The Stranger, The Nation and the City: On the possibilities of identification and belonging

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The paper explores the relationship between ‘the stranger’ and the spatial formations of the city and the nation in a dual sense. On the one hand, it discusses the construction of the stranger as a figure, both generally and in relation to formation of the city and the nation in particular. On the other hand, it explores the experiences and practices of people designated as ‘strangers’, that is, the experiences and feelings arising in the multiplicity of everyday signifying
encounters and the possibilities of identification afforded by the city and the nation respectively. This twofold aim is pursued through an integrated reading of literature on the stranger and material from an interpretative analysis
performed in Copenhagen among citizens of Pakistani origin. The main point argued throughout the paper is that it is not possible to simply ‘be’ a stranger; you become a stranger through specific, embodied encounters. The stranger is a
relational figure, constituted in a spatial ambivalence between proximity and distance, and in this way he/she can take different shapes and different roles depending on the context in which it is performed. This indeterminacy shows in the empirical analysis, where the stranger takes a very different role within the nation and the city and in some sense helps to differentiate between the qualities of these two spatial formations
TidsskriftEuropean Urban and Regional Studies
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)343-357
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - 1 okt. 2011


  • city
  • encounter
  • ethnic minorities
  • identity
  • nation
  • strange

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