where place/space is emphasised.
In first phase of the project, constructions of sustainable growth in regional development policy on the national level have been highlighted with the ambition of discerning a national discourse on sustainable growth in this policy area. Of special interest have been the productions of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and place/space in this discourse, with particular attention being given to how gender equality are constructed. In addition to the national focus, some preliminary studies of both the European Union arena and the local arena have been carried out. In the second phase of the project, this dominating discourse will be contrasted in relation to understandings – and visions – of sustainable growth in local, rural contexts.
The methodology of the project could be described as critical analyses of the framings of policy. Working from a critical approach to policy analysis, an intersectional framework is developed which combines power relations related to gender, ethnicity, sexuality and place/space. The empirical material used in the first part of the project is mainly comprised of policy documents produced by the Government, the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communication and state authorities with responsibilities for regional development policy, especially NUTEK (the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth) and ITPS (The Swedish Institute for Growth Policy Studies). In addition, and of great importance in contextualising these texts, documented participant observation of seminars and conferences also forms part of the empirical material. In the second part of the project, group interviews will be carried out with local action groups in three rural areas in Sweden.