Beyond Zuccotti Park Review: Food for Thought

Sam Halvorsen, PhD Candidate at University College London, wrote a very insightful review of Beyond Zuccotti Park in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Area, volume 45, issue 4. Halvorsen briefly introduces BZP, calling it:

a fantastic resource that combines empirical research, political interventions and interviews, broadly focused on exploring the role that public space can have in enhancing democracy in light of the Occupations that spread from downtown Manhattan to hundreds of cities worldwide.

He goes on to emphasize and outline the contributing authors’ intelligent discussion of the significance of physical spaces to the Occupy movement as he claims:

What makes this book stand out is the effort throughout to appreciate ‘the political power of physical places’, as Michael Kimmelman (p. xiii) puts it…The importance of a physical, public space (these terms are often conflated) for enhancing democracy is given numerous explanations by the different contributors: it provides visibility for movements and allows for discussion (Franck and Huang); it inspires and helps build mutual aid and solidarity (Shepard); it opens up a space of negotiation for greater rights (Smithsimon); it gives an ‘office space for everyday people’ (Golan); it presents a critique of spatial exclusion (Wiley); it creates places for new political subjectivities (Rios); and it encourages an embodied sense of community (Rose). This multiplicity of possibilities of physical space leads to a discussion on how best to produce urban space in order to foster these ideals. A key strength of this book is its inclusion of numerous urban practitioners, from artists to architects and planners to policymakers. By sharing their experiences with us, this book presents a hopeful intervention on the potentials of urban space post-Occupy, and allows us to re-imagine the agency of diverse actors in creating different kinds of democracies.

Halvorsen consistently provides perceptive commentary, and, as he brings the review to an end, he states:

In conclusion, I welcome this well-written and well-researched book, which provides significant food for thought for both academics and activists in the post-camp phase of the global Occupy movement.

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