Out of Control and out of Sight: Defining Deviance in Czech Shopping Malls

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Pavel POSPECH , Department of Sociology, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
This paper presents an empirical study of how deviance is defined with respect to sensory experience in Czech shopping malls. The rise of shopping malls is one of the most important recent developments in Czech cities: the first mall was opened in 1998 in Prague and ten years later, in 2008, there were over 70 shopping malls across the country, making it one of the world's fastest developing countries in this respect. With this development, an idea of a “new public space” came to be prominent, with strict rules of conduct and social control based on surveillance and exclusion. The paper builds on a large body of empirical evidence, including (a) legal documents, (b) house rules of Czech malls, (c) interviews with mall management and developers and (d) interviews with homeless people, in order to understand how deviance and deviant behaviour is defined in these new consumption spaces. It will be argued that visual appearances play a key part in the prevention-based regulation and control over mall space. The data show that, in the dominant representations of deviance, visual cues are conflated with the potential of uncontrollability, which is seen as a threat to the order of the mall space. The definitions of undesirability, applied to groups such as the homeless, are built on visual images and they are associated with specific types of conduct. The rules of acceptability are, on the one hand, vague and open to interpretation by the security staff, and, on the other hand, tailored to exclude groups which, by their appearance, are considered prone to undesirable conduct. This conduct is often defined as a sensory disturbance to the image of the mall.