Invisible Lines Crossing the City: Ethnographic Strategies for Place-making

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Helsingborg, a coastal city in southern Sweden, initiated a long-term redevelopment project called H+ in 2009, aiming to convert industrial harbor space in the city's south into a new, livable urban neighborhood and city center. The project aims to create an open and ‘tolerant city’ in Helsingborg over the next twenty years. In 2010-2011, H+ used an open-source planning method as a strategy to incorporate multiple working methods and ideas into the planning process. As a cultural analyst, my role with the H+ project and the City of Helsingborg was to mediate social and cultural perspectives and development strategies between planners and citizens. Focusing the project’s vision towards incorporating existing communities and their values, I applied an ethnographic method to culturally map Helsingborg’s social cityscapes. Cultural mapping integrates social and physical places into one map. It is a useful methodological tool in accessing ‘cultural’ knowledge, translating ethnographic data into usable maps for city planners in the process of developing the H+ area. This article addresses how ethnographic methods and cultural mapping engages with and revitalizes city planning, essentially a process of place-making the H+ area. An applied cultural analytical approach provokes planning practices and questions how and if planning can be more open and inclusive through deeper understandings of unique places that emerge from the relationships between people and spaces. The ‘invisible,’ yet well-known, segregating line (a street called Trädgårdsgatan) in Helsingborg creates a particular condition that the city must contend with in order to achieve its vision of a ‘tolerant city.’


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cultural Studies


  • urbanity, sensory ethnography, cultural mapping, applied cultural analysis, place-making, segregation, tolerance
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-384
JournalCulture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch