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Just gardens? On the struggle for space and spatial justice

Bengtsen, Peter LU (2013) In Australian Feminist Law Journal 39(1). p.79-92
Abstract
The present article represents a quite literal take on the theme of the special issue of Australian Feminist Law Journal in which it appears by discussing the public park as a garden of justice: on the one hand a concrete, geographical setting in which law and morality become manifest, on the other hand the site of a more intangible space which is constituted by the struggles between different spatial definitions. The article focuses on the case of Ørstedsparken in Copenhagen, a well-known cruising site where bi- and homosexual men have been meeting up to have sex for more than a century. In response to this use of the park, in recent years the municipality of Copenhagen has cut down vegetation in the park in order to expose (and thereby... (More)
The present article represents a quite literal take on the theme of the special issue of Australian Feminist Law Journal in which it appears by discussing the public park as a garden of justice: on the one hand a concrete, geographical setting in which law and morality become manifest, on the other hand the site of a more intangible space which is constituted by the struggles between different spatial definitions. The article focuses on the case of Ørstedsparken in Copenhagen, a well-known cruising site where bi- and homosexual men have been meeting up to have sex for more than a century. In response to this use of the park, in recent years the municipality of Copenhagen has cut down vegetation in the park in order to expose (and thereby attempt to prevent) these activities. In doing so, the authorities attempt to reclaim the contested public space of the park and return it to a site of order (law) and potential justice.



This reaction can be related to Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos’ notion of spatial justice, which sees the need for withdrawal from the space one occupies as essential, and to the problems related to several agents laying claim to the same space at the same time. The article also proposes that the desire to expose those who retreat to public parks to have sex may in part be a result of the hiddenness of the people who engage in these activities, since this represents a space which can be perceived as extralegal in a formal sense. Further, in connection with this discussion, the article also considers the informal implications that this specific use of the park as a homosexual cruising site has on the perception of safety and – by extension – law and suggests that unlike many other types of illegal activities, the use of parks as cruising sites means that they in some cases come to be seen as safer recreational areas for women than other parks, because the male homosexual use is perceived as precluding other types of illicit activity (e.g. heterosexual rape, robbery, drug dealing).



The article also addresses the fact that while the cutting of bushes can be seen as a physical manifestation of the presence of law, the specific targeting of this homosexual cruising site may point to a moral aspect of justice. Given that it is no longer possible to suggest the removal of homosexual desire in people, the cutting down of bushes at gay cruising sites could be interpreted as a surrogate way of imposing moral law upon those who fall outside of heteronormativity. This argument is underpinned by an analysis of the debate and critique of the sexual activities in the park in the media which seems to move not primarily on the level of legality, but on that of morality and justice.



The article ends with an analysis of a sign stipulating the conditions of the use of Ørstedsparken as a cruising site, which was placed at the gates of the park in April 2012. The sign is analysed and related to the struggle for spatial definition and the notion of spatial justice. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
spatial justice, homosexuality, cruising, public space, Ørstedsparken, morality, law, critical legal theory, gay, homosexual, gay bashing, space, spatiality
in
Australian Feminist Law Journal
volume
39
issue
1
pages
79 - 92
publisher
Routledge
ISSN
1320-0968
DOI
10.1080/13200968.2013.10854493
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
cc70b3a4-c365-4e66-b40c-371a1e5c5e89 (old id 3918422)
alternative location
https://www.academia.edu/6145197/Bengtsen_P._2013_._Just_gardens_On_the_struggle_for_space_and_spatial_justice
date added to LUP
2014-02-14 10:47:48
date last changed
2018-11-21 20:27:41
@article{cc70b3a4-c365-4e66-b40c-371a1e5c5e89,
  abstract     = {The present article represents a quite literal take on the theme of the special issue of Australian Feminist Law Journal in which it appears by discussing the public park as a garden of justice: on the one hand a concrete, geographical setting in which law and morality become manifest, on the other hand the site of a more intangible space which is constituted by the struggles between different spatial definitions. The article focuses on the case of Ørstedsparken in Copenhagen, a well-known cruising site where bi- and homosexual men have been meeting up to have sex for more than a century. In response to this use of the park, in recent years the municipality of Copenhagen has cut down vegetation in the park in order to expose (and thereby attempt to prevent) these activities. In doing so, the authorities attempt to reclaim the contested public space of the park and return it to a site of order (law) and potential justice. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
This reaction can be related to Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos’ notion of spatial justice, which sees the need for withdrawal from the space one occupies as essential, and to the problems related to several agents laying claim to the same space at the same time. The article also proposes that the desire to expose those who retreat to public parks to have sex may in part be a result of the hiddenness of the people who engage in these activities, since this represents a space which can be perceived as extralegal in a formal sense. Further, in connection with this discussion, the article also considers the informal implications that this specific use of the park as a homosexual cruising site has on the perception of safety and – by extension – law and suggests that unlike many other types of illegal activities, the use of parks as cruising sites means that they in some cases come to be seen as safer recreational areas for women than other parks, because the male homosexual use is perceived as precluding other types of illicit activity (e.g. heterosexual rape, robbery, drug dealing).<br/><br>
<br/><br>
The article also addresses the fact that while the cutting of bushes can be seen as a physical manifestation of the presence of law, the specific targeting of this homosexual cruising site may point to a moral aspect of justice. Given that it is no longer possible to suggest the removal of homosexual desire in people, the cutting down of bushes at gay cruising sites could be interpreted as a surrogate way of imposing moral law upon those who fall outside of heteronormativity. This argument is underpinned by an analysis of the debate and critique of the sexual activities in the park in the media which seems to move not primarily on the level of legality, but on that of morality and justice.<br/><br>
<br/><br>
The article ends with an analysis of a sign stipulating the conditions of the use of Ørstedsparken as a cruising site, which was placed at the gates of the park in April 2012. The sign is analysed and related to the struggle for spatial definition and the notion of spatial justice.},
  author       = {Bengtsen, Peter},
  issn         = {1320-0968},
  keyword      = {spatial justice,homosexuality,cruising,public space,Ørstedsparken,morality,law,critical legal theory,gay,homosexual,gay bashing,space,spatiality},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {79--92},
  publisher    = {Routledge},
  series       = {Australian Feminist Law Journal},
  title        = {Just gardens? On the struggle for space and spatial justice},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13200968.2013.10854493},
  volume       = {39},
  year         = {2013},
}