I am investigating the phenomenon and theory of relocalism at University of Brighton Doctoral College as a PhD studentship, under the project banner of ‘Arts, relocalism and the city’. I have written about relocalism here before as it was a theory that emerged to me during my Psychosocial Studies MSc and now I have the opportunity to test it in this research project.
Relocalism is the practice of grassroots arts-based or led tactical interventions in the urban realm, participated in by citizens and local communities with an aim to improving the urban lived experience and environment by cultivating the connections between people, place and to community. This research aims to investigate this phenomena and its affect on the lived experience of city life for individuals and communities.
My thinking on relocalism originated from my professional observations of a growing number of urban projects that were arts-led or had a strong creative approach to uncovering issues in the urban realm and/or that worked towards drawing attention to these issues and where they could, finding a solution for them. This led to my questioning of these projects as a possible means of psychosocial articulation – put simply, did involvement in projects such as these bring people together as a community, improve a sense of wellbeing and perhaps go on to increase levels of civic participation? Examples of such projects can be found on this Facebook group – join in and post examples you know of!
Relocalism is emerging in the context of the functions of cities, their cultural interactions and democratic mechanisms for civic participation being actively questioned by some citizens, artists and city authorities. There is an accompanying rise of a wellbeing agenda in policy and in new forms of cultural placemaking being formed by hyper-local activists and an increased attention on the arts as a means of urban revitalization (see the work of Tactical Urbanism and Park(ING) day for example, and Hirsch 2009, MacDonald 2011).
Operating at the intersection of participatory arts, place making and urban theory and psychological thinking and based on case study research, this project will investigate relations between participation in relocalism projects as an artform, social capital and participatory citizenship to uncover the phenomena of relocalism for its participants and the community they operate in. The findings will hopefully inform urban policy and planning decision-making and inform future cities thinking and development and will thus be of interest to the following key audiences:
- artists working in the community context and urban realm
- master planners, policy makers and future cities thinkers
- participants involved in relocalism projects
- place makers
- tactical urbanists
- urban and arts media
- urban, arts and wellbeing academic audiences
What are the impacts of participation in relocalism projects on the experience of art, emotional wellbeing and active citizenship, and how can an understanding of relocalism inform urban and place making concepts?
- Explore how participation in relocalism projects affects democratic engagement, social cohesion and social capital;
- Examine the impacts of relocalism participation on individual and community wellbeing;
- Explore the relation between relocalism, urban realm arts practice and the ‘value of arts’ debate;
- Examine the implications of relocalism for theoretical considerations of place making, contemporary and ‘future cities’ thinking.
My research will deepen the understanding of relocalism as a reappropriation of cultural placemaking by citizens, as a potentially new form of urban citizenship and of the psychological effect of this active and situated civil participation. It will also aim to inform intra-city communities dialogue i.e. the conversation between citizens and the grassroots with those in decision-making positions.
A poster that visualises this project can be found here.
Psychosocial Studies MSc
I achieved a Merit Psychosocial Studies MSc at University of Brighton School of Applied Social Sciences in 2012.
During the two years of study, I specialised in art and architecture and the psychosocial, looking at the role and place of the artist in contemporary society; the motivations of an artist to create; the potential of art to create social change, and in particular, looking at eco-art in climate change communication, solution and therapy; and the potential for a creative partnership with participation action research.
My dissertation looked at something I have termed ‘relocalism‘ and explored how this contributes to the psychosocial of placemaking in the city, offering an overview and analysis specifically of the place and role of arts intervention in the psychosocial making of urban place.
Essays and presentations include:
- A Tale of Two Cities: art and its place in Berlin since the Wall
- Art and the therapeutic relationship
- Arts Council England: a study of a learning organisation at a time of change and challenge
- Can art change the world?: toward a psychosocial approach to eco-angst from the arts
- Community psychology and built environment education: mutual transformation
- Constructing the arts in a time of economic reduction: a discourse analysis of a key speech
- Critically appraise the relationship between community psychology values and the facilitation and measurement of social change
- Parasites abroad: Vicky Cristina Barcelona, parasitical theory and the psychosocial relationship
- Qualitative research and placemaking: a critical evaluation of a range of methods of data collection and analysis and their applicability to a placemaking research question