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The making, shaking and taking of public spaces


White, R, The making, shaking and taking of public spaces, The Problem of Pleasure, Routledge, C Jones, E Barclay and R Mawby (ed), Abingdon, UK, pp. 32-47. ISBN 978-0-415-67236-8 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2012 Carol Jones, Elaine Barclay and R.I. Mawby; individual chapters, the contributors

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What they do, and how they do it, is intrinsic to the excitement and communal attributes of such spaces. The way they interact with, and in the space, also contribute to the ambiguities of such space: we fear it and are exhilarated by it at the same time.

The aim of this chapter is to explore the myriad ways in which people, especially young people, use public space to entertain themselves, to engage in disreputable pleasures and to assert social identity. The making, taking and shaking of public space is achieved through activities such as swarming, street dancing, making music, hooning, swearing and gang fighting. Transgression takes several different forms and is informed by different motivations and social contexts.

The reshaping of community space (with the advent of the night-time economy), and the redefining of private spaces (through gatecrashing as well as public display of ownership through sheer force of numbers), mark out new dimensions in group leisure that simultaneously pose questions about deviancy, criminality and the boundaries of the conventional. The attractions and discomforts of public space, for tourists and locals alike, are encapsulated in acts and events that simultaneously fascinate and repel- and that keep us coming back for more.

The chapter offers a kaleidoscope of activities and events in order to demonstrate the sheer variety of ways in which public space is utilized and in the process socially transformed. Most of these, at some time and for specific reasons, have generated consternation among authority figures and the public at large. Yet rather than being deviant or problematic many uses of public space are now acknowledged as simply part and parcel of the ordinary urban experience.

As mentioned, this chapter provides a broad overview of activities and behaviours involving young people. More detailed and fine-grained analysis of specific groups and categories of young people feeds into the present descriptions - for example, previous work done on youth gangs (see Hagedorn 2007, 2008) and on Indigenous youth (see White 2002, 2009). How colonialism, immigration and marginalization are linked to particular social constructions of peoples and places is important to understanding why, for example, Indigenous youth and 'ethnic' youth gangs in Australia occupy the social landscape in the ways they do. Notwithstanding the need for specificity of analysis (which is beyond the scope of the present work), these same groups and categories of street-present young people nonetheless contribute to the general behavioural patterns, cultural atmosphere and social mosaic of contemporary city life. As such, they warrant mention in the discussions of public space issues provided below.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Criminology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Other law, politics and community services
Objective Field:Other law, politics and community services not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:White, R (Professor Rob White)
ID Code:77503
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2012-04-23
Last Modified:2016-09-30
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