Philip Boland
    Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 6564

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    Local and regional economic development; identity and place; cultre-led regeneration; geography of the illegal drugs industry

    Research Statement

     1. Neoliberal Competitiveness, the Economy and Post-Politics

    This research analyses the theory-policy interface of economic development, and the transmission chain of ideas from the academe into public policy. In particular, it unpacks the relationship between academics, consultants, policy-makers and planners and how this shapes economic development, urban regeneration and city management. Empirically this has been grounded, over time, in studies analysing and problematizing economic development in Cardiff, Liverpool and Belfast. Theoretically, it contributes to extant debates concerning neoliberalism, globalisation, post-politics, rescaling of the state and the emergence of competitive cities and city-regions as drivers of economic development. In so doing, it problematises the reification of ‘neoliberal competitiveness’ as a hegemonic discourse and the neoliberalisation of city planning and development, and asks serious questions such as ‘where is the alternative?’ More recent work addresses the emphasis on specific cityspaces as key locations of competitiveness – i.e. the ‘competitive waterfront’. With colleagues at Queen’s we have undertaken comparative work looking at waterfront developments in Liverpool, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin. Another dimension concerns the social economy, community planning and sustainable communities; looking in particular at concepts of the community and neighbourhood, the participatory processes of local governance and the degree to which the design and management of local areas is genuinely inclusive of marginalised groups. My expertise in this area has fed into a major submission to the ESRC Urban Transformations initiative; involving a range of academics in different UK universities the project is entitled: “There is an Alternative: Social and Solidarity Economics and the Just City”.

    2. Cultural Economy and City Branding 

    This work explores the growth in importance of the cultural economy and city branding strategies in shaping the dynamics of the contemporary city. One aspect engages with debates on culture as tool for regeneration, economic development and the management of urban space, and its increasing centrality in local, regional and national public policy. Another strand examines the explosion of interest in branding the city and how this is now integral to the planning, regeneration and management of the city. In so doing, this work engages with the possibility that major regeneration projects, cultural planning and city branding might, in reality, lead to the creation of ‘identikit cities’, spaces of consumption for societal elites and, equally important, the implications of this transformation of urban space for different social and demographic groups in the city. The empirical focus of this work has analysed Liverpool’s hosting of the 2008 European Capital of Culture through deconstructing the hype of cultural regeneration and urban renewal to reveal different definitions of culture, different geographies of culture and different cultural experiences. Other work critically analyses the re-branding Liverpool as a ‘sexy city’ in a ‘global beauty contest’, focusing on the use of culture to re-image the city and whether this re-invention represents the reality of life across society and space. Most recently, this work has led to securing a significant Leverhulme funded research project on: “From Plantation to Peace: Derry as the UK’s First City of Culture”. This is a live project problematizing the re-invention culture in a spatially divided city, focusing in particular on the mobilisation and operationalisation of culture as a cure for sectarianism and conflict when historically contested cultural identities were the cause of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

    3. Image, Identity and the City 

    This work engages with images of people and place, the processes of identity formation in the city and how this affects the decisions for city planning and development. The research examines the construction of images of the city and its population, in so doing it explains how important events and processes, and their coverage in the media, lead to the creation of negative and positive place imagery and social stereotypes. Another dimension engages more directly with the social construction of identity in the city, with specific reference to place, phonology and race. A novel contribution here lies in developing the theoretical concept of sonic geography to analyse the role a distinguishing vernacular plays in shaping local identity and the inclusivity and exclusivity of identities in place. In addition, this work highlights the territoriality, contestedness, layering and performance of identity and the global and local factors that shape identity. Issues of this nature raise important questions for the design, construction and management of cityspace. The empirical focus of this work has analysed the changing images of the city of Liverpool and its people, it also has a strong theoretical dimension in developing a detailed informed empirical investigation of the variety of factors influencing the construction of the Scouse identity and how different identities engage with spaces in the city.

    4. Illegal Drugs Trade and Economic Development

    The illegal drugs trade represents an important spatial, economic, cultural and political issue, however, somewhat surprisingly there has been a lack of detailed theoretical or empirical engagement and inquiry from academic geographers. This work engages with the multidisciplinary debates concerning our understanding of and approaches towards the cultivation, production, trafficking, distribution and use of illegal drugs. In particular, the research analyses the economics of the illegal drugs trade and its connections to local, national and international economic development. This research has three dimensions. The first problematises the social construction of drugs in contemporary society and current drugs policies; the second addresses the spatial dynamics of the illegal drugs trade from the global to local scale; the third analyses the role of illegal drugs in cities, for example informal economies, alternative economic spaces, links to economic development and urban regeneration and the drugs-crime nexus. In so doing, it highlights the challenges the drugs economy poses for public policy makers and those involved in the planning and management in cityspace.



    EVP 3012 Comparative Planning Studies; EVP 2009 Planning and Climate Change;EVP 7022 Local and Regional Development

    Frequent Journals

    • Social and Cultural Geography

      ISSNs: 1464-9365

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1470-1197


      Scopus rating (2018): CiteScore 2.45 SJR 1.322 SNIP 1.421


    • Regional Studies

      ISSNs: 0034-3404

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1360-0591


      Scopus rating (2018): SJR 2.327 SNIP 2.102


    • Regions

      Journal: Specialist publication

    • European Planning Studies

      ISSNs: 0965-4313

      Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1469-5944


      Scopus rating (2018): CiteScore 2.9 SJR 1.068 SNIP 1.352


    • Cities

      ISSNs: 0264-2751

      Elsevier Limited

      Scopus rating (2018): CiteScore 4.41 SJR 1.44 SNIP 1.919


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    Contribution to conference papers, events and activities

    ID: 52890