Warwick Politics and Performance Working Papers: Volume 2, Issue 1 -
Controlled Natures Dissensus and Disorder in the Urban Park
This article addresses the distinction between ‘the commons’ and ‘enclosure’ as a historical and present tension within the study of urban space. The article focuses upon urban parks, commonly presented as sites for the imposition of bourgeois codes of conduct; as ‘moral geographies’ (Driver, 19) enabling the suppression of an autonomous working class culture. While urban parks are commonly presented as the antithesis of the urban commons, using the theoretical work of Jacques Rancière, the article foregrounds instead the moments of creative resistance and aesthetic appropriation that characterised Victorian working-class use of urban green space. It argues that, rather than spaces of enclosure, parks might be explored instead for their re-introduction of the commons as practices of dissensus. Rather than imposing this past upon the present through the enduring symbolic barriers and governmental regimes that constitute green space, the article argues that we might look instead to the moments in which new languages of appreciation, experience and ownership are formed by marginalised groups - in particular young people.