Djamila Boulil, Quirijn van den Hoogen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

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It is widely acknowledged that the contribution of arts and culture to sustainable development of peripheral regions differs from culture-led development strategies in metropolitan areas (see e.g. Duxbury 2021, Lysgård 2016, Van den Hoogen 2019). Empirical study has e.g. found that on an individual level the values of rural artists differ from those living in urban areas (Stevenson, 2018), most prominent being that they have less interest in wealth accumulation, and that they avail of a network of professional relations that connects these rural artists to an ‘economy’ (Duxbury 2021) or ’ecology’ (Holden 2015, Bartleet et al.2021). Policies that include culture in rural development, however, lack an understanding of what this creative-rural ecology looks like or how it functions.

We aim to assess the strategies of cultural agents outside major city centres by asking how the spheres of arts and culture, the local economy and ‘the social’ interact in peripheral regions. Do these interactions contribute to sustainable (local) cultural/artistic milieus and to regional development? And how can such a contribution be demonstrated? Sustainability, here includes the durability of cultural ecologies themselves, i.e. cultural sustainability. We take the northern region of the Netherlands as our case study. This is one of peripheral regions in the country, spanning three provinces with one ‘urban’ centre, the city of Groningen (ca. 200.000 inhabitants). The region comprises ca. a quarter of the nation’s areal while only 10% of the population live there.

Our methodology combines a micro perspective, providing thick descriptions of the working realities of cultural agents in the region, analysing their collaborations with other agents in the cultural field and outside of the field of culture. To avoid hyperinstrumentalisation (Hadley and Gray 2017) we aim uncovering ‘emic’ (Beuving and De Vries 2014) value definitions of cultural agents rather than starting from the values defined by funders of art and culture. We combine these micro analyses with meso analysis through networks (Robins, 2012), mapping their development over four years, i.e. one cultural policy period. Currently, a preliminary round of data collection has been finished, allowing testing and finetuning our methodology.

Our conference paper therefore will demonstrate the value perspectives and networks of a part of the professional cultural networks in the city of Groningen. As our present data spans from 2017 to 2020, we can assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these creative networks. Our research takes a perspective in between current hyperlocal analyses of peripheral cultural agents and their values (e.g., Van der Vaart, 2019; Bell & Orozco, 2020) and macroperspectives that try to assess social and economic impact on a more generic levels, such as is done with use of the Audience Spectrum (The Audience Agency, 2022) and the Culture Monitor (Boekman Foundation, 2022) in policy advice. It also links up with research on entrepreneurial ecosystems that looks at the interplay between micro/meso/macro perspectives as proposed by Srinivasan & Venkatraman (2018; see also Goswami, Mitchell & Bhagavatula 2018; Thompson, Purdy & Venetresca 2018). Within art sociology, our research entails addressing the cultural sector from social systems theory, a theoretical lens seldom applied to the arts and cultural sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22-Sept-2023
EventInternational Conference on Cultural Policy Research (ICCPR) - University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
Duration: 19-Sept-202223-Sept-2022


ConferenceInternational Conference on Cultural Policy Research (ICCPR)
Abbreviated titleICCPR 2022
Internet address


  • peripheral cultural policy
  • instrumentalization
  • cultural ecologies
  • sustainable development
  • Social system theory
  • network analysis

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