Whose city? : City image, social inequality and immigrants in the vision of Helsinki as a leading city

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Title: Whose city? : City image, social inequality and immigrants in the vision of Helsinki as a leading city
Author: Saloranta, Sonja
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Sosiaalitieteiden laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för socialvetenskaper
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2018
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201901171068
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Sosiologia
Abstract: In this thesis, I analyse Helsinki’s city strategy for 2017-2021 through questions of community membership, social inequality and immigration. Building on Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ I analyse the community building and citizen-making processes that the city strategy describes. The purpose of the study is to unveil the underlying values of the strategy, which functions as a guide for political decision-making and thus is sociologically interesting. Through the theoretical framework of critical discourse analysis I illuminate how the city image, the city community and its residents are imagined. I argue that Helsinki is imagined as an international metropolitan forerunner, where social inequality is pictured as an economic problem, and immigration is pictured as a source of unemployment. Growth is an important factor of Helsinki’s identity as a leading city, and it is recognised that growth may increase social problems. Helsinki’s way of handling social differentiation is used for identity construction, where economic productivity rises as a central factor beside social welfare. Immigration, which counts for the positively perceived growth, is, however, mainly described as a problem. Immigrants are discussed in a very generalising manner and mainly in terms of employability, and it is further underlined that the residents’ worth is measured in their economic contribution to the community. My conclusions are that there is a conflict between the welfare society and the idea of economic productivity in Helsinki, as the strategy aims to please audiences interested in both functioning welfare services and innovative business possibilities. I argue that the prejudiced idea of problematic immigration and of integration as employment only does not contribute to the picture of Helsinki as an internationally attractive city for immigrants, and it contradicts the previously mentioned welfare society aspirations.
Subject: Belonging
citizen agency and participation
city identity
community building
community membership
economic instrumentality
imagined community
institutional citizen-making
policy document
problematic difference
unproductive citizens
welfare politics

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