Storytelling in Urban Spaces: Exploring Storytelling as a Social Work Intervention in Processes of Urbanisation

  • Hari SacréEmail author
  • Luc de Droogh
  • Ann De Wilde
  • Sven De Visscher
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Education book series (BRIEFSEDUCAT)


This contribution will report on the student project ‘Storytelling in urban spaces’ from University college Ghent. Combining theories of cultural studies and public pedagogy the project explored the semiotic framework ‘readers and writers of the city’. In the optional course ‘creative welfare work’, third year students from the professional bachelor of social work applied this semiotic framework by reading and interrupting urban areas in the center of Ghent. Applying the art of storytelling in processes of urbanization, students scrutinized a more cultural approach to social work that envisions civic learning as a process of wayfinding in society. To explore the values of this cultural approach, this contribution will focus on the link between the general semiotic framework and three student projects. In the concluding remarks, the issues of learning, the city and culture will be discussed to the background of this semiotic framework.


Social work Cultural studies Cultural semiotics Public pedagogy Storytelling Civic learning 


  1. Amin, A. (2015). Animated space. Public Culture, 27(2 76), 239–258.Google Scholar
  2. Banerjee, T. (2001). The future of public space: Beyond invented streets and reinvented places. Journal of the American Planning Association, 67(1), 9–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bouverne-De Bie, M., Roose, R., Coussée, F., & Bradt, L. (2014). Learning democracy in social work. In G. Biesta, M. D. Bie, & D. Wildemeersch (Eds.), Civic learning, democratic citizenship and the public sphere (pp. 43–54). Springer Netherlands.Google Scholar
  4. Biesta, G. (2012). Becoming public: Public pedagogy, citizenship and the public sphere. Social and Cultural Geography, 13(7), 683–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chattopadhyay, S. (2012). Unlearning the city: Infrastructure in a new optical field. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Corijn, E. (2009). Het maatschappelijk debat niet uit de weg gaan. In S(O)AP, Spanningsvelden in de sociaal-artistieke praktijk (pp. 41–57).Google Scholar
  7. De Brauwer, V., De Coensel, Y., Regniers, V., Van de Steende, K., & Berisha, E. (2014). Student Report: Reading Rabot.Google Scholar
  8. De Certeau, M. (2011). The practice of everyday life. University of California Press.Google Scholar
  9. Eco, U. (1976). A theory of semiotics. Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Elliot, B. (2011). Benjamin for architects. Routledge. Accessed 31 January 2016
  11. Gehl, J., & Svarre, B. (2013). How to Study Public Life. Island Press.Google Scholar
  12. Giroux, H. A. (2004). Public pedagogy and the politics of neo-liberalism: Making the political more pedagogical. Policy Futures in Education, 2(3–4), 494–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Graham, S., & Aurigi, A. (1997). Virtual cities, social polarization, and the crisis in urban public space. Journal of Urban Technology, 4(1), 19–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Habermas, J. (1991). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hajer, M. (1991, January 30). De dichtgetimmerde stad. De groene amsterdammer.Google Scholar
  16. Hajer, M. A., Grijzen, J., Klooster, S. A. van’t, Ovink, H., Wierenga, E., & Dammers, E. (2010). Sterke verhalen: hoe Nederland de planologie opnieuw uitvindt. 010 Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Harvey, D. (2008). The right to the city. New Left Review, 53, 23–40.Google Scholar
  18. Holston, J. (2009). Insurgent citizenship in an era of global urban peripheries. City & Society, 21(2), 245–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jenkins, H. (2012). Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Lorenz, W. (2004). Towards a European paradigm of social work. Studies in the history of modes of social work and social policy in Europe. Dresden: PHD Fakultät Erziehungswissenschaften der Technischen Unviersität Dresden.Google Scholar
  21. Makeham, P. (2005). Performing the city. Theatre Research International, 30(2), 150–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Marquand, D. (2004). Decline of the public: The hollowing out of citizenship. Oxford: Polity.Google Scholar
  23. McCann, E., & Ward, K. (2011). Mobile urbanism: Cities and policymaking in the global age (globalization and community (paperback)) (paperback)—common. University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mitchell, D. (1996). Introduction: Public space and the city. Urban Geography, 17(2), 127–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mitchell, D. (2003). The right to the city: Social justice and the fight for public space. Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  26. Rancière, J. (2003). The thinking of dissensus: Politics and aesthetics. In P. Bowman & R. Stamp (Eds.), Reading Rancière: Critical dissensus. London: continuum.Google Scholar
  27. Sharma, A., & Gupta, A. (2009). The anthropology of the state: A reader. Wiley.Google Scholar
  28. Staeheli, L. A., Attoh, K., & Mitchell, D. (2013). Contested engagements: Youth and the politics of citizenship. Space and Polity, 17(1), 88–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Swyngedouw, E. (2014). Where is the political? Insurgent mobilisations and the incipient ‘return of the political’. Space and Polity, 18(2), 122–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Throgmorton, J. (2003, January 7). Planning as persuasive storytelling in the context of ‘the network society’—viewcontent.cgi. University of Iowa. Accessed 25 January 2016Google Scholar
  31. Van der Wouden, R. (2002). Publieke ruimte en maatschappelijke integratie. In Strijd om de stad. Sociale en economische integratie in de stedelijke samenleving. Assen: Van Gorcum.Google Scholar
  32. Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), 1024–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wark, M. (1994). Virtual geography: Living with global media events. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Wark, M. (2011). The beach beneath the street. London ; New York: Verso. Accessed 31 January 2016Google Scholar
  35. Williams, R. (1981). The sociology of culture. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hari Sacré
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luc de Droogh
    • 1
  • Ann De Wilde
    • 1
  • Sven De Visscher
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Social WorkUniversity College GhentGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations