Resisting, reimagining, and reclaiming privatized urban spaces

[this had been up at my old site, but not within the CMS. reposting. – ed., 2010.]

Capitalism is a system which demands continual growth, which always is looking for new things to “produce,” commodify, and sell to consumers. Its growth in the latter half of the twentieth century has been fueled, in large part, by exploiting many formerly “pristine” (i.e., controlled by the state or civil society and off-limits to capital) social goods like global biodiversity, the genome, indigenous knowledge, sexual difference, and urban space. This exploitation has been particularly prominent in the aftermath of the structural crisis of the 1970s, an economic moment which resulted in much higher levels of capital mobility, retrenchment of the state sector after fiscal crisis and an increasing reliance on the private sector to provide state services, and a new emphasis on “producing” consumer and cultural identities, rather than traditional commodities.
As capitalism increasingly threatens public ownership of social goods like cultural identity, resistance movements – often referred to as “new social movements” (NSM) or, in the case of urban space, “the new urban politics,” have arisen to contest the ascendant governance of the transnational elite. In previous eras of market expansion into the realm of social goods, like the abuses of labor widespread among industrializing countries in the nineteenth century, democratic states intervened to mediate the sale of public goods. Thus, society – acting through its representative states – was able, at least on a temporary basis, to “protect itself against the perils inherent” in an era of increasingly pernicious capital.
In the late twentieth century, though, the commodification of previously non-market goods like urban space has occurred at a time when states are retrenching in their relative power over the global system. The fiscal crises of the 1970s, when broad-based economic growth slowed while demands for state expenditures on social programs continued to grow, combined with the crisis of state sovereignty brought about by the rise of transnational governance (such as the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund) and of a new, transnational capitalist elite, have increasingly left states without either the financial resources or the political legitimacy to deal with the capitalist crises that are beginning to arise from the new wave of social-goods commodification. This crisis of the state has left citizens with fewer opportunities to critique and oppose these changes; in this vacuum, new social movements have arisen to press both states and capital to address inequities and crises arising from capitalism’s spread.
Urban space as a commodity
“The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image.”
As part of this general shift to “privatize” (shift from public to private) the provision of the conditions of production, urban infrastructure and space of many sorts have become increasingly privatized. Where, before, the state was largely responsible for the construction and maintenance of spaces like streets and public markets, and where before these infrastructural services were often provided for public ends, today the production of urban spaces and infrastructure is largely dictated by the needs and requirements of private capital.
Private capital has assumed the primary role in constructing (both literally and figuratively) the environments in which city dwellers act out their lives. Even in spaces that have not physically changed much, the changing social construction of those spaces has increased the overall returns to capital at the expense of the public’s sense of ownership of these spaces. New urban spaces built under late capitalism are overwhelmingly private in nature; public use and tenancy thereof is typically subject to the whims of owners jealously guarding their capital. Shopping malls, gated communities, and privately run parks are more obvious exemplars of this; the increasingly “privatized” streets, once largely open to the public as gathering places for pedestrians and play areas for children but now alm0st totally controlled by the drivers of private automobiles, are a less obvious example. These efforts to resist the privatization of public space, and to (re-)redefine those spaces as publicly controlled, have resulted in political conflict. This paper examines three examples of these new social movements as they have arisen over contested urban space and links them to earlier efforts at privatization.
The Lower East Side
One of the foremost examples of the seizing of space from the public in the name of higher returns to capital is gentrification. Gentrification of urban neighborhoods typically involves the production of new cultural definitions for pre-defined spaces; these new cultural definitions are hopefully more palatable to bourgeois city dwellers than previous incarnations of a neighborhood’s identity and therefore can serve to drive up the market value of any given neighborhood. In the case of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a neighborhood that was long known as a firetrap of wretchedly poor immigrants packed into terribly overcrowded tenements – a neighborhood which arguably shows up in more true-crime stories than any other in Manhattan – was reinvented first as a bohemian utopia and then as a safe haven for wealthy creative professionals.
In the case of the Lower East Side, the capital that so successfully redefined the neighborhood was unique not so much in its quantity (though New York City in the 1980s saw real estate speculation balloon to theretofore unknown heights) but also in its origins: global cities like New York reaped many of the profits gained both through financial globalization and through industries which commodified the act of cultural production – namely media, advertising, and the arts. New York, in its vast diversity, was also arguably the first site where the need to construct new, ever more interesting identities to market to consumers led cultural producers to “mine” urban subcultures for ideas.
