Young People and the ‘Right’ to the City

By Joanne Massey.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Cities are increasingly controlled and domesticated (Atkinson 2003, Raco 2003) as a result of the gentrification of the city and symptom of what Smith (1996) terms the ‘revanchist city’. Given the current moral panic in the UK around young people and anti-social behaviour, large groups of teenagers are not part of plans for the regenerating city. This paper will examine young people’s experience of urban public space and the exclusions (Sibley 1995) they encounter there. This will be achieved via secondary analysis of questionnaire data collected by young people themselves. Mitchell (2003) argues that certain groups have the ‘right to the city’ and as such are seen as legitimate users of urban spaces. Other groups are perceived as having less legitimacy in public space and are therefore viewed as problematic. Whilst Mitchell (2003) focuses on homeless populations this study will concentrate on another group marginalised from the city, namely teenagers. How teenagers gain legitimacy in the city is an important question here. This will be illustrated by using a case study of Cathedral Gardens, a newly regenerated public space in Manchester city centre, UK. As a solution to the ‘problem’ of large numbers of young people gathering in the gardens at weekends and during school holidays and with the threat of a citywide dispersal order aimed at groups of teenagers, local youth workers and a charity group set up a peer youth work scheme. This involves groups of young people being advised and in effect ‘policed’ by their peers. Using data gathered from interviews with peer youth workers the paper will explore how these young people gained legitimacy in the space and ‘the right’ to be present there.

Keywords: Cities, Young People, Legitimacy, Exclusion

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.241-252. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 756.313KB).

Joanne Massey

Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

Joanne Massey is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University. She recently completed her PhD thesis on the rebuilding of Manchester after the 1996 terrorist bombing. Her research interests include public space, urban regeneration, exclusion, community and youth.

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