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Doctoral thesis, 2023

What comes to count as sustainable in Rosendal? : a study of how sustainability is being reproduced in an urban sociomaterial assemblage

Bäckman, Malin


Urban districts around the world are increasingly developed to be sustainable. In this thesis I
explore what comes to count as sustainable in Rosendal, a developing urban district in
Uppsala, Sweden. I view Rosendal as an example of contemporary urban sustainability. In
light of how urban sustainability initiatives tend to reproduce the status quo, my aim is to
question taken-for-granted meanings of sustainability and open up for alternative
perspectives. I explore which everyday practices residents of Rosendal associate with
sustainability, by drawing upon practice-theoretical approaches. Additionally, I analyse the
Sustainability in Rosendal discourse by focusing on the perspectives of Uppsala Municipality
and property developers. I approach Rosendal as an urban sociomaterial assemblage,
constantly in the process of being made. This perspective helps account for the various
practices, discourses and ‘more-than-humans’ shaping what comes to count as sustainable,
while decentring humans and bringing forth human interdependency with ‘the environment’.
Additionally, the emergent character of assemblages points towards the possibility for urban
environments to be developed differently. My findings show that prevailing sustainability
meanings reproduced within practices and discourses, do not initiate the type of
transformation often called for. Much of what currently comes to count as sustainable in
Rosendal is underpinned by a neoliberal growth logic where attractive districts are developed
for the chosen few. I show how more-than-human actants, including allotments, cars and
wooden panels, contribute to what comes to count as sustainable in Rosendal. By paying
attention to the effects of these actants, I envision alternative trajectories for the urban
assemblages making up Rosendal. Finally, I suggest that integrating feminist care ethics into
urban development can foster more just and transformative sustainabilities.


urban sustainability; sociomaterial assemblage; practice theory; materialdiscursive; policy analysis; more-than-human; Rosendal; Sweden

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2023, number: 2023:72
ISBN: 978-91-8046-196-2, eISBN: 978-91-8046-197-9
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

    Publication identifier


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