International conference “City-making: space, culture, and identity”, Zagreb, May 17-18, 2018

International conference, Zagreb, 17-18 May 2018

Within the project “City-making: space, culture, and identity” the city-making is regarded as a comprehensive concept aiming at untangling and understanding of multiple, multilayered and interdependent (f)actors and processes that influence contemporary urban transformations and urban life. Two perspectives that are crucial for city-making are the politics of space and the politics of difference. The first perspective evolves around the concept of public space as produced by social cultural, political, economic and environmental interactions, tensions and negotiations creating specific material and symbolic urban landscapes. The second perspective refers to the concept of diversity, or in gateway cities, of super-diversity of city residents: it arises not only with regard to cultural and ethnic differences but also with regard to professional, educational, employment, class, legal status, age, gender and other differences.

Both perspectives constitute knots at which global political, economic and cultural flows meet and collide with local imaginaries, histories, interests and developments, bringing about the restructuring of the city, its identity and positioning on urban scales of power nationally and transnationally. The notion of city-making refers also to various agents that influence urban restructuring and everyday life from top-down and bottom up perspectives – institutions, civil associations, initiatives and individuals – whose internal dynamic is also prone to various and changing power relations. Moreover, the multifocal optic on city-making is necessary since contemporary cities are salient hubs of global, transnational, national and local political, economic, social and cultural flows.

The multifaceted concept of city-making underlies the project “City-making: space, culture, and identity” which focuses on urban transformations in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. The project emerges from the theoretical insights of anthropology of the city, anthropology of space and place, urban migration studies, and post-socialist studies. In methodological terms it is based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, the phenomenological approach, discourse analysis, and mental mapping. Within the past four years the project team members have undertaken research into various topics such as:  the production and construction of green and open spaces in Zagreb from the mid-20th century onward; middle-class international migrants and migration of highly-skilled professionals to Zagreb; urban gardening, civil engagement and transition movement; blind persons’ concepts and understanding of the city; the unemployed residents and their urban practices; re-naming of streets and squares; sexual minorities and the use of urban space; art and public space, etc.

We would like to present some of our research results regarding Zagreb urban transformations at the conference. In addition, we would like the conference to give us an opportunity to discuss theoretical and methodological potentials of the concept of city-making as we understand it with colleagues doing research in various other cities of the world. Possible topics of the conference include but need not be limited to the following questions:

  • How do various actors of city-making (city managers, civil society associations, residents) imagine and create the city? How do these images and creations relate to one another?
  • Which strategies do the city governors use to create a certain identity of the city and raise the city’s visibility (branding, tourism, cultural events..) with the aim of positioning it in the global arena?
  • By which everyday practices do city residents symbolically inscribe themselves in the city, notably in public spaces?
  • How is social, economic and cultural marginality treated by policy makers?
  • How are issues of city governance (with regard to public spaces, diversity, marginality) represented in media?
  • How are the taken-for-granted mainstream political, social and cultural values (nation, democracy, multiculturalism, social diversity, tolerance) experienced in everyday practices?
  • Does the city function as a socially fragmented organism, a ‘social mosaic’ of parallel worlds which live side by side and do not interpenetrate or as an entwined whole? What is the potential for social cohesion as part of urban identity?
  • Which—and to what extent—economic, social, political and environmental factors as well as public policies influence the quality of life in the city?
  • What are venues to ensure sustainable and livable city?


Conference organizers:

Jasna Čapo, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb

Valentina Gulin Zrnić, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb

Petra Kelemen, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb

Sanja Đurin, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb



  • Project is supported by Croatian Science Foundation
  • Project leading institution: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb
  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
  • Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Department of Geography