THE PRODUCTION OF SPACE IN PROTEST, LAW AND POLICE ACTION
London, winter 2010-2011
Master's Dissertation, January 2012
Taking as a starting point Lefebvre’s proposition that space is produced through social practices, Anthony Powis has produced a trenchant and sophisticated theorisation and analysis of ‘protest’ space through a series of studies of recent TUC and student-led marches and demonstrations in London. By conceiving the spaces architecturally, as scenes from a theatre of political action, the text reveals much that would not be apparent through other modes of analysis and critique.—John Bold
This dissertation investigates the production of particular spaces during a series of demonstrations in London during the winter of 2010–2011, through a developed understanding of the social production of space in urban environments. It also investigates the nonphysical structures of public space — the ‘codified regime’ of legislative, juridical and policed landscapes against which everyday lives are practiced — through the careful study of the processes of production of protest spaces.
The study draws on a number of detailed interviews conducted with participants and organisers of demonstrations, as well as blogs, twitter feeds, paraphernalia collected from the demonstrations, news reports, broadcasts and analyses. Additionally, an investigation into the historical development of the city as a legal and policed space maps the genesis, application and practical enforcement of public order codes in relation to the construction of particular urban spaces. These histories sketch a number of performative landscapes intrinsic to urban spaces, which counter the notion of ‘space’ as an inert opposite to ‘action’.
This understanding provides the context for a number of ‘scenes’ — ‘the march’, ‘the kettle’, ‘the occupation’ — which focus on particular events: examining the production of space through the dialectical contradictions that occur in and between the legal representations of space, the spatial practices of the police and protestors, in their interaction and through associated acts of civil disobedience. These scenes explore how urban public space is produced through the dual realms of representation (in law) and spatial practice (in the street).
The research demonstrates the relationship between the construction of spatial boundaries (through contest) and the production of political subjectivities. Representations become realised in practice, in their relationship to people and though performance — a process of identification of people as subjects. Crucial to this formation is the inclusion of ‘space’ both as an explanatory concept and active in the process production. These different forms of spatial production have different effects: the political and juridical are transformed in different ways in each protest site. The dissertation therefore offers an analysis of various forms of protest space, and police response, revealing in their production limits and possibilities for political action.
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