Dissertation Abstracts

Public space as a field of urban struggle: Everyday life practices as the outcome of power relations

Author: Pettas, Dimitrios , pettasdimit@gmail.com
Department: Department of Urban d Regional Planning
University: National Technical University of Athens, Greece
Supervisor: Nikolaos Belavilas
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: Greek

Keywords: Public space , urban struggles , power relations , everyday life
Areas of Research: Regional and Urban Development , Community Research , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management


My recent research in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, NTUA that lead to the completion of my PhD thesis, entitled “Public space as a field of urban struggle: Everyday life practices as the outcome of power relations”, was driven by three major research questions:

•How is social life in central and symbolic public spaces that operate as fields of urban struggle constructed and how it can be evaluated?
•In which ways power relations among urban actors, mechanisms and collective entities that operate both within and outside institutional channels are constructed and influence practices of everyday use and modes of governance and management in central public spaces?
•How is urban public space encompassed in contemporary modes of social and economic reproduction?

My PhD thesis consists of two parts, the first falls into the field of urban geography and the second in urban sociology. Firstly, I analyzed the role of urban public space within current modes of social and economic reproduction by explaining five major dimensions: public space as a field of power relations’ development, a field of social movements’ development, a field of social segregation, its role within current economic restructuring and finally its role concerning translations of history and the development of collective memory. Secondly, I applied the prementioned research questions in three case studies, which consisted of public spaces in central Athens (Syntagma, Exarcheia and Agios Panteleimonas Squares) that operated as fields of urban struggle and confrontation since 2008. By adopting an inductive approach, I built a research methodology towards the identification of key urban actors for each case study, the characteristics and results of power relations’ among urban actors construction and their implications concerning the governance and management of public space. Towards this end, I conducted 29 in depth interviews with participants and members of a variety of key urban actors (State and local authorities and bodies, police departments, businesses, political parties, social movements and residents’ organizations with ideological origins varying from anarchist to extreme right wing groups), 300 questionnaires in the field, extracting data of demographic, quantitative and qualitative nature, archival research, direct and participatory observation of everyday life, meetings and events. My research unveiled the crucial role of symbolic and imaginary dimensions of space, contradicted approaches of both Marxist and mainstream background that consider economic relations as the primary field of urban space’s formation by pointing out the role of relations and forces of non – economic nature and gave prominence to the importance on the ways non – institutional actors participate in current urban politics.