The growing incursion of yuppies into the Lower East Side, particularly in the section that was renamed “the East Village” in order to emphasize its links to the  bourgeois Greenwich Village to the west while simultaneously creating an opposition between it and the more comfortable West Village, sparked several resistance movements in the 1980s and 1990s. Squatting in vacant, speculator-owned buildings; guerrilla community gardens planted on vacant lots; and even riots over the right of the homeless to occupy public parks erupted as older neighborhood residents fought to control the cultural definition of their space.
Ironically enough, the movement to resist gentrification in the neighborhood – more protracted and vocal here than in any other neighborhood – ultimately failed, only to be memorialized in “Rent,” one of the most commercially successful shows to debut on Broadway since “A Chorus Line” similarly romanticized New York’s creative underclass. The mass-market visibility of “Rent,” of course, merely heightened the East Village’s appeal to would-be bohemians outside of New York; an extended sojourn in the East Village has become almost an obligatory rite of passage for wealthy Japanese youth who fancy themselves as counter-cultural. This influx of some six thousand Japanese residents (at any one given time) has created a strip of shops along Ninth Street catering to these counter-cultural Japanese residents and tourists. The availability of entire lines of squatter-style clothing at upscale department stores, the hyper-valorization accorded to Internet content providers (until recently, a major industry in Lower Manhattan) catering to even minute niche markets, even the Kandinsky prints hanging at the neighborhood McDonald’s, merely reinforced the notion that capital can (and will, if given half a chance) commodify the cultural signifiers of even the most marginalized populations.
Attack of the Body Snatchers: Queer Nation hits the mall
In the early 1990s, activists organizing around issues of sexual identity in major American cities hit upon the tactic of “reclaiming” spaces that are assumed to be under the control of (presumably heterosexual) capital in the name of queer visibility. Acting under the rubric of Queer Nation, a decentralized group organized as a network of local cells of activists in cities throughout the United States, activists worked to raise queer visibility through radical acts of invading and re-appropriating spaces from heterosexual bars to urban streets to shopping malls.
Queer Nation’s organization evolved from tactics first used within the queer community by ACT UP: decentralization, local control, and action that focused on public visibility within both actual and virtual (i.e., media) public space. This approach to activism simultaneously accepts one basic premise of capital: that identity exists insofar as it is displayed (hopefully with commodities one can purchase) within legible public space while simultaneously repudiating the meta-discourses underlying capitalist discourse. Instead, the theoretical underpinnings of queer nationalism insists on pluralism, on rejecting efforts by mainstream gay-rights groups (which routinely collude with the forces of capital) to compartmentalize and divide queers into camps like “lesbian,” “gay,” “Black,” and “female-to-male pre-operative transsexual.” Instead, Queer Nation and poststructuralist queer theory rejects both gay and straight mainstreams, opposing the complicity of both in “global processes of domination and exclusion.” Queer Nation actively espoused a post-identity view of sexual liberation; theorist Judith Butler called for activists to rally around “a certain resistance to classification and to identity as such.” “Queer” becomes, under such a rubric, an identity ascribed to all who are dominated and excluded by both straight and gay mainstreams; attempting to isolate strains within this group is pointless, for group identities endlessly intersect to create an infinite number of groups and subgroups.
Among the most dramatic activities staged by Queer Nation in the name of attacking capital’s grip over defining identity were the invasions of suburban shopping malls staged outside San Francisco and New York. Called the Suburban Homosexual Outreach Project (SHOP) in San Francisco and Queer Shopping Network (QSN) in New York, the actions took political activism, as practiced by a marginalized urban population, into the “safe” spaces of the suburbs. Both of these groups entered suburban shopping malls, looking the part of the downtown activist, and engaged in activity that would seem innocuous in an urban setting – passing out leaflets, holding hands, and sometimes kissing their same-sex partners. Practiced within the shopping mall, a realm intentionally cleansed of “dirty” sex and “dirty” people, these actions were downright revolutionary.
