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Multiple identities in place branding - embracing transculturalism

Conference contribution
Authors Eva Maria Jernsand
Helena Kraff
Published in Abstract presented at the Inaugural Annual Conference of the International Place Branding Association (IPBA) in London (Middlesex University) 7-9 December 2016
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Business Administration
School of Design and Crafts
Centre for Tourism
Department of Business Administration, Marketing Group
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Keywords Multiple identities; place branding; transculturalism
Subject categories Design, Business Administration


The view of place branding as monologic communication where all actors are squeezed into a unified voice has received harsh critique (e.g. Jernsand and Kraff, forthcoming; Marsh and Fawcett, 2011; Zenker and Beckmann, 2013). Aiming for a single coherent identity, which is promoted as a homogeneous entity, reduces places to simple monocultures and ignores the complexity that makes them intriguing (Kalandides, 2006).The display of a narrowly defined cultural norm does not correspond with the diverse nature of cities and countries today. The risk with failing to take multiple identities of a place into account is that cultural boundaries are reinforced, and that tension and disaffection is fostered, which can explode in conflicts between groups. People who do not know the culture or language of other ethnical communities living in the same city or country, or whose cultures are suppressed in relation to the image that authorities want to project will feel excluded. The movement of place branding from a business context to the public sphere has resulted in criticism since the concept has been used as a political tool for imposing the views of urban elites (Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015). To reach democratic legitimacy, place brand authorities therefore need to take responsibility, acting as facilitators (Kalandides, 2011) of the identity process of a place (Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013). The recent, broadened perspective of place branding should be seen as an opportunity for an inclusive approach to culture. The purpose with this conceptual paper is to contrast the focus on homogeneous cultural entities in place branding with the concept of transculturalism. Transculturalism rejects a view of cultures as stable and clear entities that are located only in ethnicities or nations but sees them as “hybrid formations” that are “characterized by interconnectedness, permeation and ongoing transforming dialogues between/among them” (Dagnino, 2012, p 13). A critical review of place branding literature and examples of place branding initiatives is put in relation to transculturalism. This serves as a base for discussing what cultural homogeneity vs diversity implies for the future of place branding. The study shows that the scarce initiatives that allow for other cultural norms are often thanks to the endeavors of individual entrepreneurs, rather than official place authorities. The authors argue that successful place branding needs to embrace transculturalism and use it as a lens to understand, explore, nurture and communicate the interplay between and richness of different cultures and cultural expressions.

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