Sites of Narrativity and Spatial Debate

Fences in Neighbourhoods in the Port of Riga


  • Dace Bula



Based on an ethnographic study of the neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the Port of Riga, the article examines people’s engagement with fences surrounding the territory of the port. It reacts to an observation that walls, fences and their materiality are underrepresented in research. Focusing on human engagement with the narrativity of the physical world, the article treats port’s fences as ‘storied matter’. This includes, first, an observation that these built structures constitute a narrative subject matter frequently appearing in the interviews of the lower Daugava residents. In addition, the discursivity of the Port of Riga’s fences is contemplated as constituted by their function, enforced or disputed by spatial forms of discourse (signposts, warnings, graffiti) and shaped via symbolic activities of the involved parties, which both address place-appropriation issues and transform the communicative character of these spatial objects. 

Author Biography

Dace Bula

Dace Bula is a cultural scholar, currently the director of the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia. She has published two monographs (in Latvian): The Nation of Singers: Folklore and National Ideology (2000) and Contemporary Folkloristics: Paradigm Shift (2011), as well as edited and co-edited a number of volumes. Her research interests and publications include a range of topics, such as history and theory of folklore studies, popular calendric practices, culture(s) and identities in the post-Soviet condition, community studies, and nostalgia; and, more recently, environmental humanities and eco-narratives.


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‘Living Next to the Port: Eco-Narratives, Local Histories, and Environmental Activism in the Daugava Delta’ (lzp - 2018/1-0446), funded by the Latvian Council of Science and implemented at the Institute of Literature, Folklore and Art, University of Latvia, 2018-2021. The oral narratives that constitute the empirical material of the article come from qualitative interviews with the residents (92 in total) of the four studied neighbourhoods.

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See: Jean Clandinin and Michael Connelly, Narrative Inquiry: Experience and Story in Qualitative Research (San Francisco, 2000).

The Free Port of Riga Law, adopted 3rd March 2000, envisages that the rented sectors of all companies within the port’s territory be securely enclosed and guarded, see:

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Rīgas ilgstpējīgas attīstības stratēģija līdz 2030. gadam (Riga, 2014), 67.

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Evan Hennessy Carver, ‘Graffiti Writing as Urban Narrative’, Literary Geographies 4 (2018), 188.




How to Cite

Bula, D. (2022). Sites of Narrativity and Spatial Debate: Fences in Neighbourhoods in the Port of Riga. Writingplace, (6), 120–135.