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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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3 The Hidden Geographies of Flint



The Hidden Geographies of Flint

The case of unruly spaces in contemporary society described in the previous chapters is not something to be taken lightly, or brushed off as insignificant. It is true that Bonnett (2014) presents some of his unruly spaces and places as curiosities, or spaces that elicit simple emotional responses and little more. However, many unruly spaces have detrimental impacts on human beings and the landscapes around them, as demonstrated in the case of Wildcat Hollow. In many cases, the rise of unruly spaces can be traced to some of the most ugly and horrifying aspects of humanity: racism, exploitation, and violence. The problem that scholars have raised is that such unruliness is typically met with calls for austerity, often to punish those who helplessly live in the midst of such chaos. As more cities and nations embrace policies of austerity and such physical spaces increase in number, unruly spaces often expand to encompass and engulf more communities. This is not simply an issue of perception or inconvenience. The widespread emergence of unruly spaces across contemporary society holds negative implications for neighborhoods, health, education, and democracy. Part II of this book expands scholarly understanding of unruly spaces, and demonstrates the global forces that create many of them. In the following chapter, we explore the ways in which unruliness developed in the physical environment of Flint, Michigan, and how policies of austerity ←61 | 62→compounded emergent problems. For the most part, this would...

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