CfPs: Tales of a city

Claudia Fonseca Alfaro Call for Papers

Please join the IUR’s workshop on the narrative formation around the city of Malmö, and on narrative approaches to the study of cities more generally.

Theme of the workshop

The tales of a city is a trope familiar from popular culture, but also from scholarship. Using the British city of Milton Keynes as example, anthropologist Ruth Finnegan (1998) has shown that the perceptions of cities and experiences of city-life is mediated through culturally circulated stories. However, the stories told about a city are not innocent, and impact the life of the people living there. The popular memory approach—worked out by the Popular Memory Group at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham—is one way to study narratives as processes of power. According to this approach, dominance, subordination, as well as resistance arise from the competition between narratives. No actor is in position to fully control how a given social formation is made meaningful through narration, but rather concessions have to be made. At times certain narratives becomes especially persuasive, resulting in the situation that other narratives have to be adjusted in order to be compelling. However, while one narrative might dominate the general public, alternative stories can be made out and kept alive in particular publics. The popular memory approach is developed for the study of the social production of national history, and needs to be made spatially aware and adjusted to the scale of a city.

Since the city of Malmö could be characterized as a quite ordinary city with an unusual amount of narrative depictions, it could be used as a good case for the continual development of narrative approaches to the study of cities and city-life. 

Aims of the workshop

This workshop has two mutually strengthening aims, and welcome papers that contribute to either or both of them:

  1. To create and critically assess an overview of the research on the narrative formation around the city of Malmö
  2. To discuss theoretical and methodological approaches through which stories about cities can be grasped and analyzed.


To get to know each other a little before our work, we will start with a joint free of charge dinner at a restaurant in Malmö on the evening of Thursday, 2nd of April. The workshop will take place at Malmö University on Friday, 3rd of April between 9.30 and 17.00.

The workshop will include a keynote lecture by cultural geographer and historian Toby Butler (Birkbeck University). Dr. Butler is a historical geographer and heritage consultant with a particular interest in oral history, digital heritage, and mapping memories. He is internationally known for his work exploring how history and memory can be mapped and used to interpret places and their pasts. Projects include Ports of Call, working with community groups and artists around the docks of East London to map and historically interpret the area (; the Bethnal Green Disaster Memorial Project ( and Groundbreakers, which focused on mapping and interpreting the pre-Olympic history of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.

It will also include presentations from Carina Listerborn, Robert Nilsson Mohammadi, Dalia Mukhtar-Landgren, Johan Pries, Cristine Sarrimo, Per-Markku Ristilammi, Christina Hansen and Andrés Brink Pinto.


The workshop is organized by the Institute for Urban Research (IUR). Please ask your questions and register to Robert Nilsson Mohammadi ( Last day to register will be Friday, 6th of March.