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Doctoral thesis, 2016

Göra plats : graffiti, kommunal förvaltning och plats som relationell effekt

Paulsson, Emma


The aim of the thesis is to investigate how place is enacted through the interplay between user activities and municipal management practices (i.e. planning, design and management of public places). The relationship between the practices of planners and the practices of users has long been conceptualised as a dichotomy within architecture, planning and geography. This dichotomy is particularly evident in studies of informal use and/or studies of ‘abandoned’ places. Using the example of graffiti, the thesis investigates whether a relational understanding originating in actor-network theory can be useful in overcoming this dichotomy and in developing an understanding of places as enacted through an interplay between different practices. Graffiti is an interesting example because of the established presence of a dichotomy between a transgressive activity and management practices striving to retain order and control. In a case study, ethnographic methods such as participant observations and interviews were used to investigate the practices of graffiti and municipal management in public places in Malmö, Sweden. The results show that the practices of the Street and Parks Department in Malmö regarding graffiti removal and its work with legal graffiti walls have been influenced by a dualism between planners and users. The results also indicate that the interplay between informal uses and the work of the officials to enable these practices generates a limited set of enactments of place and involves a limited range of users. The thesis develops an understanding of place as a relational effect of both the activities of the users and the municipal management practices. Through analysing the practices of use and municipal management symmetrically and through putting the heterogeneous network at the centre of the analysis, the dichotomy between different kinds of practices and the dichotomy between different kinds of places is dissolved. The thesis thus argues that actor-network theory can be a fruitful way to overcome the dichotomies and develop an understanding of graffiti and municipal practises as entangled and shaping each other. The way of understanding place developed in this thesis may also be of relevance beyond the examples of graffiti and Malmö.


municipal management; urban planning; actor-network theory; relational thinking; case study methodology; ethnographic method; graffiti; public space

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2016, number: 2016:27
ISBN: 978-91-576-8556-8, eISBN: 978-91-576-8557-5
Publisher: Institutionen för landskapsarkitektur, planering och förvaltning, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet

Authors' information

UKÄ Subject classification

Landscape Architecture
Public Administration Studies

URI (permanent link to this page)