The shopping mall proved a particularly tempting target for activists for many reasons: it is a space built by and for the interests of private capital, specifically controlling and excluding potentially “dirty” elements of public space (especially the presence of marginal groups) in order to provide a “clean, safe, legible place” in which consumers may comfortably perform their peculiar act of capitalist consumption-cum-production. Above that, the mall provides the most visible quasi-public space in suburbia – a realm sold as a tailor-made haven for the bourgeois, heteronormative nuclear family. Sexual desire has been written out of the oral history of suburbia; instead, the only pleasures and desires that can be expressed within the entirely capitalized world of suburbia are those offered by consumerism. As such, shopping malls offer their customers myriad opportunities to outfit and improve one’s body (and hence one’s identity) with clothing, jewelry, fitness products, and even surgeries, but only in a manner that completely robs the body of its sexual implications. Consumers are to use these implements to feel comfortable within their own bodies (by bringing their bodies up to the impossible beauty standards set by media), but the commodities involved necessarily sublimate eroticism to merely another signifier; one purchases bodily enhancements to enhance one’s stock of “beauty capital,” as it were. The gaze with which the consumer views a “beautiful” body is distant, cold, searching for commodities, not at all like the erotic gaze.
The managers of national chain stores sometimes attempt to use the consumer’s gaze to differentiate their stores within the cacophony of marketing messages present in the mall. By hiring “brand ambassadors,” attractive youths clad in the latest fashions, the retailers can beckon to consumers: “you, too, can have this body – if you buy from this store.” Likewise, shoppers in malls, like denizens of any other public space, quietly cruise the crowds in search of bodies – despite the mall’s attempts to direct all desire towards the commodities available for sale. SHOP/QSN activists take the logic implicit in those relationships between shopping mall denizens and “tempts consumers with a commodity that… they already own: a sexually inflected and explicitly desiring body.” This temptation makes explicit the latent erotic tension and desire that shopping mall management, as agents of capital, try so desperately to suppress in the name of selling goods.
In the end, Queer Nation lost its activist momentum and ultimately disbanded in the mid-1990s. Many of its former members later found a home in the sex radical and transgender-rights movements that arose in the late 1990s, but capitalism eventually prevailed as the reigning discourse of queer America. Leaders within the “gay movement” focused on palatably representing queers in public space within the parameters set by capital; their efforts have indeed led to unprecedented visibility for queers within the public sphere, from television advertisements featuring lesbians adopting children (and therefore requiring financial planning services) to rainbow banners hanging on city lampposts. Indeed, youth-oriented retailers in many shopping malls now use aggressively homoerotic imagery to market their wares, from wall-sized posters of underwear-clad men grabbing one another to displaying black leather and chrome outfits that resemble costumes donned by sadomasochists; the hope is that younger, more sexually aware customers will view the retailer as “hip” and attuned to contemporary attitudes towards sexuality.
In a wider sense, capital has adapted to, subsumed, and subverted queer resistance movements, just as the rise of micro-marketing in the 1990s has also seen other youth resistance movements like hip hop and skater culture subverted and dominated by capital. What many of these movements shared is that, in the end, they mistook cultural representation for real social change. Queer Nation rarely asked for anything beyond mere visibility; this last concession was easy enough for postmodern (yet still patriarchal) capital to concede. Notions of gender and race are easy enough to twist ever so slightly when new markets await, for capital ultimately cares more about reproducing capital than it does about reproducing heteronormative families. When even queer activists are willing to structure their critiques within the framework of the culturally produced, aesthetic “lifestyle choices” that postmodern consumers purchase to construct their identities – as SHOP and QSN did, even if their “display” parodied the bland, unimaginative consumer identities actually for sale at the mall – subverting an entire social movement becomes a matter of making minor adjustments to capital’s cultural production apparatus. A retailer could simply stock some stylish, urban articles of clothing and add vaguely gay characters to the magazine advertisements; in return for “legitimating” queer claims on cultural production, the capitalists would gain market share within the newly “discovered” queer market. In this regard, the queer market becomes just another subculture conquered by the relentless spread of commodified identity.
Streets for People, Not for Cars (or capital): Reclaim the Streets & Critical Mass
“The public street is not meant for express traffic; it belongs to the milieu of the city… Should, perhaps, the public streets be kept ‘free of people?’”
One of the great ironies of the American city is that thirty to forty percent of its surface area is publicly owned — yet only a small proportion of that is actually publicly accessible. An exponential increase in cars owned and miles driven has resulted in ever-larger shares of urban space paved over for roads and parking lots. Half to two thirds of the area of many cities is paved over for use by cars, leaving precious little space for humans to live, work, and play. The dedication of so much public space and capital for the circulation of private commodities is hardly natural; indeed, there are few other cases in history where private capital has been so successful at using public policy to encourage the consumption of commodities. Market acceptance of the automobile depended on those massive public outlays, for “the driver require[s] a passable network of streets just as a fish needs water” – automakers’ promises of “status, freedom, and escape” through automobile ownership meant nothing on streets crowded by everything from pushcart vendors to children’s ballgames.
