Pop-up Polanyi: Cultural entrepreneurs and the ‘vacancy fix’

Michael Scott, Gerti Szili

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Gentrification as an urban strategy pivots upon the dual mediation of the city as a site for aesthetic consumption and pleasure, and as a space of potential ground rent. The recent rise of urban regeneration programs that assist small scale cultural entrepreneurs into disused commercial property – ‘pop-up shops’ – is one example of the convergence of the urban cultural economy and gentrification. This article presents a preliminary explanation of the function of such urban programs through Karl Polanyi's socioeconomic concepts and the case of Renew Adelaide. It is argued that Renew aligns and then stabilises different Polanyian modes of economic integration (reciprocity, redistribution, and exchange), while inducing a partial and temporary de-commodification of urban space. This approach outlines how ‘pop-up’ programs contain multiple objectives. First, they induce the images of creative city vibrancy that can be folded into contemporary place marketing. Second, they enable celebrated entrepreneurial subjectivities to be performed. Third, they illustrate how ‘vacancy fixes’ are addressed via small-scale cultural projects supporting land banking for the owners of properties whose rent gaps have yet to be closed. This Polanyian approach explains how the modes of integration undergirding these programs are assembled via an orientation to the real or symbolic processes of gentrification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-27
Number of pages6
JournalCity, Culture and Society
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Creative cities
  • Cultural entrepreneurs
  • Gentrification
  • Polanyi
  • Pop-up
  • Rent gap


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