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Places in the Shadows of the City: The Role of Culture in the Production and Consumption of Suburbia

Chatzinakos, Giorgos (2020) Places in the Shadows of the City: The Role of Culture in the Production and Consumption of Suburbia. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Suburbs have long been associated with assumptions and imposed meanings that do not fit the everyday reality of city life. Very little research has looked at the ways in which they are experienced, represented and imagined as ‘real’ places. With this core focus in mind, in this thesis, I am concerned with the extent to which the cultural consumption of the city has come to shape suburban residents’ relationship with that city. This question is addressed through the lens of suburban festivals. My aim is to reassess the role of suburban communities in shaping the cultural life of the city. In this light, this research seeks to (1) to assess the role of the suburbs as more central in defining the practice of everyday life than might be assumed, (2) show why culture matters for places where people live and co-exist day to day; and (3) to bring suburbs, in all of their cultural complexity, to the fore in discussions around improved connections to place and more so-called ‘sustainable’ urban futures and ways of life. The research draws on fieldwork carried out in suburban communities in Manchester, focusing on three suburban festivals as case studies. It is based on data collected through cultural mapping workshops and semi-structured interviews with festival organisers, festival participants and policymakers. The findings suggest that suburbia is a multi-dimensional concept. As such, the spatial experience of suburban place and the micro-geographies of the ‘intimate’ play a constitutive role in forming and shaping place identity. Accordingly, the thesis provides a more nuanced approach to the process of place-making in the suburbs. In doing so, it challenges the orthodoxy of a culturally inert suburbia on the fringes of the city, arguing that the suburbs provide a powerful conduit through which the contemporary urban condition can be better understood.

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