Suburbs and Power: Configuration, Direct and Symbolic Presence, Absence, and Power in The Swedish Suburb Gottsunda
Paper in proceedings, 2019
One aspect of how cities are arranged and configured, from structures of communication networks to land division, programme distribution, and location of functions, monuments, and other urban objects is directly related to questions of power and representation. While sometimes more explicitly discussed regarding buildings or historical cities, as by Thomas A Markus and Kim Dovey, it is a present inquiry in a lot of syntax research. This article will engage explicitly with this inquiry through the filter of the city as a pedagogical device encoding and communicating priorities, values, and roles in society through built form and its subsequent effects on individual and collective use. From this perspective, centrality, and who is given space centrally, becomes a question of power and values as centrality for something (or someone) comes at the expense of something (or someone) else. Who this someone is might not always be obvious in terms of concerning a person but could be a type of amenity, a process, a kind of actor, or more symbolic means. It is a means by which one can remind others of one’s right to take up space, and the importance for the generic public to be aware of and relate to oneself. But power also operates through other means in displacing and relegating to the side or periphery, by claiming exclusivity through seclusion, or by imposing presence through other means such as being located in central viewsheds while physically not located centrally. This article draws on earlier studies to construct an understanding of how power can be read as manifest in the material, spatial structure of Gottsunda outside of Uppsala in Sweden, a suburb considered a particularly challenging area from a segregation perspective but where local variations of how the area is experienced are significant, suggesting that questions of ‘who’ or ‘what’ is Gottsunda are of interest to examine, and where specific aspects of the spatial systems allow local acts of control and dominance which then contribute to the image of the area as a whole. Such power structures and identity formations are analyzed in part by constructing how symbolic/visual and material/practical presence and absence of various actors and functions are configured to build an understanding of importance/unimportance and other types of power structures ‘ground-up’. The article thus—in addition to the particular study of Gottsunda and Uppsala—both advances and refines how power can be analyzed and understood through spatial configuration.
presence of society