Regenerating public life? : a sensuous comparison of Barcelona and Manchester
This study examines the social production of regenerated public places through the
prism of the senses in two marginal city centre neighbourhoods: Castlefield in
Manchester and el Raval in Barcelona. By combining ethnographic research with
social theoretical frameworks it compares how a global process such as regeneration
transforms the sensuous mapping of public places and how this refracts on the public
life of the area. This `global ethnography' focuses on the processes and spatial
practices embodied in both the production and daily use of these new public spaces,
coupled with conceptions of `officials' and `users': planners, politicians, established
residents, new residents, shop-owners, tourists, and so forth.
The first part of the thesis theorises current developments in the spatial re-structuring
of cities and analyses regeneration practices and conceptualisations. It is argued that
new regeneratedp ublic spacesa nd emerging public lives must be assessedb y analysing
their sensuously experienced `publicity'. A theoretical framework is developed, shaped
by the concept of `socially embedded aesthetics', which examines how power relations
in public places are constituted by, exercised through and embedded in the sensuous
geography of place.
In the second part of the thesis this conceptual framework is applied to both case
studies. By analysing the social production of regenerated public spaces through
Lefebvre's (1991) trialectics of the perceived, conceived and lived, a multi-layered
analysis into the lived experience of regeneration by the different parties involved is
provided. The thesis describes the effect that sensuous regimes have on exclusion and
inclusion of particular social groups, meanings and practices in public space and life. It
shows how sensuous transformations entail complex reinventions of public life,
expressed through new spatial configurations and connected spatial contestations.
Regeneration is portrayed as a process negotiated in daily practices and, while
hegemonic forces aim at regulating public life, different user practices appropriate,
divert or subvert imposed meanings through a variety of ways.