Jeremy Williams

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Between the Idea and the Reality: New Public Spaces in the United States (Dissertation Project)

Dissertation in Political Science

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Christian Lammert
Second supervisor: Prof. Boris Vormann
Third supervisor: Prof. Jonny Aspen

This project is concerned with conceptualising and understanding the implications of the phenomenon of 'New Public Spaces' in the United States.  These are regulated, often privately or quasi-privately administered public spaces such as The High Line public park in New York City, which are becoming increasingly prevalent across the United States.  Such places are characterised by a significant amounts of spatial regulation, as well as their status somewhere between traditional 'public' space and private space. They are also marked by claims made about their positive effects on 'the public' and 'the area'.  They also include a significant private element: the impetus for such spaces sometimes, if not always, comes from the private sector, and they are often patrolled by private security guards.  Finally, they are also highly popular, both with city administrators as a strategy of urban renewal and attracting investment, and with the wider public at large.

Using ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in public spaces in New York and Los Angeles, the project argues that processes of neoliberalisation, securitisation, and commodification, particularly in the aftermath of September 11th 2001, have combined to produce a set of external and internal dynamics which have produced new types of public space.  The project seeks to catalogue, characterise and understand these types of space, and argues that their unique characteristics make them a category in their own right worthy of study.  Finally, it seeks to deduce the meaning of such spaces, particularly in terms of their democratic and socio-cultural implications, and makes normative suggestions as to the desirability of such types of public space.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft