The strategic dimension of the concept of community in cultural projects within urban regeneration schemes

Fremeaux, Isabelle (2002) The strategic dimension of the concept of community in cultural projects within urban regeneration schemes. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


This research investigates the strategies at work around the notion of community in the framework of cultural projects developed in regeneration schemes.

The concept of community has taken a prominent position in political discourse and ideology in recent years. This is most striking under New Labour, which, in the words of the Prime Minister himself, has made community its `governing idea'. The thesis begins with the examination of this complex and multi-facetted concept, fraught with positive and normative connotations.

On the other hand, as problems in urban areas (e. g. poverty, unemployment, violence) have increasingly taken centre stage in governments' concerns, there has been a parallel growth in the monies and attention paid to urban regeneration policies. Concurrently there has also been mounting interest in the potential benefits of cultural strategies for urban regeneration. An outline of the evolution, over the last three decades, of urban regeneration and cultural policies in Britain, as well as the increasingly instrumental role given to the notion of community in their design, will provide an account of the practical and ideological issues at stake in each sphere as well as in their convergence. The supposition of this thesis is that this convergence provides a specific framework in which the notion of community is used strategically.

This will be explored through the empirical investigation of two festivals celebrating Bangladeshi culture in the East End of London and organised as part of the local urban regeneration programme. Archive analysis and participant observation have constituted the chosen methodology of investigation.

The study sheds lights on the manipulations of the notion of community by all actors in order to serve their own interests within the policies framework. I suggest that these strategies both reflect and underpin the power position held by these actors.

Moreover I suggest that the understanding(s) of the two concepts of community and culture offered by the Institutional framework of urban regeneration and cultural policies pave the way for processes of cultural essentialisation and reification as well as cultural and spatial commodification. In the specific context of an urban regeneration programme dealing with ethnic minorities, the policies carried out lead to a consumerist version of multiculturalism.

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