private / privilege / reading / urban

Gender & urban inequality III

“The flâneur inhabits the streets as his living room. It is quite a different thing to need the streets as a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, when the most intimate aspects of one’s life are in view of strangers and ultimately, the police. For the oppressed, existence in public space is more likely to be synonymous with state surveillance, public censure and political powerlessness.”

– Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, 1991:347; qtd. in Janet McGaw, ‘Urban threads’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 59, Iss. 4 2006.

McGaw’s article discusses her project Urban Threads, undertaken in Melbourne c. 2005. As she notes here:

“Where does terror lie for the already marginal? With the radical extremists, as our governments and newspapers would have us believe, or with those responsible for maintaining control and order on our city streets? I curated an architectural installation entitled Urban Threads in September 2004 with a group of homeless women in Melbourne for whom terror comes in the form of uniforms of office, men in suits, and unachievable social expectations. What most citizens would regard as a quick, safe protected shortcut through the city is for them a Path of Most Resistance. And when many regard a steel security door as a requirement for domestic safety, these women craft dwelling spaces from cardboard in other people’s doorways, hoping that yet another security guard won’t move them on tonight. For some of our citizens, the city has the ambivalent status of a place of surveillance, social control and ostracism yet also a home where they can find hidden places of refuge.”

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