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Debates around Cultural Re-imaging and Culture-led Urban Regeneration: The Politics of two Festivals in Gwangju and Glasgow

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AbstractIn this study, we look at the cultural politics surrounding the narratives of cultural festivals in Gwangju, South Korea and Glasgow, Scotland. These two cities illustrate both a general obsession to become world-class, and intervening efforts toward achieving world ranking. Through archives and in-depth interviews with key actors from the Gwangju Biennale and Glasgow’s West End Festival, this study observes how different narratives regarding urban cultural festivals interact. It also takes a closer look at how instrumental narratives behind these events constrain community involvement. Our findings suggest that both cities adopted an instrumental approach to their cultural festivals. In both cases, the instrumental focus of festival organizers curtails community participation, by focusing on professionalism in both the public and private sectors. Community groups challenged the approach at different levels. We argue that cultural festivals are places where different narratives, such as goal-oriented instrumentalism and self-realisation, interact, compete, and negotiate with each other. We also demonstrate that an instrumental approach in the awareness of urban competition drives the direction and meaning of both the cultural festival itself and the community involvement in it.


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