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Investigating spatial transformation processes: an ethnographic discourse analysis in disadvantaged neighbourhoods

Über die Untersuchung räumlicher Transformationsprozesse: eine ethnographische Diskursanalyse in benachteiligten Stadtvierteln
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Christmann, Gabriela B.

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Abstract This contribution focuses on the question of how spatial transformation processes, or to be more concrete, the social reconstruction of places can be methodologically investigated. On the basis of a micro-perspective, I will argue that it is communicative action that plays a crucial role in spatial transformation processes. Taking this into account, the main question is how the structures and dynamics of space-related communicative action in actor constellations as well as in discourses can be empirically explored. Such a dynamic and broad object of research in methodological terms requires a complex research design, and I suggest that it is an "ethnographic discourse analysis" which can meet these requirements. In the following, I will start with basic theoretical considerations, to then outline the research question of a project that, by the example of ‘urban pioneers’, investigates bottom-up initiatives aiming to achieve more quality of life in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. First of all, I will describe the significant properties of the selected neighbourhoods of Berlin-Moabit and Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg in Germany as well as the characteristics of the urban actors under analysis. Subsequently, I will explain the way in which (focused) ethnography and (the sociology of knowledge approach to) discourse analysis were combined, particularly how the methods involved – such as the problem-centred interview, ego-centred network analysis, participant observation as well as discourse analytical procedures – were applied and how the collected data were analysed. The contribution concludes with the presentation of selected results and a discussion on how far the methodological proceeding proved to be adequate in order to investigate spatial transformation processes on a "microscopic level".
Keywords city quarter; deprivation; large city; Berlin; Hamburg; urban planning; ethnography; discourse analysis; communicative action; Federal Republic of Germany; neighborhood; deprivation
Classification Research Design; Sociology of Settlements and Housing, Urban Sociology
Method empirical; qualitative empirical; basic research; development of methods
Free Keywords multi-method approach; spatial transformation; bottom-up initiatives; urban pioneers
Document language English
Publication Year 2014
Page/Pages p. 235-256
Journal Historical Social Research, 39 (2014) 2
Issue topic Spatial analysis
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works