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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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4 BART, Cairo, & Spaces of Exception



BART, Cairo, & Spaces of Exception

Unruly spaces can have significant influence on the physical environment of cities or other sites in contemporary society. In many cases, unruliness can alter communicative qualities of cities, or the capabilities for hope or dignity described by Sen (2000). Such was demonstrated in the previous chapter, as a hidden geography in Flint deteriorated because of austerity measures that emerged from historical resentment, which created horrible problems for multiple communities in the region. What is worse, the unruliness of this hidden geography became the rationale for the introduction of additional austerity measures, which only compounded the problems facing residents. However, these physical issues are not the only problems that arise from unruliness and austerity. Oftentimes, austerity entails the enactment of control over communication processes—or communication qualities—within a city. In many ways, the control enacted by authority figures cuts citizens off from important communicative qualities described by Gumpert and Drucker (2008), and also further erodes perceptions about those physical sites that have been deemed to be unruly. Essentially, policies or actions to control communication in and around unruly sites impact the physical environment (as in Chapter 3), as well as the communication technologies necessary for democracy and construction of cityscape.

D’Arcus (2003) and Ahmed (2012) illustrate such austerity measures through their additional insight concerning the concept of militant particularism described in Part I. In their research projects, they note endeavors or processes that block the emergence of...

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