Evaluating Cities of Culture


Special issue of Arts and the Market; Abstract deadline 15 Jan 2021

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Hayley Coulson

Evaluating Cities of Culture

Call for papers for: Arts and the Market

Guest Editors: 
•    Dr Franco Bianchini (Centre for Cultural Value)
•    Dr Alexandra Oancă (University of Leuven)
•    Prof Juliet Simpson (Coventry University)
•    Dr Enrico Tommarchi (University of Hull)
•    Dr David Wright (University of Warwick)

Articles are invited for a special issue in Arts and the Market on the theme of evaluating Cities of Culture, and the ways evaluation has been used – and perhaps in some cases, misused – in policy making.

Since the 1980s culture-led regeneration has gradually become absorbed into mainstream city planning, with a growing acceptance of the value of culture in transforming environments, economies and communities. Cultural mega-events like the European Capital of Culture (ECoC), the UK City of Culture (UKCoC) and other national and international City of Culture (CoC) initiatives across the globe have often been seen as effective catalysts and accelerators for urban regeneration strategies through the delivery of a focused and intensive programme of cultural activities, usually lasting a year. Evaluation studies and impact assessments are often portraying CoCs as producing positive socio-economic effects, improving the image of cities and attracting tourists and inward investment. While there are many isolated studies about the impacts of CoC programmes, they generally neither explore medium and long-term effects (with the possible exception of Garcia and Cox 2013) nor the relationship between evaluation and policy making.

If we take seriously insights from sociology of evaluation, critical policy studies, and the anthropology of policy, the evaluation of CoCs is not a straightforward data collection exercise but rather a practice of management and governance and a contested process whose effects can be very complex and ambivalent (Belfiore 2009; Espeland and Sauder 2016; Lamont 2012; Porter 1995; Shore and Wright 2011, 2015). In studies about the delivery and impacts of CoCs, there is often a lack of clarity about processes of evaluation, the main actors involved, the main practices and organizing principles, and the effects of evaluation itself.

In order to attempt to address these research gaps, we are seeking papers which put forward a critical discourse about the conditions, mechanisms and procedures under which CoC evaluations have been produced and that explore the often complicated relationships between evaluation and policy making.

In order to bring critical vigour to evaluation studies on CoCs, we invite our contributors to reflect on central themes and topics that this Special Issue aims to explore:

•    historical reflections on the changing priorities of urban cultural policy and other factors which (since the 1980s) have affected, and are likely to influence, local, national and international policy makers’ understanding and use of CoC evaluation research;
•    comparative analyses of ECoC, UKCoC and other CoC initiatives focusing on past, present and future processes of evaluation;
•    the changing meanings which policy makers attach to ideas of cultural value, cultural policy and evidence-based policy-making, and how these understandings are manifested in evaluating CoCs;
•    the changing presence of the need for evaluation within CoC bids and projects;
•    the multiplicity of interests, priorities and values at stake in CoC evaluation processes;
•    the relationships between knowledge production, policy making and structures of power,  as they manifest themselves, for example, in:
•    the roles of higher education institutions, individual academic researchers,  ‘academic knowledge’, consultants and other experts in evaluation processes;
•    the roles of cultural practitioners and the cultural sector more generally in evaluation;
•    knowledge transfers and im/mobilities between different types of actors;
•    the tensions between the production of evaluation studies and the aims and objectives of local, national and international funding/policy bodies;
•    the tensions between the search for ‘truth’ and the expectations of success and the need to ‘evidence’ it;
•    the nature of ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ in CoC evaluations and the relationships between evidence and claims;
•    the politics of method and the roles of methods in making and solving policy problems;
•    the different methodological approaches taken to evaluation in different CoCs.
•    the tensions between delivering the mega event and the need for a longer-term legacy plan, and between the politics of delivery and longitudinal measures of evaluation;
•    the  factors producing ‘failure’ in processes of evaluation;
•    the conditions that allow – or hinder – the transformation of evaluation findings into policy making and policy change;
•    the barriers and approaches (for example, top down or participatory) facilitating or hindering the process of turning evaluation findings into policy  change;
•    the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic is calling into question the continued relevance of, and political support for, the CoC format, including of the need for evaluating CoCs;
•    the ways in which the pandemic has had an impact on culture-led urban regeneration and its evaluation strategies and procedures (including the challenges of evaluating cultural programmes which are increasingly offered through online platforms).

The guest editors are keen to use the Special Issue as an opportunity to provide a platform for publication of postgraduate research, and for co-authorship between academic researchers, policy makers, cultural practitioners, artists and activists. In this way we hope to facilitate knowledge exchange between producers and users of academic research in the field.

Submission information

Abstracts should be sent to Franco Bianchini bianchin@aol.com by 15 January 2021.

Submission of full articles should be made to the Scholar 1 site for the journal  https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/aatm between 1 June 2021 and 31 July 2021. Please select this special issue from the drop down menu during submission.  Please review the author guidelines for the journal prior to submission.

The authoritative version of this call can be found here.


Belfiore, Eleonora. 2009. “On Bullshit in Cultural Policy Practice and Research: Notes from the British Case.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 15 (3): 343–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286630902806080.

Lamont, Michèle. 2012. “Toward a Comparative Sociology of Valuation and Evaluation”. Annual Review of Sociology 38 (21):201-221.

Espeland, Wendy and Michael Sauder, 2016. Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability. New York, NY, Russell Sage Foundation.

García, Beatriz, and Tamsin Cox. 2013. “European Capitals of Culture: Success Strategies and Long-Term Effects.” Brussels: European Parliament.  https://doi.org/10.2861/44227.

Shore, Cris, and Susan Wright. 2011. “Conceptualising Policy: Technologies of Governance and the Politics of Visibility.” In Policy Worlds: Anthropology and the Analysis of Contemporary Power, edited by Cris Shore, Susan Wright, and Davide Però, 1–25. Berghahn Series. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Shore, Cris and Susan Wright, 2015. Governing by numbers: audit culture, rankings and the new world order. Social Anthropology 23(1), https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-8676.12098.

Porter, Theodore M. 1995. Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press.

Shore, Cris, Susan Wright, and Davide Però. 2011. Policy Worlds: Anthropology and the Analysis of Contemporary Power. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.