Living With Stigma: Spatial and Social Divisions in a Danish City


Inspired by Bourdieu’s theory of homology between social, mental and spatial structures, this essay dissects the relationship between spatial and social divisions in the Danish city of Aalborg using varied data from official statistics, surveys, qualitative interviews and field observations. Spatial divisions reflect differences in the objective distribution of economic and cultural capital, and are accompanied by symbolic divisions in residents’ minds. Some nuances are, however, added to Bourdieu’s homology argument, as there are discrepancies between objective distributions and mental schemes, such that the latter exaggerate and dramatize the former. The neighbourhood of Aalborg East is subjected to this symbolic exaggeration in the form of spatial stigma or territorial stigmatization. An analysis of residents’ strategies for coping with spatial stigma furthermore provides an illustration of Wacquant’s claim that this stigmatization can be met with a range of socially patterned responses ranging from acceptance or indifference to recalcitrance.