Everyday encounters with difference in urban parks: forging ‘openness to otherness’ in segmenting citie

  • Anna Barker

    School of Law, Liberty Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

  • Anna Barker

    School of Law, Liberty Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

  • Anna Barker

    School of Law, Liberty Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

  • Anna Barker

    School of Law, Liberty Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

Abstract

In a context of hyper-diversity and social polarisation, it has been suggested that public parks constitute crucial arenas in which to safeguard deliberative democracy and foster social relations that bind loosely connected strangers. Drawing on empirical research, we offer a more circumspect and nuanced understanding of the – nonetheless vital – role that parks can play in fostering civic norms that support the capacity for living with difference. As ‘spaces apart’, parks have distinctive atmospheres that afford opportunities for convivial encounters in which ‘indifference to difference’ underpins ‘openness to otherness’. As places in which difference is rendered routine and unremarkable, the potency of parks for social cohesion derives from fleeting and unanticipated interactions and the weak ties they promote, rather than strong bonds of community that tend to solidify lines of cultural differentiation. Both by design and unintentionally, regulation and law can serve to foster or constrain the conditions that sustain conviviality.

Type

Article

Information

International Journal of Law Managment and Humanities, Volume 15, Issue 4, December 2019, pp. 495 - 514

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1744552319000387

Creative Commons

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Copyright

Copyright © IJLMH 2021

Asbtract

In a context of hyper-diversity and social polarisation, it has been suggested that public parks constitute crucial arenas in which to safeguard deliberative democracy and foster social relations that bind loosely connected strangers. Drawing on empirical research, we offer a more circumspect and nuanced understanding of the – nonetheless vital – role that parks can play in fostering civic norms that support the capacity for living with difference. As ‘spaces apart’, parks have distinctive atmospheres that afford opportunities for convivial encounters in which ‘indifference to difference’ underpins ‘openness to otherness’. As places in which difference is rendered routine and unremarkable, the potency of parks for social cohesion derives from fleeting and unanticipated interactions and the weak ties they promote, rather than strong bonds of community that tend to solidify lines of cultural differentiation. Both by design and unintentionally, regulation and law can serve to foster or constrain the conditions that sustain conviviality.