Making public space: community groups and local participation in Stoke-on-Trent

Jupp, Eleanor Frances (2006). Making public space: community groups and local participation in Stoke-on-Trent. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is based on ethnographic research with two small community groups on housing estates in Stoke-on-Trent, UK. It explores how their work produces certain kinds of 'public space', understood as spaces that bring together local people and generate potential for new forms of interaction and collective action. This analysis is informed by theoretical writing around the nature of public space, as well as a context of government policy and programmes that seek to reconstitute the public in particular modes. The work of the groups is also understood as shaped by the dynamics of the neighbourhoods, which both open up and limit possibilities for such projects. The thesis argues for the importance of the 'everyday' spaces of the groups, made through informal modes of socialising, and activities such as play sessions with children, cooking and gardening. An emphasis on these 'ordinary' spaces and the practices which produce them, including shared practical activities, runs counter to a tendency in some academic writing to view public spaces as highly visible or symbolic spaces of struggle between different groups or interests. Instead the spaces focused on are made through low-key, incremental negotiations over time, and suggest ways in which smallscale, but nonetheless significant, connections between different groups might take place. The spaces are also made in ways that connect conventionally 'public' and 'private' or domestic spheres, and that are intertwined with the interventions of government. The thesis therefore provides insights into the nature of public space, collective action and democracy in such contexts.

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