City Publics : The (Dis)enchantments of Urban Encounters book cover
1st Edition

City Publics
The (Dis)enchantments of Urban Encounters

ISBN 9780415312288
Published August 1, 2006 by Routledge
208 Pages 50 B/W Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $62.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Some cities have grown into mega cities and some into uncontrolled sprawl; others have seen their centres decline with populations moving to the suburbs. In such times, questions of the public realm and public space in cities warrant even greater attention than previously received.

Concerned with the borders and boundaries, constraints and limits on accepting, acknowledging and celebrating difference in public, Sophie Watson, through ethnographic studies, interrogates how difference is negotiated and performed. Focusing on spaces where to outside observers tension is relatively absent or invisible, Watson also reveals how the boundaries between the public and private are being negotiated and redrawn, and how public and private spaces are mutually constitutive.

Through her investigation of the more ordinary and less dramatic forms of encounter and contestation in the city, Watson is able to conceive an urban public realm and urban public space that is heterogeneous and potentially progressive. With numerous photographs and drawings City Publics not only throws new light on encounters with others in public space, but also destabilizes dominant, sometimes simplistic, universalized accounts and helps us re-imagine urban public space as a site of potentiality, difference, and enchanted encounters.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Symbolic spaces of difference: contesting the eruv in Barnet, London, and Tenafly, New Jersey

3 Nostalgia at work: living with difference in a London street market

4 Risky space and money talks: the Hampstead ponds meet state regulation

5 Disrobing in public: embodied differences in bathing sites

6 Invisible subjects: encounter, desire and association amongst older people

7 Children’s publics

8 The (dis)enchantments of urban encounters: some concluding reflections

Appendix: a summary of the primary research methods

View More



Sophie Watson is Professor of Sociology at the Open University, UK.


'This is one of the best books I have read recently and re-invokes the power of academic and social science writing that was common in the 1970s where the writing was as much for a public as an academic audience and was also not only trying to understand and explain the society around us but also to make it a better place. Watson has done a huge service to those of us who not only study cities but love to live in them and worry about how they appear to be being taken away from us. More than that, she shows how simple research methods and observation and social interaction can inform a highly sophisticated peice of urban Ethnography.' - International Journal of  Urban and Regional Research

"City Publics ties into literatures on public space; constructions of sexuality, race, and gender; marginalized groups such as children and the elderly; and oft-marginalized places such as sacred geographies. By combining these diverse areas into vignettes of encounter in urban public space, new perspectives on public space are gained through the viewpoints of Watson's informants." -- Marcia R. England, Annals of the Association of American Geographers