Ethics of public space

Mgr. Aneta Kohoutová

Supervisor: Nora Hämäläinen

Dissertation subject: Ethics of public space

Dissertation abstract:

Following from my deep interest in working with public space, my work deals with its definition, and some of the ethical questions that relate to it. This term is commonly used in public discourse, but it can be assessed from the point of view of different theories to achieve new conclusions.

My starting point will be Michael Foucalt’s idea of power and space. Foucault claims that space involves socio-functional properties and goals and has cultural-symbolic and representative layers. In Foucault’s concept of power/knowledge, space is denoted as the medium of - and the instrument for - the practice of power. In addition to Foucault’s theory I will consider different kinds of approaches to citizenship, activism, urbanism and public space advocated by Henry Lefevbre, M. De Certau, Mark Paterson, etc. In their works these approaches interact and merge with each other. Groups of people with given approaches can share interests or be in conflict with one another. The groups of people share public space and impose their attitudes, expectations and intentions onto the space. From this, the question follows whether there could be any universal ethics of public space. The premise is that usually, one of the approaches becomes dominant in a given space and this approach comes to dictate the ethical rules implemented in that space. The core problem I would like to address in my work, is how alternative approaches to and experiences of public space can change how public space is used. I will analyse, in a number of concrete cases, how different tools and approaches can work in practice, how they build the ethics of public space or how they can relativize it. In general, the approach of those who hold formal power can be considered as dominant in public space. However, for the conclusion of my work it will be important to observe that the effort of an individual can help to disrupt this power monopoly.