What is it about?

Neoliberal and tactical discourses are important for marginalized populations to coopt and leverage to lay claim to neoliberalizing cities' spaces. We have shown how skateboard activist movements in New York City and Los Angeles either fail or succeed in transforming an exclusionary place into an urban commons through the adoption of either a security or a spontaneity discourse. We add a supplemental lens to studying everyday urbanism and spatial tactics by analyzing the discourses employed by skateboarders in two spaces, moving beyond prior academic treatments of the activity. We conducted an ethnographic content analysis, performed field work, and interviewed key informants and skateboarders to compare these two cases.

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Why is it important?

By comparing the two unique plaza spaces in NYC and LA, our research adds supplemental insight to skateboarding as tactical transgression, architectural transformation, political resistance, and lauded neoliberal activity. We build on prior skateboarding literature by analyzing the discourses adopted by the NYC and LA skate communities. In so doing, we examine how public plazas become multi-use, legalized skate spaces. Our findings suggest the possibility of an alternative urban future where cities can provide both designated skateparks and legalize additional public spaces for skateboarding. We argue that excluded populations can claim their right to city space when they adopt certain tactical and neoliberal discourses. Tactical urbanism can subvert neoliberal revanchism, and the employment of strategic discourses can aid in grassroots efforts to preserve, secure, and reclaim an excluded group's right to city space.


I hope this article makes people think more openly and critically about what is considered an appropriate use or formal user of public space. I want this article to inspire academics to broach, teach, and approach abstract/dense urban planning, anthropological, and sociological theories by studying different users and uses of cities and spaces. Public spaces and cities are sites of diversity and vibrancy when they are indifferent to difference. I believe this article illustrates the importance of moving beyond close-minded binaries (i.e., formal v. informal) so that city planners, architects, and politicians are encouraged to provide more multi-use, legalized spaces in our cities. As a Doctoral candidate, this was my first published article in a peer-reviewed journal and the 15-month process with the co-author, who lives in a different international time zone (15-hours ahead), was challenging. More importantly, however, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had since I've started my academic journey and I admired their prior research on this subject matter. This article also lead to the opportunity to participate in an international conference to present my work and lead a workshop on skate-friendly cities.

Christopher Giamarino

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This page is a summary of: Creativity, Conviviality, and Civil Society in Neoliberalizing Public Space: Changing Politics and Discourses in Skateboarder Activism From New York City to Los Angeles, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, June 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0193723519842219.
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