Norms and Space. Understanding Public Space Regulation in the Tourist City

Project: Dissertation

Project Details


How are public spaces regulated in tourist cities? In this doctoral dissertation I seek to answer this question by exploring the intersections between urban tourism and public space regulation. I argue that public space regulation substantially differs from the tourist to the non-tourist zone. This thesis contradicts the common belief that public space regulation may vary from city to city, but remains basically the same across the interior space of the city. It also makes possible to appreciate the extent to which the normative dimension of the production of space is related to patterns of uneven development and spatial injustices. Three main assertions corroborate this central proposition. First, I argue that there is a divide between the tourist zone and the rest of the city, which is closely related to the ways in which norms regulating public spaces are spatialized. Second, I suggest that the differences in terms of public space regulation exist because the public in the tourist zone is controlled by the state by means of mechanisms that discourage particular social groups’ actions and discourses. The third assertion is that the differences in terms of regulation are also due to the priority given by the state to the tourist zone when allocating resources to the promotion of public uses.
The present study is designed as a multiple case study analysis. The evidence comes from the case studies of Acapulco (Mexico), San Sebastian (Spain), and Florianopolis (Brazil). The theoretical framework combines the theory of the production of space, the theory of property relations, the theory of norms, and the theory of tourist attractions. Part of the empirical data was assembled through extensive fieldwork, which included sessions of direct observation, semi-structured interviews, and collection of tourist materials. This was supplemented by data gathered from documents, newspaper reports, and contextual literature. The case studies were designed to have four thematic examples of conflict over public spaces embedded. Street vending and political activism are the themes that demonstrate the state’s repressive role in controlling the public, while street maintenance and square redevelopment projects are themes discussed to point to the state’s promotional role in allocating resources to the promotion of public uses.
This doctoral dissertation is divided into three parts. In Part I, I review the literature on public spaces showing the shortcomings of legal dogmatics and urban sociology approaches, and positioning my study within the discipline of sociology of law. I also discuss the main debates in the field of legal geography and elaborate on the theoretical framework of the present investigation. Finally, I justify the selection of cases and embedded themes to be studied, as well as explaining the methodological design. Part II presents the case studies of public space regulation in the cities of Acapulco, San Sebastian, and Florianopolis. In Part III, through a cross-case analysis, I show how norms regulating public spaces in tourist cities can be spatialized in terms of jurisdictional spaces, spatial zoning, and territorial spaces. In addition, I demonstrate that differences of regulation between the tourist zone and the non-tourist zone are constitutive of spaces that are described metaphorically as ‘postcards of exclusion’ and ‘places off the map’.
Effective start/end date2009/01/012013/05/28

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