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What image does Grenoble bring to mind? Innovative, polluted, mountains, violent...

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Published on
23 November 2020

New research sheds light on the images associated with Grenoble and its region throughout history. Thibault Daudigeos and Frédéric Bally, researchers and professors at Grenoble Ecole de Management, studied how the Grenoble territory has evolved and what future evolutions can be anticipated.

The study was carried out between 2019 and 2020 as part of the POPSU* program, which is funded by the French Ministry of the Ecological Transition and the Grenoble Alpes Metropolis. The project was led by Thibault Daudigeos, who coordinates the Territories in Transition Chair at GEM, and Frédéric Bally, an associate researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Management.

The research results are based on an analysis of 7,500 news articles from national and international sources that were published between 1945 and 2019. “We also compared results with Rennes, a metropolis that is similar in size,” explains Thibault. Through this analysis, several key themes were apparent: “Grenoble, an innovative city”; “a city in the mountains”; “a polluted city”; “a violent city”; and “a sports city”.

Security: an omnipresent theme since 1945

“We observed that the issues of law and order were present in every political mandate from the 60s onwards. This was also the case for other metropolises. Every decade includes an event that renews focus on the question of security: the 50s were marked by terrorist acts tied to the Algerian War; the 60 and 70s were marked by violence tied to prostitution and extreme left activism; and the 90s were marked by the legal issues surrounding Alain Carignon who was minister of communication at the time.”

Delinquency tied to Grenoble since 2010

“2010 marked a turning point that associated Grenoble with the image of a ‘violent city’. The issue was stigmatized in part by Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech in July 2010 on the subject of urban violence. The speech was shared widely by the media and greatly contaminated the territory’s image,” says Thibault.

Another related factor: “The ‘performance’ oriented perspective of media has greatly impacted how people perceive the City of Grenoble. As a result, the stigmatization of the city has had a major impact on the city’s attractiveness and has increased the population’s feeling of insecurity. In addition, this has reduced the visibility of the city’s specific advantages such as its unique location surrounded by mountains.”

Security disappears on the international level

“While the issue of security in Grenoble has been omnipresent at the national level, it has disappeared on the international scene and instead been replaced by the image of a ‘mountain, sports and innovation’ city,” highlights Thibault.

“The recent analysis of the first 10 months of 2020 have demonstrated there is a certain focus on the COVID crisis and the security theme. But, media coverage of the local elections has also highlighted the lifestyle of Grenoble that is motivated by the environmental transition. While images of Grenoble can change, over the long term we see that the city benefits from a certain stability in its image as compared to Rennes for example. This is due to the specific relationships it has built over time between research, industry and universities in order to foster the image of an innovative city,” concludes Thibault.

*observational platform for urban projects and strategies

Territories in Transition Chair

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