Swedish poverty – An oxymoron? Taking issue with social sustainability in urban renewal
Paper in proceeding, 2013

Many global cities are struggling to align urban renovation with social sustainability. In particular, solutions to the imbalance between rich and poor neighbourhoods have been difficult to find. This is also the case with the Swedish cities of Gothenburg and Malmoe. Recently large contractors have become involved with this issue, claiming they can provide social sustainability on a commercial basis. Many studies have shown that focusing on providing employment, improving social infrastructure and leisure facilities is not enough to rehabilitate the disadvantaged neighbourhoods. A framework for understanding social sustainability is proposed to facilitate further examination of such issues by analysing three biographic accounts of residents of deprived Swedish suburbs. Using critical discourse analysis, the empirical material builds on the three narratives: 1) An account of a childhood and homeless people leaving in a segregated neighbourhood; 2) the biography of an immigrant boy breaking out of the suburb environment and becoming a football star; and 3) an account of adolescence in Gothenburg and the discovery of the city centre in contrast to her home suburb. All the accounts indicate that employment and the presence of functional infrastructures did not prevent the stigmatisation linked to the authors’ residential areas. These accounts could therefore help urban developers to better understand the complex and predominantly culturally oriented set of challenges when creating social sustainability. A bottom-up approach is provided by these auto-biographical texts that could enhance innovative input to contractors' concepts of social sustainability to include issues of integration and differentiation of the type of poverty that impact contemporary Sweden.

discourse analysis

social sustainability

Keywords: contractor's business concepts

urban renovation


Martine Buser

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Christian Koch

Chalmers, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Management

Proceedings of ARCOM - 29th Annual Conference, Reading, UK, 2-4 September 2013

978-095523907-6 (ISBN)

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Subject Categories

Civil Engineering

Environmental Engineering



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