At the behest of a coalition of road-building, car-manufacturing interests, many states declared mass automobile ownership to be a national goal. Mass automobile ownership would help nations appear more prosperous and progressive while fostering economic growth in the newly technological industries of automobile manufacture and construction. Toward this end, states embarked on massive projects to create vast new spaces exclusively for automobiles; the National Socialists in Germany boasted that their motorization campaign of Autobahns and Volkswagens created a million jobs in the depth of the Depression while the $50 billion Washington invested in interstate highways created automobile-related jobs for one in six Americans.
The vast state and private outlays tied up in promoting the car vastly altered the landscape of cities worldwide. New roads induced demand for even more new road space by making driving easier and faster; this cycle spiraled until, in many American cities, driving effectively became the only mode of transport. By the 1970s, walking, cycling, and mass transit were routinely termed “alternative” modes of transportation and young children were being taught never to cross streets. Cars had effectively completed their takeover of the city street. At the same time, opposition to the motorization of the roads had begun to mobilize in cities; in cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, where many residents still did not own cars, the thought of tearing up neighborhoods for the sake of new roadways started to seem like a poor trade-off. Protests in these cities slowed the road-building juggernaut while providing an opportunity for neighborhood organizations to assert their newfound political strength. The new emphasis on maintaining neighborhood integrity coincided with the rise of anti-Modernist movements in urban planning, which celebrated walkable communities and began viewing streets not as “traffic sewers” but as public spaces that should be made interesting for pedestrians. Planners now hoped to provide civic pleasures through publicly provided social space, promoting not just transport within public streets but also walking and cycling – “as a cultural activity, as a pleasure, as travel.”
In the early 1990s, the twin political trends of postmodernism — globalization and localism, the same forces that created NGOs at both the global and local levels — coalesced around the increasing privatization and alienation faced by citizens on their roadways. Twin movements — Reclaim the Streets, begun in the United Kingdom, and Critical Mass, begun in the United States — took the frustration felt by pedestrians and cyclists under “the tyranny of the motorcar” and transformed it into joyous yet forcible reclamations of the public right of way. Reclaim the Streets began with a squat along Claremont Road, an enclave of houses slated for demolition in the wake of motorway construction east of London; a four-day police action in November 1994 eventually dispersed the squat after several months of occupation.
The following May, several veterans of the Claremont Road squat were instrumental in staging the first Reclaim the Streets street party, bringing banners, several tables of free food, and a bicycle-powered sound system to an intersection along a prime London shopping street. The street proved to be an ideal target: as a shopping street in a global city, it is as functionally sterile and yet as visible as the suburban shopping malls that Queer Nation re-appropriated – but with more traffic. The mere mention of “Oxford Street” to most London residents brings up images of shopping, of enhancing oneself with private capital – and of the 24-hour traffic jams of London’s West End. Activists looking to “tak[e] back public space from the enclosed private arena… taking back those things which have been enclosed within capitalist circulation and returning them to collective use as a commons,” as London Reclaim the Streets activist Paul Morozzo described RTS’ primary goal, could hardly wish for a better locale. Because Reclaim the Streets tries, in executing its street parties, to appeal to a wide spectrum of road users from pedestrians to cyclists to children to rave music enthusiasts, its movement is in little danger of falling into the trap of cultural expropriation and commodification that befell movements like Queer Nation. Reclaim the Streets also redefines the act of occupying public space; once it linked the “street party” with the theoretical reclamation of public urban space and as a triumph over the alienation imposed on a society dependent on cars and television, every act of occupying space with a march, a parade, a festival, even a stroll down the block can be viewed as downright revolutionary.
Across the Atlantic, bicycle activists in San Francisco quietly began their own small revolution in public space. A few activists, many professional cyclists like cycle messengers, began an officially unorganized rush-hour bike ride called Critical Mass. Riders like Jason Meggs, of Berkeley, expressed their frustration with “the loud, dangerous, polluting, caustic presence of the automobile that’s clogging every bit of public space in what would be a beautiful and peaceful city” and pointed out that, for as long as cyclists (and pedestrians – some participants ride on roller skates, skateboards, and scooters instead of bicycles) instead filled the streets, “for a brief, shining moment, the street is quiet, the air is fresh, and you’re surrounded by happy people.” The ride provides its participants with a total, if momentary, release from the tyranny of the motorcar while also providing the often-invisible bike community with much-needed visibility.
