Throwing Together Experiences of Belonging within Public Space

Friday, July 18, 2014: 5:50 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Michelle HALL , Queensland University of Technology, Australia
This paper examines place-based belonging as a construction of thrown together experiences within the public spaces of two gentrifying neighbourhoods. It draws on Massey’s (2005) concept of throwntogetherness and Amin’s related work on situated multiplicity and collective culture (2008), to examine the manner in which such belonging can be generated through our everyday negotiations of the multiple trajectories of people, objects and symbols, that make up the contemporary city. Massey argues that because of the multiplicity of these trajectories, places should be thought of as unfixed, their meaning instead constructed within these moments of encounter. In this paper I apply this perspective to place-based community, to consider how the experience of belonging may be constructed within these negotiations. In doing so the paper also seeks to shift the focus from dichotomies of public and private, or inclusion and exclusion, that often characterise discussion of public space in gentrifying areas, to instead consider ways different practices of coming together are encouraged by these intersections. 

In this paper I particularly focus on quasi-public spaces - cafes, bars, and shopping centres - where publicness is always ambiguous, and where much potential for both inclusive and exclusionary experiences resides. Drawing on qualitative research conducted within two gentrifying Australian suburbs, this paper describes the throwing together of interactions, representations, and interpretations to construct personal and collective identifications. These can work to emplace belonging and create opportunities for diversifying exposure; both of which have the potential to communicate the presence of the community across time and space. In doing so this work seeks to demonstrate the ways that geographic and temporal boundaries of public space are blurred, breached and yet also reinforced, as we throw together placed-based experiences of belonging.