Graduate Colloquium: "The Occupy Movement and the Privatization of Public Space"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 9:30am
Location: McNeil Building Room 130 - The Urban Studies Office

Please join us for the next Urban Studies Graduate Student colloquium, with coffee, croissants and conversation on Tuesday March 19, 9:30-11am, in the Urban Studies Office, McNeil Building Room 130. The series provides a way for graduate students who are or have been a part of the Urban Studies Certificate program to come together to share their work.

Author: Dr. Tim Weaver, Lecturer, Department of Political Science & Urban Studies Program
Discussant: Dr. Carolyn Marvin, Frances Yates Professor of Communication at Annenberg

Abstract: Inspired in part by the Arab Spring and the Spanish indignados, the Occupy movement, which emerged in fall 2011, placed issues of spiraling economic inequality at the heart of the contemporary political debate. The movement’s strategy, in part, depended on the ability to occupy public spaces, particularly those associated with high finance. However, this approach has been undermined by the increasing prevalence of spaces that appear to be public but are in fact privately owned. Just as in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, the corporate private owners of privately owned public spaces (POPS) in London were able to use the power of the state via the courts to remove or ban protesters from exercising their right to protest. Two prime examples of this were the use of legal injunctions to prevent protest from occurring in Canary Wharf and Paternoster Square both hubs of London’s financial services industry.

These cases are not outliers, but instead reflect the decades-long neoliberalization of public space, which has often been promoted by the state itself, ostensibly acting in the public interest. The rise
of POPS is politically consequential since this institution circumscribes citizens’ freedom of assembly and expression in places that are understood to be public (Kohn 2004; Minton 2009). As such,
our right to the city  has been radically undermined (Lefebvre 1996; Harvey 2008). In light of the limits to occupation, alternative strategies will be necessary to confront the power of capital.