Enam kui kahanevad postindustriaalsed linnad: Detroiti ja Narva linnaruumilised kestvused / More than Shrinking Postindustral Cities: Durations of Urban Spaces in Detroit and Narva


  • Tarmo Pikner Tallinna Ülikool / Tallinn University




kahanev linn, kriis, postindustriaalsus, Detroit, Narva, linnalisus, shrinking city, crisis, postindustrial, urbanity


Artikkel mõtestab kogemuspõhiste lugude kaudu kahaneva linna olemust, mida sageli määratletakse eelkõige majanduspoliitiliste katkestuste ja kahaneva rahvaarvu kaudu. Kahte autobiograafilist jutustust kõrvutav temaatiline sisuanalüüs toob esile Detroiti ja Narvaga seonduvad linnalisuse-kogemused, mis ilmestavad postindustriaalseid muutusi. Struktuurse kriisi kontekstualiseerimine linnade kahanemises näitab omakorda mitmeid linnaruumilisi kestvusi ja alternatiive otsivad kultuuripraktikaid. Linnalisuse ümbermõtestamine avaldub siin ruraalsete omaduste ja piiride esitamisega linnamaastikes. Ilukirjanduslike jutustuste ja nende kaudu esitatud lugude põimimine kahanevate linnade uurimusse võimaldab märgata kriisi mõjude ambivalentsust ning seejuures uurida kompleksset mitmesuunalist linnastumist.


The article analyses the characteristics and appearances of shrinking cities, which are too often framed in terms of structural economic ruptures and population decline. The notion of “structural crisis” needs to be contextualised in opening up diverse experiences of transformation in postindustrial urbanity. The study includes the literary stories represented in two books about the cities of Narva and Detroit:  Katri Raik’s Minu Narva (2013) and Francesca Berardi’s Detour in Detroit (2015). These autobiographical narratives were brought together along with qualitative content analysis, which focused on the emergent qualities of postindustrial cities: rurality, social change, political boundaries and trajectories of the future.     

The books analysed represent the shrinking of cities as part of their story of evolution, although the focus is on contemporary situations.  This way of seeing adds the time dimension to changes of urban landscapes, working to observe possible trajectories of the future in on-going events. These autobiographical narratives about the cities’ sudden transformations articulate diverse experiences and practices connected to living together, with shrinking infrastructures and economic turbulence.  The shrinking city appears as an ambivalent assemblage, because wasteland and unlit silence generate affective fears for one person, but somebody else will associate these conditions with freedom of practice and of interpretation. The decline of industry as a marker of structural crisis flickers in the narrated landscapes. Beside this, lively initiatives are represented, which associate industrial decline with the potential for emergent new beginnings. Some possible solutions to the postindustrial crisis become entangled with changes in everyday streetscapes. The narratives indicate that there is no reason to view the cities’ shrinkage as a total crisis extending into all spheres of urban life.       

Comparing these narratives about Detroit and Narva revealed similarities in the changes and in the experiences of the landscapes of the shrinking cities. The large-scale end of industrial production, the rapid decline of inhabitants and ethnic segregation – these are shared aspects of the shrinkage and in Narva, post-socialist transformation is a further factor. Therefore, the context and crisis of post-industrial urbanity evolve through diverse glocal interactions. The narratives show that global change and crisis inhabits particular places, and the search for solutions can lead to shifting urban characteristics. Reductions in municipal infrastructure made the cities more rural, so that such characteristics of dispersed settlements as silence, less lighting and growth of edible plants became widespread in them. Therefore, the framings of ‘nature’ and ‘rural’ in processes of post-industrial urbanity require more attention in future research. The (temporary) shrinkage renders visible coexistences between urbanity and nature-based practices, which problematize both the city as a form and the assumption that trends of global urbanisation are linear.

The boundaries and borders that appear in different scales can be approached as spatial spheres of coexistence, which transform in the crisis and simultaneously try to reproduce social integrity. Geopolitical territories appear side by side with the shifting of meaningful boundaries in the streetscapes. In Narva, the nearness of the frontier came, through events, into the everyday lives of people, affecting situations and indicating possible alternatives. Border-making entanglements with geopolitical neighbours were not so important in Detroit’s narrative, but changes in the city were presented as a sensitive barometer offering understanding of wider post-industrial transformations. The experience-based and comparative approach to tendencies in the shrinking city indicated a slowness and temporal shift which exist in the middle of turbulence. This spatiotemporal shift exists with fragmentary infrastructures, which accumulate certain cultural practices and simultaneously push to find alternatives for the future.            

These texts, with their diverse narratives, enrich the spectre of experience in approaching the tendencies displayed by shrinking cities. The situations and emotional affects represented in the stories can give important hints towards new methods for analysing and rethinking the tendencies summed up as the “shrinking city”. A contextual approach is needed to explain settings experiencing structural crisis, which often becomes to frame the shrinking cities. In the narratives analysed, the flickering post-industrial crisis appears alongside a combination of shifting cultural and economic tendencies, which as well as disturbances also generate spatial conditions and publics for re-inscription of political alternatives. Declining industrial production in cities is combined with diverse processes of shrinkage, change-seeking initiatives and durations of urban spaces, helping people cope with sudden turbulences and create meaningful places.  



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Author Biography

Tarmo Pikner, Tallinna Ülikool / Tallinn University

Tarmo Pikner  – geograaf, kirjutas doktoritöö piirilinnadest, praegu töötab vanemteadurina Tallinna Ülikooli maastiku ja kultuuri keskuses. Tema uurimustöö teemad käsitlevad muutuva linnalisuse ja vaidlustatud keskkonnapärandi aegruumilisi aspekte.  


Tarmo Pikner  – a geographer who wrote his PhD thesis about border-cities. He is currently working as a senior researcher at the Centre for Landscape and Culture, Tallinn University. His research is focused on spatiotemporal aspects of transforming urbanity and contested environmental legacies.