The people vs. gentrification: Citizen participation in urban development


Session hosts

  • Sveinung Legard (OsloMet Handelshøyskolen), send your contribution to lesv@oslomet.no
  • Sissel Hovik (OsloMet Handelshøyskolen)
  • Kristin Reichborn-Kjennerud (Arbeidsforskningsinstituttet OsloMet)
  • George Anthony Giannoumis (OsloMet Institutt for informasjonsteknologi)

Cities are growing and changing in a rapid pace. The share of the world’s population living in cities is expected to double within 2050. This puts a tremendous pressure on centrally located and traditional low-income neighborhoods, which are “upgraded” and “developed” and overtaken by a young and highly educated middle class. Residents in many cities protest against this type of gentrification. They demand more influence over what goes on in their neighborhoods. The government often accommodates citizen participation as part of area-based initiatives and other types of urban renewal projects. Even if the demand for participation from below and the accommodation of participation from above sometimes coalesce around common endeavors, resident and government agendas frequently collide over questions of what constitutes legitimate participation or what kind of issues citizens should be allowed to influence.

In this session, we take a closer look at what conflicts and communities of interest that emerge between government agencies, property developers and different groups of residents in urban areas that undergo gentrification. We focus on Oslo, but welcome papers and presentations from other cities in Scandinavia and the world at large.

We wish to discuss what type of participation and mobilization that takes place in gentrification areas. How do different groups of residents organize to impact local development, and what channels and strategies do they deploy to urban policies? Likewise, how does the government open up for citizen participation, and what interests and groups does it seek to reach through its efforts and to what ends?

Another interest is how different models of urban governance affect both citizen- and government-initiated participation. What kind of mobilization and participation schemes emerge in cities where private actors have a large say over urban planning, as opposed to cities where the government seek to be the protagonist? Here, we particularly encourage papers and presentations that compare cities.

We are concerned with power in urban development. Is the widespread use of citizen participation merely a charade, does it contribute to gentrification “with a human face”, or does it provide disadvantaged citizens with a real opportunity to prevent or initiate projects in line with their interests? Who gets to assert influence over urban issues, and what consequences does this have for urban governance and democracy? Here, private entrepreneurs and market forces play an important role. Thus, we encourage papers and presentations that thematize how capital works in gentrification areas.

Finally, we are interested in how digitalization affects mobilization and citizen participation in an urban setting. How do, for example, residents use social media to organize around urban development issues, and how does digitalization affect what the government does to give citizens a chance to voice their opinion and even decide on urban development projects? The overarching question here is whether new social media and digital spaces promote democratize urban planning and policy or not.

We encourage contributions that connect to these topics.