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Alternative Spaces/Transformative Places

Democratizing Unruliness in an Age of Austerity


Joshua D. Atkinson and Clayton Rosati

Alternative Spaces/Transformative Places addresses the rise of unruly spaces in society, as well as communicative strategies that citizens and activists may use to democratize them. With the widespread use of austerity measures by governments and cities, unruly spaces are an increasing fixture in our modern world. Cities such as Flint and Detroit in Michigan, Berlin in Germany, and even regions of rural America, have all been damaged by the neoliberal policies that have left cityscapes and physical environments altered and unrecognizable. We now understand that unruliness has become a constant in contemporary globalized society.

As such austerity has degraded infrastructure, depleted local economies, and poisoned neighborhoods, we feel citizens must be empowered to reclaim such unruly spaces themselves. The book explores different strategies for the democratization of such spaces in urban environments, and the potential and problems of each. Such strategies can create alternative perceptions and alter pathways through those spaces—even connect communities hidden from one another.

Students and scholars of urban communication and community activism, as well as human geography, will find the concepts and strategies explored in this book useful. The discussions related to austerity measures provide context for many contemporary neighborhoods and communities that have come to be neglected, while the chapters concerning unruly spaces provide explanations for the difficulty with such neglected or degraded environments. Finally, the illustration of different communicative strategies for the democratization of unruly spaces will demonstrate the possibilities for empowerment within communities that face such problems.

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2 The Enclave at Wildcat Hollow



The Enclave at Wildcat Hollow

In this chapter, we introduce a case study that provides concrete examples concerning the problems and perils of unruliness, and also demonstrates the difficulties that can arise as citizens attempt to democratize such spaces. In particular, we examine lived experiences of people who have witnessed the emergence of unruly spaces from political and economic austerity in society, and the problems and struggles that they faced. For the most part, this chapter focuses on a region that stands as an enclave under Bonnett’s (2014) taxonomy of unruly spaces. Such unruliness stems from the deterioration of the rules that had shaped identity and performance within the community for nearly one hundred years. These shifts in rules were wrought by the inflow of rural gentrification, which held deep economic changes for the region. In many ways, the enclave functions in a similar way to spaces of exception described later in Chapter 4; both entail the erosion or removal of rules for the use of spaces.

In response to such changes, some of the families in the region banded together into a trust network in order to pool resources and resist the alterations to the landscape. We see this trust network as an attempt by the residents to democratize the unruly spaces that emerged in their community with the influx of newcomers and growing gentrification. We find that there are positive and negative aspects associated with the use of this communicative ←31...

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