Public spaces offer physical and virtual sites for people to come together in a safe forum. However, access and use of them has suffered and is increasingly exclusionary for some users while benefiting others. Setha M. Low and her colleagues undertake the ethnographies of various public spaces in North and South America through behavioral and physical traces mapping, participant observation, interviewing, and archival documents in order to track changes in the use and diversity of everyday streets, sidewalks, squares, and small parks. Over this period of documentation, added restrictions, urban design modifications, and increasing policing surveillance have all been found. In addition, hostile architecture and even benches with arms in the middle to prevent a person from lying down are becoming more common.
According to Low, the consequent lack of diversity in public space and the restrictions of these securitization practices call for a clearer agenda to press for better public space. In her lecture, Setha M. Low will explain why street vendors in San José are having a more difficult time these days, why American teenagers avoid parks, and, most importantly, how to create an inclusive public space for all.
Setha M. Low, Ph.D., is a professor of environmental psychology, director of the Public Space Research Group at the City University of New York, and author of On the Plaza: The Politics of Public Space and Culture which was published in Russian by Strelka Press in 2016. Low studied the ethnography of closed communities of San Antonio, Texas, and Long Island, and examined the anthropology of New York parks.
The lecture will take place within the framework of the international conference Urban Inequalities vs. Urban Inclusion: Migration, Identity and Public Space organized by the Higher School of Economics Institute for Social Policy, Strelka KB, a center for urban anthropology, and Oxfam.
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