Resisting Ghettos: State-led Gentrification and Community Organizing in Danish Social Housing

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Bjarke Skærlund Risager


University of Toronto


DKK 1,158,800




Reintegration Fellowships


This project studies the so-called 'Ghetto Plan' which aims to rid Denmark of 'ghettos' - social housing areas that meet criteria regarding resident employment, education, income, crime and 'non-Western' immigration - by 2030. The policy means that much social housing will be sold to private investors and many residents will be displaced in pursuit of 'social mixing'. However, the policy is being met with critique and resistance outside parliament, notably from the grassroots network Almen Modstand (Common Resistance). This project asks (1) how social housing, marketization, and governance are interlinked in the policy, and (2) how the policy affects residents in their everyday lives and how they resist it.


The project hypothesizes, first, that the 'Ghetto Plan' can be understood as a process of state-led gentrification made possible, in part, through 'territorial stigmatization' and involving both 'rent gaps' and governance of, what I propose to call, 'civic gaps'. The aim is to contribute to the field of gentrification research with a rigorous explanatory model that involves both market and governance, economy and culture, rather than reducing these to competing frameworks. Second, the project hypothesizes that the case presents a complex web of both organized and everyday resistance, in which ethnicity is a crucial factor. This holds the promise of a contribution to the burgeoning debates on resistance to gentrification and territorial stigma.


With an interdisciplinary approach drawing on human geography and sociology, the project will combine a rigorous theoretical approach with various forms of empirical data. The latter will include grey literature concerning the 'Ghetto Plan' and its implementation: media articles on the 'ghetto' debate: data generated through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with stakeholders: and field notes from participant observation of Almen Modstand's activities, such as demonstrations, workshops, and meetings.

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