CENTRAL PARK AGAINST THE STREETS: THE ENCLOSURE OF PUBLIC SPACE CULTURES IN MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY NEW YORK

Alvaro Sevilla-Buitrago, “Central Park against the streets: the enclosure of public space cultures in mid-nineteenth century New York,” Social & Cultural Geography 15, 2, 2014, 151-171.

This article uses Central Park as a counter-intuitive example to contend that enclosure is not necessarily related to ‘privatization’, but can be also found in the development of local state welfare policies that pursue the dispossession of urban social and cultural commons. The industrialization of New York and its rise to economic dominance in the first half of the 19th century produced a major restructuring of street life. The commoning of public space became a key sociospatial resource that helped the working classes resolve their reproduction in a way the elite found disturbing and far removed from the civic order they were trying to instil. The piece presents the practices prescribed by Central Park in its attempt to reform everyday spatialities as a form of state enclosure of public conducts. Following a preliminary discussion of the economic and social determinants and configuration of the material cultures of public space use in Manhattan, the article studies the park’s strategies as a special type of enclosure, consisting not of the usurping of common land for private profit but of the mobilization of public space to shift behaviors from one regime of publicity to another.

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