The ride’s structure – its “diversity, spontaneity, and lack of structure” – ensured that the ride could never be co-opted by police or by capital while maintaining viability within the movement. Attempts by some riders to secure “corporate sponsorship” for the ride (to pay for beer and posters) never got far – other riders simply began meeting at a different location, distancing themselves from the sponsors. (Attempts by Mayor Willie Brown to “control” the ride.) At the same time, the sheer number of riders who took to the streets every month became a political force to be reckoned with; a city aide told an official bike advocacy organization that only cyclists “can turn out thousands of people in the streets.” Critical Mass also transforms roadways into social space for cyclists, connecting participants with others who share the same vision of more socially responsible transportation; as one Chicago rider writes, “celebrating monthly keeps me energized to ride and work daily for a car-free… Chicago.” Bike activists in both cities have pointed out that their efforts to secure bicycle facilities from local governments have been aided, at least in spirit, by Critical Mass. By providing a vision of alternative transportation for others, Critical Mass also undoes the damage wrought by cars, with their individualistic and alienated approach to the road, on the mere concept of public space. After liberation by Critical Mass or Reclaim the Streets, the street – the quintessential public space in the Anglo-American urban tradition – can once again assume its role as commons – “the last frontier where… democracy can be actively pursued.”
New social movements like Critical Mass, then, fulfill the role of civil society laid out by James O’Connor in Natural Causes: by calling attention to ecological crises – such as an unhealthy reliance on private cars to provide transportation and on private space (including media space, from television to corporate Internet sites) to provide social exchange – new social movements push “capital and the state into more social forms” of providing social goods like transportation and social space. Growing recognition of the crises caused by private provisioning of transportation and social space comes not only from established non-governmental avenues like chambers of commerce or from constituent complaints to elected officials, but also from the energy and radical rethinking of space that movements like Reclaim the Streets and Critical Mass offer. At least in some realms, then, the “rebellion of nature” that seems necessary to get capital to change its ways – powerful social movements demanding an end to capitalist exploitation of social goods – may be at hand.

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Octagon/FSG, 1975, reprint of 1944), p. 76.
This paragraph (and it should be more detailed) based on Terence Turner, “Class projects, social consciousness, and the contradictions of ‘globalization,’” unpublished paper, March 2000.
Interestingly, these social movements operate independently of one another, providing a model for the radically plural definition of the public (unburdened by a dominant discourse or narrative; indeed, the narratives told by these groups are often wildly at odds with one another) advanced by poststructuralists. Steven Seidman, “Identity and Politics in a ‘Postmodern’ Gay Culture,”, pp. 115-117.
Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle (trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Zone, 1994, orig. Buchet-Chastel, 1967), p. 24.
A voluminous literature exists on the process of globalization, the production of global cities, and the implications in terms of local capital resources/flows for those cities. For starters: Saskia Sassen, The Global City (Princeton, 1991), especially “Economic Restructuring as Class and Spatial Polarization” (chapter 9)
Christopher Mele, Selling the Lower East Side (Minnesota, 2000), p. 226.
Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier (Routledge, 1996), pp. 3-8.
Stranger than fiction, indeed. Mele, 290-291.
Although Queer Nation has effectively disbanded, its activities still live on: the Lesbian Avengers (an early spin-off of QN) are still active in several cities, organizing events like an annual “Dykes Take Over the Train” in Chicago, and kiss-ins have recently been organized at a high school in Boulder, Colorado. Events like the Dyke Marches in many U.S. cities actively shun the corporate sponsorship that has become commonplace among traditional Gay Pride Day marches.
Again, a voluminous literature and a touchy subject. One starting point: Alexandra Chasin, Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market (2000).
Steven Seidman, “Identity and Politics in a ‘Postmodern’ Gay Culture,” in Michael Warner, ed., Fear of a Queer Planet (Minnesota, 1993), pp. 131-134.
Berlant and Freeman, p. 160.
Baudrillard, somewhere in chapter 3.
Margaret Crawford, “The World in a Shopping Mall,” in Michael Sorkin, ed., Variations on a Theme Park (Hill & Wang, 1992), p. 23.
This is pretty much how suburbs have always been marketed, even latter-day suburbs attempting to attract queer capital. (Reference?) Indeed, many of the first railroad suburbs outside British cities were built by associations of evangelical Christian businessmen. Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias (Basic, 1987) pp. 53, 56-61.
Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society (trans. Sage, 1998; orig. Denoël, 1970), pp. 132-136.
Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth Freeman, “Queer Nationality,” in Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington City (Duke, 1997), p. 160-61.
