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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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5 Memory Revival in Mannheim



Memory Revival in Mannheim

The previous two chapters have illustrated the significant problems that have fueled austerity in contemporary society, and how emergent policies have degraded, or further degraded, physical environments in society. Despite the problems that have arisen from unruly spaces, they do not fully constitute cities or regions altogether. Oftentimes, policies of austerity, as well as feelings of resentment, lead to the isolation and avoidance of communities stricken by the problems associated with unruliness. Other parts of a city, however, may flourish, or continue to act as communicative components that facilitate democracy, and give rise to hope and dignity. As years and decades pass, spaces that were once communicative become unruly and degraded, while sites that were deemed unruly or wild become gentrified or altered through finance capital. The early insights of scholars like Hall (1969), Jacobs (1963), and Mumford (1962) help to demonstrate that cities are not static forms, but rather organic environments that are shaped by the movement, technologies, and communicative practices of people over time. Unruly spaces, like in the cases of Flint, Cairo, and the Bay Area, have detrimental impacts on communities and the lives of the people therein. However, the fact that cities are always in flux, and shaped by the communicative practices and technologies of people over time, provides hope for average citizens (or government—should ←119 | 120→they be so inclined) to take control over such unruliness. Recent scholarship, inspired by those early efforts, further demonstrates...

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