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Eva L. Larsen


Community participation has during the last decades become popular within the discipline of health promotion as a method to build healthy communities. Given that people participating in community development experience a stronger commitment, hence improving their life quality, and that people’s participation is a criterion of success of the development process, it is crucial to gain knowledge of how people experience being part of that development process. This knowledge is essential considering the widespread use of community participation and the somewhat uncritical perception of the concept


This project seeks to increase knowledge of ‘community participation’ by exploring how people in a Danish multi-ethnic and socially deprived neighborhood are participating in its development and how they are participating in neighbourhood life in general. These results are used to discuss how to develop community building approaches that embrace the contrasting realities of everyday life.

Research questions

· What is the role of the status as a ‘stigmatized’ neighbourhood in the community building process?

· How is neighbourhood constructed and what values are enhanced in the process of community building?

· How do residents respond to this way of constructing community and how do they perceive their role of participation in this process?

· How do residents interact with and relate to each other and what meanings do these relationships have in community building?


Ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in a multi-ethnic and socially deprived neighbourhood in Horsens, Denmark. The dataset consist of ethnographic field notes, various documents related to local policies and to the neighbourhood, and 32 recorded open-ended interviews. The data were analyzed via an ethnographic analytical process and via a discursive narrative approach.


The research has shown that participation in neighbourhood development is meaningful to residents who engage in it, however only a minority do so. Moreover there are contradicting views among participating residents of how to define and practice good neighboring behavior. Residents have various ways of living meaningful neighbourhood lives, which relates to their perceptions of how a neighbourhood should be and what needs it should fulfill. These results encourage a theoretical approach that embraces community diversity in future community building projects.

Larsen, E.L, Manderson, L. (2009): “A good spot”: Health promotion discourse, healthy cities and heterogeneity in contemporary Denmark. Health & Place 15 (2009):606-613.

Larsen E.L., Hansen H.P., 2008: Fra forsker til beboer: hvordan etnografisk feltarbejde kan bidrage til sundhedsfremme i boligområder (From researcher to resident: how ethnographic fieldwork may aid health promotion in neighborhoods). Tidsskrift for Sygeplejeforskning, 24(3) 21-28.

The manuscript under revision deals with understanding community.

Timeframe: 11 June 2006 - 1 November 2009
Supervisors: Christiane Stock, Helle Ploug Hansen, SDU
External funding: Hede Nielsens Fond and Helsefonden

11 June 2006 - 1 November 2009 Christiane Stock, Helle Ploug Hansen, SDU: Hede Nielsens Fond and Helsefonden

Download (pdf) full PhD dissertation without articles





Last Updated 20.10.2023