Incivility and Disorder in Urban Public Space of the Czech Republic: Normativities and Instrumental Interests

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Pavel POSPECH , Department of Sociology, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
The paper focuses on the changing definitions of incivility and disorder in urban public spaces of the Czech Republic. After the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1989, the notion of urban public space as a site of social interaction, negotiation and conflict appeared, first legally defined in 1990. The following years saw a process of negotiation of the limits of acceptability in urban public spaces. The terms disorder and incivility were employed by various actors, including courts of justice, local municipalities, activist groups, NGOs and the media, to define acceptable conduct and exclude undesirable elements from the newly emerging public spaces of Czech cities. This paper focuses on how the meanings of disorder and incivility were defined in the process. Two perspectives are identified in the discourse: (a) normative perspective, identifying the notions of disorder and incivility with respect to values of public order, safety, health and others and (b) instrumental perspective, whereby the notions of disorder and incivility are employed by various actors to promote their particular interests in the conflicts over the use of public space. The conflation of these two perspectives and their mutual relationships are discussed, using the empirical material of local and municipal ordnances and regulatory plans of city administrations. The data shows that the conflicts over the definitions of disorder and incivility point to a larger dispute about the nature of public space and about the notions of citizenship and social inclusion.