The Gendered Aspects of the Strong Region Discourse in a Weak Region - New Subject Positions for Non-Traditional Actors or Business as Usual?
In the move towards governance, Swedish regional policy has changed from a largely centrally steered approach closely associated with the social democratic aim of levelling out territorial differences and helping lagging regions. A more decentralized regional policy with a more neo-liberal vision has emerged in which regions must take responsibility themselves and for their own well-being and be able to compete effectively in the global economy in order to survive and thrive. There is a powerful rhetoric of inclusion - of all being needed in the struggle to be successful and achieve economic growth. In this discourse of 'strong regions' with active, entrepreneurial citizens, what spaces and subject positions are being created for those who do not fit the strong region image? What are the gendered consequences? What happens to those not usually associated with economic growth? Are new spaces opening up for the silent in regional policies? What identities are being constituted for, for example, declining rural regions and non-traditional regional actors such as women's groups, immigrants and ethnic minorities? What are the consequences of this? Are these groups being constructed as active subjects able to influence and shape regional policies or as the passive objects of policies? Using Carol Bacchi's the 'What's the Problem? Approach' (Bacchi 1999), these questions will be explored in relation to a relation to a sparsely populated, peripheral region, VÃ¤sterbotten, in the far north of Sweden.
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