Bonding and bridging: Social cohesion in collaborative cultural practices in shared local spaces

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Participation in arts and culture is often claimed to enhance community-building and social cohesion. However, our knowledge as to what kinds of communities and cohesion cultural institutions offer, and under what conditions, is limited. The article contributes to this knowledge by studying social cohesion in citizens’ own practices of culture in localized groups and shared spaces. More particularly, it explores a specific type of cultural institution: cultural centres that combine the presentation of art with creative and social activities for professionals and amateurs alike. Analysing qualitative data collected in Danish cultural centres as part of the research project “Participate: Citizen participation in Danish cultural centres” (2019–2023), the article asks: What forms of social cohesion are generated in selected collaborative cultural activities in shared local spaces?
The article first presents the research on local communities as well as the analytical framework for social cohesion on which it builds. It offers a definition of cultural centres and outlines the methodology. Hereafter, it presents three cases of collaborative practices located in cultural centres across Denmark: a creative crafts project for women with mental health issues, a citizen-driven historical association, and literary reading groups. Drawing mainly on interviews with participants, it analyses the collaborative cultural practices, focusing particularly on how the cohesive behaviour takes the form of bonding and/or bridging, and how it unfolds at the micro-, meso- and/or macrolevel, and in a relational and/or ideal dimension. Comparing the various cultural practices, it unfolds the situatedness and complexity of social cohesion, and discusses how bonding and bridging may be interconnected as well as materially mediated by cultural artefacts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordisk Kulturpolitisk Tidskrift
Pages (from-to)26-41
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


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