Sofia Cele is a senior lecturer & associate professor (docent). Her research is within critical urban and cultural geography. Particular interests are: identity processes; creativity and place theory; art making; vernacular landscapes; everyday politics; children’s geographies, planning; gardening; the urban green & non-human geographies; experimental qualitative methods; & creative writing.
Academic merits: PhD
Keywords: qualitative methods childrens geographies feminist research methodology creative work planning and urban design urban politics place identity everyday politics gardening everyday life non-human geographies creative writing participatory planning urban green nature art making
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My background is diverse with a masters degree in urban and regional planning, a PhD in Human Geography, and professional degrees in journalism, creative writing, horticulture, as well as garden design from Sweden and the UK. I have also studied various other subjects such as philosophy of art, literature, and environmental science.
My broad background is reflected in my research as well as in my teaching. My interest meanders between questions of identity, place experiences, relations, communication, creative and artistic expressions, and everyday politics. I am very interested in subjective narratives and how individuals create their own spaces within the contexts they are in, but also how larger structures such as the planning rationale or politics, often contradicts the subjective and emotional landscapes of individuals.
My research career started as I undertook my postgraduate studies in human geography at Stockholm University in 2002. I finished my PhD in 2006, and my thesis Communicating Place. Methods for Understanding Children’s Experience of was awarded the price for ’best social science thesis’ by Högskoleföreningen (Stockholm).
I came to Uppsala University as a post doc, and have been working (in the following order) as an assistant professor, senior lecturer and associate professor.
I teach various courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level in topics such as academic writing, urban theory, children’s geographies, planning, history of geographic thought, social and cultural geography, and qualitative methods. I am particularly interested in helping students with their writing and I am happy to supervise students at all levels of their academic training, from their first day at university until the PhD defence.
Currently I am the proud supervisor of PhD students: Tina Mathisen, Cecilia Fåhraeus and Lisa Larsson.
My previous PhD students are:
Dr Sara Johansson (2013) http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:640528
Dr Jon Loit (2014) http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:757075
Dr John Guy Perrem (2016) http://uu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:1034001
My main research focus is the relationship between subjective experiences and larger political structures. I am particularly interested in questions of identity, place experiences, relations, communication, creative and artistic expressions, and everyday politics. I explore the individual's position within social and political contexts, and how people create their own spaces within the contexts they are in. I often focus on how aspects such as age and gender affect individuals’ various abilities. This has led me to analyse how larger structures, such as the planning rationale or politics, often contradicts the subjective and emotional landscapes of individuals. Currently, my focus is on the relationship between place, memory, identity and creativity, with a particular focus on gardening and art making.
My main projects have focused on urban environments and how people interpret and negotiate the physical, social, cultural, and embodied experience of the environment and how this is transformed into meaning making and identity processes. A particular interest is how it is methodologically possible to research and communicate experiences, and this has made me explore how ethnographic and feminist methods and methodologies can be practised within geography. I am specifically interested in how it is possible to communicate non-verbal aspects of human experiences, and this has led me to explore visual methods, such as photography, video work, and a variety of participatory walking practices. My methodological interest has also made me focus on experimental academic writing and how writing practices include and exclude different types of knowledge.
The Contradictions of Urban Gardening: Culture, Politics and Planning
The purpose of this project is to critically review urban gardening as part of contemporary urbanism in Sweden. The purpose will be addressed using ethnographic research methods as well as interviews and document analysis, involving urban gardeners and planners in Stockholm. Focus is on two underlying aims. First, what values do urban gardening generate for urban dwellers in contemporary society? Focus is on urban gardens as spaces of creativity and ideologically based vernacular aesthetics, and gardening as an embodied caring practice involving relationships with plants, animals and places. Second, what is the role of urban gardening within the contemporary planning system? As private developers gain more influence in the planning process the pressure to exploit urban nature is high. By allowing urban gardening initiatives, produced by voluntary forces on temporary spaces, councils have the opportunity to label themselves sustainable while simultaneously making it possible for developers to exploit more permanent areas of the urban green. The project is theoretically based in cultural geography, and critical urban planning studies, and will generate both basic and applied research.
Identity, creative processes and geographies of fame
This project focuses on the relationship between identity, creativity, art making, embodiment and the emotional landscapes and everyday practices that are related to these issues. It draws on in-depth interviews with musicians, authors, performance artists, and actors. The project is explorative in nature and asks questions about the relationship between identity and art making. It explores art making with a specific focus on the subjective experiences and embodied aspects of creativity and processes of making art. Key areas explored in the project are: memory, the meaning of place, identity, emotions, well-being, how to communicate the non-verbal, and how career, fame and failure affect these issues. The project is based within social and cultural geography.
The Urban Green and Social Sustainability
This project focused on the urban green and its influence on aspects relating to urban sustainability. As in my previous projects, the theoretical core is people’s relationship to the places and spaces of everyday life. The key focus areas of the project are the future of the urban green in dense cities, what is its role, and how does it affect meaning making, place attachment, and identity in urban environments? Of central importance is understanding how planners, (landscape) architects, and politicians form their visions of the urban green, as well as how individuals relate to the urban green in their everyday interaction with the environment. How do safety and fear interrelate in the experience of green areas and parks? Is this dependent on age, gender, and ethnicity? Are there specific structures and types of planting that help increase safety in urban parks? How can plants and trees, which are dependent on time and the stability of place, be handled within urban planning? Of specific interest are also individuals’ personal relationship with urban green areas and interaction with plants, with a focus on activities, such as guerrilla gardening and urban gardening. This work was financed by FORMAS.
Dichotomous Open Spaces: Teenage Girls’ Perceptions of Parks
In this project, I continued to focus on the experience of place, this time with the help of teenage girls in central Stockholm. Through participatory methods, such as walks and auto-photography, the girls expressed their experiences of a city-centre park. The emotional and social aspects of place were clearly communicated but also how rhythms and sensuous impressions greatly shape experience of place and meaning making in an everyday perspective. The complex relationship between safety and fear was also a central focus and how this in turn relates to the social and material aspects of parks and park planning. The work was financed by FORMAS and the Swedish Research Council.
Communicating Place: Methods for Understanding Children’s Experience of Place
In my doctoral work, I focused on children’s relationship to place in urban environments. Drawing on the creative work of the Opies, Ward, and Moore, I set out to explore children’s own experiences, narratives, and interaction with their everyday environments. An important part of the work was to experiment with different methods to understand how various aspects of place experiences could be communicated by children. I conducted fieldwork in Sweden and England and worked with methods, such as interviews, drawing, photography, auto-photography, as well as walking. The children expressed detailed and vivid accounts of both concrete and abstract aspects of their everyday life and meaning making. The work also includes a discussion on how the findings can be implemented in urban planning. The work was financed by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS).
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