Amidst a rising tide of awareness surrounding the unsustainable futures facing cities large and small, theorists and practitioners alike are turning to culture as a way to understand and foster new possibilities surrounding sustainable development. Small cities are seen by some to cultivate, by nature of their size and the kinds of connectivity they engender, unique understandings of the value of culture. While not all small cities offer progressive understandings of cultural sustainability, many are working with these concepts in progressive and innovative ways. This dissertation seeks to unpack the phenomenon of cultural sustainability – examining its relationship with the creative cities phenomenon of the 1990’s/2000’s, and with the over-arching logics posed by the larger forces of neoliberal globalization. It looks at the ways in which cultural sustainability agendas are being implemented by governments within municipal small city contexts – the empirical portion of this study conducting case studies analysis, including documentary research, interviews and critical analysis, of the British Columbian (Canadian) small cities of Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops. Through this research I explore a potential paradigmatic shift – from Creative Cities to Sustainable Creative Cities. I probe at the differences between these two world-views, and ask how leaders intent on activating new holistic and future-conscious forms of development might conceptualize culture’s sustainable development role. Within this journey, I recognize a unique potential within small cities, in particular, for the formation of new approaches to sustainable cultural development – acknowledging their place on the margins of dominant municipal leadership practice and their subsequent potential capacity for innovation and change. Here I uncover significant challenges, as well as ‘glimmers of hope’, as these cities struggle to actualize culture’s sustainable development potential.
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Thesis advisor: Poyntz, Stuart
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