Bernd Belina



Ending Public Space as We Know It

The idea of free access for everybody is at the core of the “public space” ideology. Just as the idealist notion of the “public sphere” that it builds upon, “public space” is and has always been used to regulate the “where” of certain groups and populations in the city. In recent years (decades in the United States), we have witnessed a new way to concretize what “free access” means: evicting unpleasant and thus scary people is regarded as a precondition for the “free access” of decent folks. Criminological ideologies and practices such as “broken windows,” “zero tolerance,” and “crime hot spot mapping” and various spatial measures of policing, increasingly fixed in law, make this shift in the meaning of “public space” plausible, legitimate and necessary–and also real through the social production of urban spaces that is guided by them. At the same time, the spatialization of “crime” de-socializes crime and policing discourses. Against this governing through crime through space, struggle over the meaning of “public space” is necessary.

governing through crime, public space

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 38, Nos. 1-2 (2011-12): 13-27.


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