For examples of “queer spaces” (usually neighborhoods gentrified and occupied by wealthy, White gay men) formally legitimated by capital or by governments, see Lawrence Knopp, “Sexuality and Urban Space” (p. 158) and Jon Binnie, “Trading Places” (p. 193-194) in David Bell and Gill Valentine, eds., Mapping Desire (Routledge, 1995), or just look up at the rainbow pylons decorating Chicago’s North Halsted street year-round.
Predictably enough, suburban parents are up in arms about the invasion of even this sanitized homoeroticism into their heretofore “safe” shopping malls. Illinois Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood, for instance, called for a boycott of Abercrombie & Fitch over its ads, many of which seem to have been taken from the cutting-room floors of (gay) pornography studios. (seen in Chicago Sun-Times, date?)
Indeed, many new suburban shopping complexes include uses formerly excluded from suburbs – comedy clubs, skate parks, outdoor cafés – in an attempt to reach out to new demographic slices. Families with children at home are a rapidly shrinking demographic in contemporary America, so the new buzzwords in retail are “urban” and “entertainment.” These are attempts to appeal to the childless households in which most Americans now live. An academic treatise on this movement (only a few years old) has already been written: John Hannigan, Fantasy City (Routledge, 1998); chapters 5-6, in particular, detail the rise of “themed urban entertainment environments.” These new entertainment destinations stand in stark contrast to boring old shopping malls, which are closing at an unprecedented rate. “Every shopping market has at least one empty regional center, gathering weeds and waiting for redevelopment.” PricewaterhouseCoopers and Lend Lease, Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2001 (PwC-Lend Lease, 2000), pp. 55-57.
Rosemary Hennessy, “Queer visibility in commodity culture,” in Linda Nicholson and Steven Seidman, eds., Social Postmodernism: beyond identity politics (Cambridge UP, 1995), pp. 167-173.
Michael Freiherr von Pidoll, “Automobilism today: a call to protest,” as quoted in Sachs, p. 15.
Wolfgang Sachs, trans. Don Reneau, For Love of the Automobile (University of California, 1992, originally published by Rowohlt Verlag, 1984), p.
Clay McShane, Down the Asphalt Path (Columbia, 1994), p. 148.
At least that’s what the Association of German Automobile Clubs declared in its 1965 “Manifesto on Motorized Travel,” reprinted in Sachs, pp. 76-79.
Sachs, p. 50.
Stephen B. Goddard, Getting There (Basic, 1994), p. 214.
Jane Holtz Kay, Asphalt Nation (Crown, 1997), pp. 250-261.
Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation (North Point, 2000), pp. 59-61, 64. Indeed, the authors (along with Jane Jacobs, the principal gurus of New Urbanism) believe that designing streets as social space will put an end to (or at least ameliorate) the modern alienation caused by the substitution of media consumption (TV watching, etc.) for public sociability – and end “road rage” (sociopathic behavior by drivers, who are encased within private space and thus often don’t think of the public consequences of their actions) as well. A rather interesting critique of this approach, with a brief history of suburbia, can be found in Andrew Ross, The Celebration Chronicles (Ballantine, 1999), pp. 73-93.
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust (Viking, 2000), p. 250.
Aufheben, “The politics of anti-road struggle and the struggles of anti-road politics: the case of the No M11 Link Road campaign,” in George McKay, ed., DiY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain (Verso, 1998), pp. 100.
John Jordan, “The art of necessity: the subversive imagination of anti-road protest and Reclaim the Streets,” in McKay, pp. 130?.
Solnit, p. 231.
Quoted in “In Utopia of Bicyclists, Cars Are King of Road No More” New York Times 27 April 1998.
Cathy Lang Ho, “Use a Bike, Go to Jail,” Metropolis October 1997, p..
Quoted by Steven Bodzin, “Nearly Seven Years Old, Critical Mass Still Going Strong,” Tube Times (newsletter of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition), August/September 1999. Other San Francisco Critical Mass history from same article.
“Gin,” “Why I Ride in Critical Mass,” Derailleur (zine published in Chicago), September 1999, p. 4.
Travis Hugh Culley, The Immortal Class (Villard, 2001), p. 312. Italics in original text. The thematic connection between this paragraph and the next is important, but I can’t quite figure it out at this time.
James O’Connor, Natural Causes (Guilford, 1998), p. 169.

Payton Chung
Anthropology 212
Political Ecology
K. Lowrey
May 2001

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