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Space, place and the historical and contemporary articulations of regional, national and European identities through work and community in areas undergoing economic restructuring and regeneration

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Socioeconomic shifts and the restructuring of identity

Increased personal and professional migration taking place across Europe, feelings of belonging and reformation of personal identity are issues for new research.

Society

The SPHERE (Space, place and the historical and contemporary articulations of regional, national and European identities through work and community in areas undergoing economic restructuring and regeneration) project explored themes of identity and belonging and examined how these are reshaped in the context of socioeconomic change and new cultural landscapes. A multidisciplinary approach was used to examine how life experiences and cultural practices affect emerging identities. Taking into account six of Europe’s largest economies, the EU-funded research project put the spotlight on sources and implementation of regeneration policies for perceptions of community. Considering socioeconomic transformations and accompanying challenges to cultural identities and practices, project partners looked at historic regional and cultural identities. The aim was to assess the impact of regeneration activities alongside the introduction of new industries, services and jobs in creating new economic and cultural landscapes. In tracing this evolution, researchers were particularly interested in seeing how the shift influenced cultural identities as related to work, class and gender. SPHERE partners also endeavoured to determine the effects of other regeneration processes in forming people’s understandings of place and their sense of belonging. A series of international steering committee meetings were held, and a Livelink facility ensured that partners could communicate and share information. This also enabled a total of 19 online meetings. A website served as the project’s main dissemination medium, in addition to the partners’ national websites. In efforts to establish good relations with regional and national audiences, partners worked closely with regional advisory groups, and fieldwork was presented at various meetings. The team issued various reports and also secured a book contract to share project outcomes with a wider audience. A synthesis report notes that processes of de-industrialisation and regeneration within the European context had a profound impact on restructuring. SPHERE members also reported that notions of place and conceptions of gender are closely related to changing or enduring political and cultural alignments, while ‘race’ or ethnicity are heavily tied to culture shifts and identity formation. In seeking to determine the cultural and identity-related impact of regeneration policies in de-industrialised regions, SPHERE findings stand to provide valuable insight to policymakers across Europe. This is also important when considering whether new identities have emerged and if new notions of being and belonging are being articulated through an emerging sense of ‘Europeanness’.

Keywords

Migration, personal identity, SPHERE, regeneration policies, cultural identities

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