EAUH Conference 2018


Session M21. Suburban Creatives: Culture, Aesthetics and the Creative Economy in the Wider Metropolitan Area (c. 1700-c.2010)

Coordinators: Michiel Dehaene (, Ruth Mcmanus (, Ilja Van Damme (

This session has the ambition of decentring the creative economy. It discards the urban centre as privileged analytical-geographical nexus in discussions on cultural creation and production, and re-focuses instead on the role of suburbs, suburbanization and suburbia throughout history – the places, processes and lifestyles that are found within the wider metropolitan area.
Within urban theory it is usually the city – or: historical urban centre – that has been associated with cultural amenities, ‘creative industries’ and the ‘creative class’. In urban policy, as well, the last two decades have seen an intensification in planning and branding efforts aimed at constructing inner-city ‘cultural districts’ or ‘creative quarters’. These are even hoped to lead the way in future processes of urban regeneration and renewal. In contrast, the wider suburban area – if it figures at all in relevant debates – is depicted as being devoid of cultural and aesthetic value. What is more, the often-stereotyped conformist, dull and conservative ideals, values and architectural forms of suburbs are perceived to wage 'cultural war' on life in the city. From such 'hegemonic' city-centred theorising, an expansion of suburban space ‘undermines’ so to speak the resilient cultural and creative embedding of the urban fabric itself, whereas ‘cityness’ supposedly stands for the reverse.
With this session, we hope to attract an interdisciplinary group of urban researchers that share a belief in the value of long-term historical approaches and comparative methodologies to contribute to and broaden current urban theory and policy around the creative economy. Urban history is believed to be essential to broaden both our understanding of the creative economy, and the long-term changes affecting 'centre-periphery'-dynamics of cities. More precisely, we welcome papers that discuss questions relating to three major fields of study of the creative economy:
1.Spatial economics: cultural or creative ‘industries’ tend to ‘cluster’ for specific reasons in certain locales. When, why and under which conditions have suburbs been favoured as the preferred location of cultural and creative production? How ‘permanent’ and ‘important’ were such creative clusters in suburbs?
2.Policy and planning: what was the relationship of (urban, central, etc.) governments towards cultural and creative production in suburbs? Which judicial/social/economic status did the cultural and creative goods and services produced in these suburban areas have?
3.Perceptions and representations: how were the professions, goods and services relative to the suburban creative economy perceived and commented upon by the wider (urban) community? Did the suburb became itself a subject of aesthetics, discursively and/or visually imagined as creative or cultural place?
To explore these questions papers from a wide array of urban disciplines, and from a wider comparative and long-term historical perspective will be valued.
Keywords: suburb; creative economy; interdisciplinary; long-term; comparative