Cultural activism in the community: creative practice, activism and place-identities

Project details

Full project title: Cultural activism in the community: Creative practice, activism and place-identities

Duration: February 2012-October 2012

Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council

Project leader for SPE: Dr Michael Buser

Other researchers: Professor Jane Arthurs

Project summary

This review aims to develop new insights about cultural activism as a means of claiming space and building place-identities in communities. As this is an under-explored area of research and scholarship, the review will build a foundation and conceptual framework for future research. This new line of enquiry will be based on an examination and synthesis of literatures on cultural activism, community activism and creative practice, and place-identities. Through this work, the review seeks to inform the future shape, focus and priorities of the connected communities programme.

In terms of specific objectives, the review will develop a conceptualisation of cultural activism reflecting the kinds of actors involved; nature and forms of creative practices (eg clowning, poetry, murals, etc.); political and social objectives pursued; and the relationships between activism and ‘place'. I will then bring these insights into communication with the literature on community activism and place-identities. In this way, the study will generate particular insights into both the processes and potential consequences of cultural activism including:

  • how activists use creative practice to advance social change objectives in communities;
  • the types of claims made on ‘space', for example in different urban or neighbourhood settings;
  • the nature of engagement with specific place-identities;
  • the effectiveness of cultural activism in appropriating space and building place-identities; and
  • the implications for community cohesion including the potential for exclusion and conflict

Key outputs

  • Creative practice, activism and place-identities: Exploring the spatialities of cultural activism
    (AHRC Connected Communities seminar, 4 September 2012 at The Watershed, Bristol)

    Inspired by an interest in the relationships between place, creative practice, and counter-hegemonic social and political action, over 60 participants attended this event and explored ideas about cultural activism; the spatiality of contentious politics; social movements; and theories of community in the fields of human and cultural geography, urban studies, planning theory and policy, cultural studies, women’s studies, sociology, and performance studies. Dr Paul Routledge (University of Glasgow) provided a keynote speech where he argued for an activist ethnography; a research strategy that involves politically engaged research. His presentation was followed by three main sessions of short papers followed by discussion and wrap-up. Seminar resources included:

Creative practice, activism and place-identities seminar - abstracts and speaker biographies (PDF)

Creative practice, activism and place-identities seminar - full programme (PDF)

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Michael Buser (

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