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A geography of public spaces in intermediate countries


At the junction of a number of key challenges for urban societies and their spaces, the theme of public spaces is growing rapidly in the field of urban studies. As the world continues to develop, the city seems to be moving away from its ideal and function as a City: the processes of fragmentation and segregation of the urban space, the violence in which it is sometimes witnessed call into question social diversity, unexpected, brief meetings, urbanity as widely analysed from Eugen Wirth and Max Weber. It is in this general context that researchers have drawn attention to the public space. These reflections are largely interdisciplinary, as philosophy, sociology and political science have played a leading role. In addition to the previous ones, the geographical approach makes it possible to situate the areas in question in a specific urban context: far from being metaphoric, the public space of geographers is a specific place, with specific spatial configurations, a history, ownership by the various social groups involved, and a way of integration in the city. However, research has largely been limited to the public spaces of Western societies (Europe and the United States) to highlight the phenomena of violence, communitarisation and privatisation. We propose that this table be supplemented by the study of public spaces in ‘intermediate’ countries, which are neither very rich nor very poor, and have significant levels of industrial and tertiary development: the very functioning of public spaces and their evolution diverge in part from what has been observed elsewhere. Cities in intermediate countries and their public spaces are subject to specific tensions: relatively recent arrival of populations of rural origin, cultural, social, economic or even “racial” divisions... We will also choose countries outside the very western sphere to compare the theme of public spaces with cities of different traditions and models. What hybridisation takes place between modernity and tradition and what social, political and cultural changes are visible there? How to talk about public spaces through such diverse cultural areas?

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