Common Ground?: Readings and Reflections on Public Space, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Common Ground?

Readings and Reflections on Public Space, 1st Edition

By Anthony M. Orum, Zachary P. Neal


240 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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Public spaces have long been the focus of urban social activity, but investigations of how public space works often adopt only one of several possible perspectives, which restricts the questions that can be asked and the answers that can be considered. In this volume, Anthony Orum and Zachary Neal explore how public space can be a facilitator of civil order, a site for power and resistance, and a stage for art, theatre, and performance. They bring together these frequently unconnected models for understanding public space, collecting classic and contemporary readings that illustrate each, and synthesizing them in a series of original essays. Throughout, they offer questions to provoke discussion, and conclude with thoughts on how these models can be combined by future scholars of public space to yield more comprehensive understanding of how public space works.

Table of Contents

Locating Public Space

PART I – Public Space as Civil Order


The Death and Life of Great American Cities – Jane Jacobs

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces – William H. Whyte

The Character of Third Places – Ray Oldenburg

The Moral Order of Strangers – M. P. Baumgartner

Street Etiquette and Street Wisdom – Elijah Anderson

PART II – Public Space as Power and Resistance


The End of Public Space? People’s Park, Definitions of the Public, and Democracy – Don Mitchell

Fortress Los Angeles – Mike Davis

Whose Culture? Whose City? – Sharon Zukin

Dispersing the Crowd: Bonus Plazas and the Creation of Public Space – Gregory Smithsimon

Defying Disappearance: Cosmopolitan Public Spaces in Hong Kong – Lisa Law

PART III – Public Space as Art, Theatre, and Performance


Art and the Transit Experience / Creating a Sense of Purpose: Public Art and Boston’s Orange Line – Cynthia Abrahamson, Myrna Margulies Breitbart, & Pamela Worden

The Harsh Reality: Billboard Subversion and Graffiti – Timothy W. Drescher

The Paradox of Public Art: Democratic Space, the Avant-Garde, and Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc’ – Caroline Levine

Those "Gorgeous Incongruities’: Polite Politics and Public Space on the Streets of Nineteenth Century New York – Mona Domosh

Soundscape and Society: Chinese Theatre and Cultural Authenticity in Singapore – Tong Soon Lee

Relocating Public Space

Toolkits for Interrogating Public Space

About the Authors

Anthony M. Orum is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Visiting Scholar, Center for Urban Research and Learning, Loyola University, Chicago. He is the 2009 recipient of the American Sociological Association's Robert and Helen Lynd Award for lifetime achievement and service. In 2007 and 2008, he was a Fulbright Scholar at Fudan University in Shanghai, China where he began his first systematic studies of public spaces. He also has written, among other books, Introduction to Political Sociology, the most recent edition of which was co-authored with John Dale.

Zachary P. Neal is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University. In addition to public space, he has written about restaurants as urban cultural markers, the influence of networks among cities on their economic development, and quantitative methodology in the social sciences.

About the Series

The Metropolis and Modern Life

This series brings original perspectives on key topics in urban research to today's students in a series of short accessible texts, guided readers, and practical handbooks. Each volume examines how long-standing urban phenomena continue to be relevant in an increasingly urban and global world, and in doing so, connects the best new scholarship with the wider concerns of students seeking to understand life in the twenty-first century metropolis.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban