Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Urban Drama: Power Mediation in Antagonistic Copenhagen

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Abstract:  Recent research on participation in Danish urban planning has identified three typical formats of engagement: hearings, dialogue meetings, and workshops. Alongside these mainstream approaches, a plethora of less formalized and experimental formats drawing inspiration from collaborative and performative art practices have emerged. However, common to both the mainstream and experimental formats of participation is a difficulty when it comes to dealing with more strategic issues of power in the city. This article introduces and discusses the development, application, and power analytics of a format that focuses on these issues, the conflict and power-mediation method Free Trial! conceived by a local nongovernmental organization as a staged court case for high-profile issues in the city, which straddles political theater, deliberative participation, and research. The article demonstrates that advocacy, agonism, and liminoidity are the core elements that make the format effective in handling contentious issues in a constructive and enlightening manner within its created arena. However, it also shows that the handling of issues of power transcends the limits of this arena. To avoid reproducing unbalanced power relations of the city in general, the core elements of the format need to be incorporated among the wider public through an autonomous organization with this as its primary aim.

Keywords:  advocacy; agonism; conflict; democracy; liminoid space; participation; urban development; urban planning; urban politics



© Jan Lilliendahl Larsen, Martin Severin Frandsen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.