Sidewalk Cafes: Formal and Informal Negotiation of Public and Private Space

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Albert HUNTER , Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Abstract Text Guidelines

Sidewalk Cafés:

Formal and Informal Negotiation of Private and Public Space

 in the Creation of a Parochial Social Order

Albert Hunter

Northwestern University


Sidewalk cafés are a venue for exploring the intersection of public and private space in the urban environment.  Drawing on the work of Duneier, Goffman, Hunter, Lofland, Sennett, Whyte, Zukin and others the research defines the way in which the transition between the public space of the sidewalk and the private space of a restaurant are symbolically negotiated and defined.  The result is a new social order -- a parochial realm --that selectively draws on and amalgamates elements of the public and private realms. In addition to the informal negotiation of norms defining this space among patrons, proprietors and passersby the research also explores more formal mechanisms that define it by city regulations, and zoning ordinances that are themselves seen to be another level of negotiation among public and private interests. We also trace the mutual impact of the two levels of informal and formal negotiations on one another The research explores variations in these negotiations of public and private space across local communities and neighborhoods with respect to differences in ethnicity, and inequalities of social class and power. The research is based on data from participant observation at the informal level as a “consumer” and at the formal level as a city plan commissioner.