Making Senses of Nordvest: Tracing the spaces, bodies and affects of a gentrifying neighborhood in Copenhagen

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandlingForskning


This thesis emerges from an ethnographic study of Nordvest, a district in Copenhagen. I came to know Nordvest as an area undergoing multiple changes. Nordvest was known, sensed and experienced as, among other things, “diverse” and multicultural; socially disadvantaged; a “municipality garbage bin”; an up-and-coming, gentrifying area; and peripheral and outside, or not quite “Copenhagen.” These
modalities of knowing and experiencing Nordvest were mutually interlinked and emotionally polyvalent. I set out to examine how everyday social spaces in Nordvest constrained and shaped inequalities, processes of in- and exclusion, and processes of majoritization and minoritization, in particular pertaining to racialization, class, and Danishness.
This thesis revolves around four research articles. Each article can be conceived as an optical device, a prism, that sheds and breaks different kinds of light on various spaces, presences and social processes in Nordvest. The article “Recruited into Danishness? Shifting Researcher Positions in Racialized Spaces” (Chapter 2) examines my passing as Danish in the capacity of ethnographer, drawing on autoethnography and memory work. Having moved to Denmark from Latvia in 2004, I became a young, uneducated Eastern European love migrant of limited value. In the subsequent years, I increasingly passed as a wellintegrated, desired migrant more proximal to (Western) Europeanness and Danishness. Starting fieldwork in Nordvest in 2014, I found myself passing as Danish. As a researcher, I was never asked “where I came from” or assessed as a migrant in ways that I noticed. Based on analysis of fieldwork encounters, I conceptualize passing (as Danish) as a material, discursive and affective process and discuss gradations of proximity to Danishness.
The article “Cultivating Integration’? Migrant space-making in Urban gardens” (Chapter 3) focuses on Integration Gardens, a user-driven association that aims to combine organic urban gardening and “integration.” The article discerns and analyzes two distinct modes of migrant space making. The Integration Grid evolves around managed space in the association, arising through and enforcing a Dane–foreigner binary. The second mode of space-making, the Web of Gardening, emerges inbetween people and plants, branching out to and evoking presences, memories and practices from multiple elsewheres. The article examines how these modes of space-making are differently made by,
and make, migrant bodies, constraining their potentialities for be(com)ing and acting.
“Diversity Tourism as a ‘break in reality’: Othering and White Middle Class Longing” (Chapter 3) discusses the mutual emergence of the analytical figure of the diversity tourist vis-à-vis diverse Nordvest based on interviews with white, middle-class, majority Danish residents. The “diversity”
experienced, articulated and embraced by informants is racialized and/or deprived, sticking to minoritized people and places. The figure of the diversity tourist is characterized by privileged distance and gazing at “local” places and people. In Nordvest, the figure is filled out by various practices of diversity consumption (from entertaining spectacle to transformative pedagogy) and longing for a “reality” and a “break from Copenhagen.” It is a diagnostic figure that points to embeddedness in capitalist, neoliberal modes of being with, and relating to, difference.
The article “Besides Conviviality: Paradoxes in Being ‘at ease’ with Diversity in a Copenhagen District” (Chapter 4) traces the traveling concept of “conviviality.” The article examines social interactions in a resident-driven community park through the lens of conviviality, charting the concept’s travels into studies of urban diversity. The article highlights the performativity of conviviality while analyzing the processes of inclusion and exclusion that unfold in the park. Apart from the research questions and articles, the dissertation is driven by an emphasis on embodiment and affect in knowledge production. Through an engagement with Eve Sedgwick’s (2003) distinction between paranoid and reparative reading strategies, I propose a generative ecology of knowledge (Chapter 1), highlighting the potentialities of open curiosity, hope, beauty, gratitude, love and care.
Chapter 2 develops an embodied, affective methodology. This methodology underlines the interconnectedness and mutual dependence of data production, analytical pathways and knowledge generation. Building on feminist scholarship, I underline partiality, situatedness, relationality, embodiment and affect as key elements of my methodological framework.
Chapter 3 highlights the mutual constitution (enactments) of spaces, bodies and affects in Nordvest. This chapter is built around four empirical prisms, two of them constituted by research articles.
Chapter 4 readdresses and reconfigures key conceptual devices of this body of research: the analytical figure of the diversity tourist; the enactments of spaces, bodies and affects; and passing. The chapter sets out by inquiring into the performativity of concepts and theory, reviewing them as enabling and constraining embodied, affective devices. I revisit and rehabilitate paranoia (Sedgwick, 2003) as a knowledge-seeking strategy, highlighting the potential of negative critique. I then juxtapose desire and hope as modalities of a generative ecology of knowledge. I contrast the forceful, assembling modes of operation and directionality of desire to hope, which I conceptualize as an attentive openness to “otherwise.”
In gesturing towards affective modulations of a generative ecology of knowledge-seeking, I explore a beside(s), not “instead,” uncovering potentialities and complementarities of various modalities of knowledge-seeking, rather than disqualifying and excluding. At the same time, I discuss how affective modalities matter for which knowledges, worlds and ways of be(com)ing can be brought into existence. In Chapter 5, I revisit generative ecologies of knowledge, casting a glance at their capabilities to enact non-linear spatiotemporalities and their abilities to hold, and come to terms with, loss.
Udgivelses stedRoskilde
ForlagRoskilde Universitet
Antal sider241
StatusUdgivet - 15 jun. 2017

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