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Chiara Valli: Cultural labor and the city - Negotiating between identity creation, gentrification and resistance

Högre seminarium

In this seminar we will be introduced to the research perspectives of Chiara Valli, postdoc researcher at the Department of Conservation.

A few words from Chiara on the scope of the seminar:

From a social and urban geography standpoint, contemporary cultural workers and their impacts on our cities warrant critical scrutiny on several key grounds.
First, cultural workers have been demonstrated to be an appealing target for urban politicians and investors. So-called `creative city´ policies around the world have aimed at attracting and retaining the social and cultural capital of cultural workers as a central asset for the urban economy. Artistic spaces and lifestyles have been used as catalysts for promoting ideas of unique, authentic (Zukin, 2009), cultural, creative (Florida, 2002) cities which would attract affluent groups and capital investment into exhausted city economies. The well-known cycles of disinvestment and gentrification stemming from this `artistic mode of production´ (Zukin, 1989) reproduce themselves in similar ways in cities around the world. The harshest consequences fall on the shoulders of the most vulnerable residents, i.e. those who inhabited the low-income, often racially segregated urban areas long before these were overcome by gentrification and its artsy sheen, and who are typically the first ones to be displaced in the process.

Moreover, and an issue arguably less considered by urban geographers, cultural work is associated with new political subjectivities. Artists and other cultural professionals are increasingly expected to work without security or welfare entitlements. Ideas around ¿free¿, artistic, bohemian lifestyles are enclosed in a neoliberal romanticism that normalises and pushes forwards widespread precarity (McRobbie, 2016; Lorey, 2015). Many have argued that these are the disciplining technologies of work in new capitalistic modes of production, where economic value is produced not only within the walls of the workplace but also through wider social relations and communication (Hardt and Negri 2009).

Yet, cultural workers' actual agency, their reactions to urban processes that exploit their presence, and their relations to other urban social groups, are poorly understood and hard to decipher.

Immersed in dynamics that extract value from their work and lives, and which are used to pursue profit and hit hardest the most vulnerable population in our cities, how do cultural workers react? Do their political selves operate within the confines of a capitalist imaginary, happily contributing to creating the bohemian atmosphere, the cool leisure spaces, the hip(ster) postures that make city spaces attractive for affluent incomers and investments? How do cultural workers actually relate to other social groups in the city, beyond the expectations of local politicians and developers who want to position them as gentrification's `pioneers´? How do other groups perceive their presence and work in city spaces? Finally, if cultural creative spaces are test sites for new modes of exploitation and value production, can they also be fertile grounds for new forms of resistance?

In my doctoral research I explored the agency and positioning of cultural workers in two international study cases: 1) an ongoing process of gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, where cultural workers appear to contribute pushing forward the gentrification frontier, and 2) the case of Macao, a collective mobilisation of cultural workers in Milan, Italy, where cultural workers mobilised against neoliberal urbanism, top-down gentrification, corruption, growing labour precarity.

Föreläsare: Chiara Valli: is a Postdoc researcher at the department of Conservation at Gothenburg University, Sweden. Her research interests include critical heritage studies, critical urban studies, urban and social geography, political theory. Her current postdoctoral research investigates issues of heritageisation, urban change, neoliberal urbanism, gentrification, and marginalization with a focus on the neighborhood of Gamlestaden, Gothenburg. She received a PhD degree in Social and Economic Geography from Uppsala University in 2017 with a thesis titled "Pushing borders. Cultural workers in the restructuring of post-industrial cities". Her doctoral research critically explored the agency and positioning of cultural workers in the restructuring of contemporary cities, in relation to processes of gentrification, precariousness, political resistance.

Datum: 2018-05-23

Tid: 15:00 - 17:00

Kategorier: Kulturvård

Plats: Geovetarcentrum, Guldhedsgatan 5 A

Kontaktperson: Katarina Saltzman

Sidansvarig: Emma Sjöberg|Sidan uppdaterades: 2016-09-15

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