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Setha Low, The Graduate Center, CUNY – Why Public Space Matters: Propositions for Social Justice and Diversity

By on October 5, 2016
Lecturer - profile

Name
Setha Low

Title
Professor, Director of the Public Space Research Group

Main affiliation
The Graduate Center, CUNY

email
slow@gc.cuny.edu

Country
United States

Region
North America

Qualifications
LinkedIn
https://www.linkedin.com/in/setha-low-a69162a4

CV
http://uni.unhabitat.org/index.php?gf-download=2016%2F10%2FSetha-Low-short-CV.pdf&form-id=9&field-id=48&hash=043123d8c2c0ad891264d24e6acffeae28ff2c993b56fa5cefc33ba7e77fb2af

Biography
Setha Low is a former president of the American Anthropological Association, a professor in environmental psychology, and the director of the Public Space Research Group at the City University of New York. Low also served as a Conservation Guest Scholar at the Getty Conservation Institute. Low received a B.A. in Psychology from Pitzer College, Claremont, California in 1969 and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1971 and 1976. Low’s research includes work on the anthropology of space and place, medical anthropology, urban anthropology, historic preservation, landscapes of fear, security/insecurity, and gating in Latin America, the United States, and the cities of Western Europe.

English Proficiency
Mother tongue

Previous experience of recording video lectures
Yes

Experience of lecturing to large audiences
Yes

Experience of lecturing to large audiences
Yes

Frequency of lectures
Very often

Recording opportunities
Habitat III attendance and availability
Yes
Planning to attend 17-20 October.

PROPOSED LECTURE

Main themes
Urban Management
Social Inclusion
Municipal/Urban Finance
Governance
Environment

Title
Why Public Space Matters: Propositions for Social Justice and Diversity

Focus
This presentation offers five propositions about social justice and public space that can be used to intervene in the transformations in the public realm such as globalization and the privatization/securitization that have reduced the ability of public space to be a center for civic life and a source of cultural/social diversity.

Issues which the lecture addresses
This presentation offers five propositions about social justice and public space that can be used to intervene in the transformations in the public realm such as globalization and the privatization/securitization that have reduced the ability of public space to be a center for civic life and a source of cultural/social diversity. The five propositions concern distributive justice, recognition, interactional justice and encounter, care and repair, and procedural justice. The application of these five propositions is exemplified through brief reflections on the politics of the street in New York City, and ‘broken windows’ style policing of graffiti.

Short analysis of the above issues
Across a diverse range of urban geographical contexts, the provision and governance of public spaces frequently generates conflicts of varying intensity involving urban inhabitants and urban authorities. A clear moral and philosophically-based argument and evaluative framework is necessary for both critiquing and informing the positions that are taken in public space disputes. This presentation develops a model of socially just public space that could inform analysis of, and interventions in, these conflicts. In dialogue with the literatures on urban public space and on social and spatial justice, I offer five propositions about what makes for more just public space.

Propositions for addressing the issue
Distributive justice: Is there public space for everyone? Is it a “fair” allocation of public resources?
Below are some propositions that can be used to evaluate public space to move towards a model of social justice and diversity for all urban spaces:
Recognition of difference: Are all people recognized as individuals with rights to public space? Are the rules of use based solely on the norms of the dominant class?
Interactional justice: Does the public space allow for all individuals to interact safely and respectfully? Do those in authority treat all users with comparable respect?
Ethics of caring: Does the public space encourage people to help one another and to practice stewardship of the space?
Procedural justice: Is there a way for everyone to gain access to public space?

Additional Reading Materials
Low, Setha (2017). Spatializing Culture: The Ethnography of Space and Place. London and New York: Routledge.
Low, Setha and Kurt Iveson (2016). Propositions for More Just Urban Public Spaces. City, 20(1):10-31.
Low, Setha, and Neil Smith (Editors) (2006). The Politics of Public Space. New York and London: Routledge.
Low, S., D. Taplin and S. Scheld (2005). Rethinking Urban Parks: Lessons in Culture and Diversity. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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