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Professor Deborah Stevenson, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, Australia

10 Sep 2019
Professor Deborah Stevenson

Title: Rethinking Creative Cities?: UNESCO, Sustainability, and the Making of Urban Cultures

When: Thursday 3rd October, 4-5pm

Where: Geography Library

Abstract: Increasingly, intergovernmental and supra-state bodies such as the European Union and UNESCO, have been active in developing programmes and funding initiatives intended to support urban cultural development and the creative industries.  Frequently too these programmes are strongly focused on city imaging, place marketing, and cultural tourism.  As part of a major study examining the role of UNESCO as a global cultural policy operative particularly through programmes associated with its 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, this paper is interested in the agenda and operation of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) and the ways in which member cities balance their local cultural agenda with that of UNESCO.  The paper argues that, with the shifting priorities of UNESCO, the UCCN is becoming increasingly entangled in a tension between cultural development (frequently framed in terms of the creative industries) and urban sustainability. From an analysis of recent statements and initiatives of the UCCN, the paper suggests that the decision directly to affiliate the UCCN with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals poses a number of challenges for the Network and its member cities, not least of which is determining what sustainability might mean to networks of cities which encourages inter-city competition and was formed primarily to support and showcase creativity and the creative economy. 


Bio: Deborah Stevenson is Research Professor of Sociology and Urban Cultural Research in the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. Her research interests are in arts and cultural policy, cities and urban life, and the role of gender in shaping creative practice and cultural consumption.  She has published widely on these topics including the books Cities and Urban Cultures (OpUP, 2003), Cities of Culture: A Global Perspective (Routledge, 2017), and The City (Polity, 2013). Her latest monograph Cultural Policy Beyond the Economy: Work, Value and the Social (Edward Elgar) is due for publication in 2020, while the co-edited Routledge Companion to Urban Media and Communication will be published in 2019. Professor Stevenson sits on the editorial boards of leading journals including the International Journal of Cultural Policy and is an editor of the Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events.  Her recent funded projects include a major study of arts and cultural work in Sydney; an national investigation of cultural taste and consumption in Australia; and an examination of UNESCO’s influence on local and national cultural policy and urban cultural development. 

Department of Geography


University College Cork, Cork