Text, talk, things, and the subpolitics of performing place

I.M. Buizer, E. Turnhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This article tells the story of how a group of Dutch and Belgian citizens organized themselves to promote an area that they valued, to put it on the map, to raise awareness about its qualities, and to protect it from urban and industrial development. Our theoretical perspective focuses on the performative and political aspects of this place-making process and the discursive and material practices involved. We connect this to Beck’s concept of subpolitics. Our findings show how the group performed this place not only through text and talk – giving the area a name, using their knowledge and expertise to raise awareness about its values, lobbying and cooperating with decision-makers –, but also through things – installing art objects and information signs that articulate certain characteristics and values of the area. Our findings demonstrate the struggles involved in these performances. The group involved multiple perspectives on what the important values and characteristics of the area are and on what strategies would work best in trying to influence decision-making and protect the area. However, the use of expertise as the main strategy to gain influence excluded the more critical and activist strategies and privileging archaeological and historical values and characteristics came at the expense of attention on agricultural and natural values. Our findings make clear that performing place cannot be taken to be homogeneous and that it inevitably involves multiple perspectives and demands. The struggles, power relations and dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that this multiplicity implicates reveal a form of sub-politics that involves both politicization and depoliticization. Also, it is a form of subpolitics that is more diverse and ambiguous than Beck’s conceptualization presupposes by its emphasis on the role of outsiders as a homogeneous group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530-538
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • politics
  • participation
  • construction
  • governance
  • identity
  • policy
  • space


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