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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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Concluding Remarks


The preceding chapters of this book demonstrate that contemporary society is increasingly marked and marred by unruly spaces. In some instances, these spaces create topographical silence, leaving traditional residents feeling isolated and hopeless about the future. In other instances, such spaces leach toxins into the physical environment, taking a tremendous toll on the health and well being of citizens. In all of the cases reviewed in this book, unruly spaces interfere with the flow of communication and segregate communities, creating significant disruptions for the cities and regions examined. As infrastructure degrades and austerity continues to be the dominant solution to the problems faced by governments and cities, unruly spaces will continue to emerge and expand; indeed, the problems of unruliness will only escalate and intensify. What is more, the seemingly never-ending expansion of these unruly spaces across modern globalized society will not only poison citizens or hide communities, but destabilize contemporary democracy. Indeed, we see connections between the recent rise of populist nationalism around the world and the spread of unruliness driven by austerity and neoliberalism. As citizens increasingly see themselves as separate from neighbors and nearby communities, they come to perceive that they are surrounded or ←241 | 242→outnumbered. Feelings of resentment grow. People call for the construction of walls, or severing ties with longtime economic and political partners.

In Wildcat Hollow, Mannheim, Berlin, and Detroit, global forces like the politics of resentment and post–1970s neoliberal policies have driven an age of austerity that...

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