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Simon JohanssonFil dr

Om mig

Simon Johansson joined the department in 2014. He holds a MSc in anthropology with a focus on urban agriculture and sustainable food retail in Stockholm, as well as BSc in political science and history. In addition to being a researcher and a teacher, Simon serves as the department's international coordinator and guidance counselor. In the past, he has also served as the Environmental ombudsman and union representative.


In June 2022 Simon defended his PhD thesis titled Comeback Detroit: The return of whites and wealth to Black city. The thesis examines contemporary urban trends in America, focusing on the generation of white millennials who are migrating to Black inner cities and how such migrations come to be understood, anticipated and designed. A central argument is that the comeback of Detroit is not about attracting jobs and industry, but about attracting people who are younger, wealthier and better educated than those who live there now. Although this strategy was successful at improving the central city's land values and tax base, it also aggravated urban inequalities along race and class lines, giving rise to social tensions that became articulated and addressed throughout the city in a multitude of ways.


Simon’s interest lies in understanding urban life and urban change. He is particularly interested in those things that are emerging, developing and on the horizon of tomorrow. He has been a visiting professor at the school of urban design and planning at HafenCity University Hamburg, and a guest speaker at Nordregio and the fair for infrastructure and municipal technology.


  • Introduction to social anthropology (2016 - ongoing)
  • BSc thesis supervision (2020 - ongoing)
  • The human mind: symbols, stability and change (2019)
  • The social anthropological research process (2015)


Simon Johansson's next research project - Coproducing the city - examines the increasing use of web 3.0 services and citizen reporting application, technonologies that enable citizens to become coproducers of urban infrastructures and service provisions. Using Stockholm as a case study, the research explores how coproduction can change both the citizens relation to their city, and the city's relation to the citizen, and what this means for future urban life.



Johansson, Simon (2021). Seeding Change Through Soup, Bread and a Vote: Utopics and Heterotopia at a Microgranting Dinner in Detroit. In: Kuppinger, Petra (ed.) (2021). Emergent Spaces: Change and Innovation in Small Urban Spaces. Palgrave McMillan: Cham.


Johansson, Simon (2017). Midtowns skugga - mellan gamla och nya Detroit. In: Borén, Thomas (ed.) (2017). Urban utveckling och interaktion. Ymer 137, SSAG, Stockholm.


Johansson, Simon (2015). Samråd och styrandet av känslor. PLAN 2015-11-18


I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Comeback Detroit: The return of whites and wealth to a Black city

    2022. Simon Johansson.

    Avhandling (Dok)

    Since the 1950s, the city of Detroit has declined in terms of demography and economic prosperity.  Once among the wealthiest and largest cities of America, Detroit now continually ranks as one of nations poorest, Blackest and most abandoned urban areas. 

    This dissertation studies urban change by focusing on the emergent reversal of the city’s long-term decline, exploring the period of time when both whites and wealth were returning to the city. As this moment of return is closely aligned to local notions of “comeback” and that the city was “coming back”, the thesis examines the reflections and contestations of the city’s contemporary comeback and the relations of power that frame this process. 

    The first part of the thesis examines how the city has changed in the past, and the ways in which this past has furnished particular understandings of the present. Racial and class struggles have defined the city’s trajectory and these struggles have shaped a cosmology of division and separation, informing everyday life and mundane relations, while being mirrored and expressed through the material city. In the second part, the thesis concentrates on the temporal, spatial and demographic dimensions of comeback and the emergence of a “New Detroit”; a city that is whiter and wealthier than before. By examining the subjects said to be returning, and how both the city’s spaces and futures are molded around them, the study inquiries into how comeback and a New Detroit is made to emerge. The third part of the thesis explores how Detroiters come to labor collectively, through ritualized events, with a city that is changing. It is in ritualized events that Detroiters come to experience diversity and community, integrating what is otherwise divided, while articulating both morality and legitimacy in relation the city’s comeback. 

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