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"Let us be led by the residents": Swedish dialogue experts' stories about power, justification and ambivalence

Westin, Martin and Mutter, Amelia and Calderon, Camilo and Hellquist, Alexander (2021). "Let us be led by the residents": Swedish dialogue experts' stories about power, justification and ambivalence. Nordic Journal of Urban Studies. 1 , 113-130
[Research article]

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the practices of an emerging group of practitioners in Swedish urban governance: dialogue experts. As dialogical ideals have been mainstreamed in planning policies, civil servants and governance consultants have been increasingly commissioned to engage in dialogue with citizens within public deliberation, planning consultations or citizens budgeting. Even though these practitioners influence the whys, whats and hows of urban development, their practices remain curiously under-explored in Nordic urban studies. Dialogue experts experience the practical dilemma of being experts in a practice that has developed as a reaction to expert-rule and top-down power. We inquire into this dilemma together with a group of dialogue experts who work within an urban development scheme in the district of Gottsunda in Uppsala, Sweden. We ask: how do dialogue experts make sense of their use of power in dialogues with citizens? We explore whether analysing dialogue practice through the concepts of power and justification might explain the practical dilemmas confronted by dialogue experts. By engaging in joint inquiry with the practitioners in a series of focus groups, we learn that the practitioners are inclined to critique power relations that exclude marginalised voices from urban planning but find it more difficult to justify their own use of power in pursuit of a more inclusive governance system. The dialogue experts employ two types of justification for their use of power: an advocative justification, which revolves around aspirations to change the planning system to include marginalised voices, and a more conventional bureaucratic justification, by which they merely execute the will of elected politicians and follow established planning procedures. Even so, the practitioners remain ambivalent about their use of power. Hence, we demonstrate how power theory and joint inquiry between practitioners and researchers can shed new light on the practical dilemmas in dialogue practice.

Authors/Creators:Westin, Martin and Mutter, Amelia and Calderon, Camilo and Hellquist, Alexander
Title:"Let us be led by the residents": Swedish dialogue experts' stories about power, justification and ambivalence
Series Name/Journal:Nordic Journal of Urban Studies
Year of publishing :2021
Volume:1
Page range:113-130
Number of Pages:18
Language:English
Publication Type:Research article
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Published version
Copyright:Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 506 Political Science > Public Administration Studies
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 507 Social and Economic Geography > Human Geography
Keywords:dialogue practitioners, justification, power, urban governance, urban planning, planners
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-114936
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-114936
Additional ID:
Type of IDID
DOI10.18261/issn.2703-8866-2021-02-02
ID Code:26364
Faculty:NJ - Fakulteten för naturresurser och jordbruksvetenskap
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:21 Dec 2021 10:25
Metadata Last Modified:21 Dec 2021 10:31

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