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Lecture | Research Seminar

From Tøyen-ite to Tøyen-ish: Scaling and Selling an “Inclusive” Neighborhood 

Monday 11 December 2023
Pieter de la Court

Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Tøyen, a neighborhood in central Oslo, Norway, this book chapter in progress analyzes the ways that various actors discursively define the boundaries of the neighborhood, and the consequences that that work has for the people who live there. Local resident initiatives have worked in recent years to frame Tøyen as a positive example of what a future, more inclusive Norway could look like, where cultural and linguistic diversity is celebrated. However, the neighborhood’s central location also makes it an attractive location for businesses and property developers, some of whom have taken up neighborhood organizations’ discourses of inclusivity and community participation for their own efforts to brand the neighborhood and sell it to potential consumers from wealthier areas of the city. In so doing, they are trying to expand the boundaries of the neighborhood to include not only Tøyenites, but anyone who believes in the “Tøyen-ish” concepts of “diversity” and “inclusion,” broadly understood. Neighborhood activists, however, see these developers as twisting their own words to hide their exclusionary goals: gentrification has become an increasingly important issue in recent years, as property prices skyrocket, and many residents are forced to move elsewhere. Through the example of Tøyen, I will show how opposed actors use seemingly similar language to make and contest boundaries in contemporary neoliberal urban renewal projects. 



Janet Connor joined the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics as an Assistant Professor in 2021. Before coming to Leiden, she received a joint PhD in Anthropology and Linguistics from the University of Chicago. Her current book project explores imaginations of the future of the Norwegian welfare state through an ethnographic study of how forms of listening are linked to conceptions of what it means to be a “good” neighbor, citizen, and state among residents, the local government, and business developers in a gentrifying neighborhood in central Oslo. She is also beginning a new project on listening practices as democratic action in participatory political initiatives in the Netherlands. 

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