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Invisible boundaries to access and participation in public spaces : Navigating community diversity in Leicester, UK.

Zaidi, Najia and Pitt, Hannah ORCID: 2022. Invisible boundaries to access and participation in public spaces : Navigating community diversity in Leicester, UK. Local Environment 27 (9) , pp. 1059-1074. 10.1080/13549839.2022.2090533

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This paper considers how institutions responsible for urban public spaces might promote more equitable access. Focusing on the Gujarati community in Leicester, UK it reveals multiple cultural sensitivities that are often not taken into consideration by institutions, even as they seek to enable participation. The research maps invisible boundaries which prevent ethnic minority communities accessing urban public spaces, including complex dynamics of ethnicity, caste and class. We suggest that considering how residents imagine boundaries traversing the urban environment, and how these bound them from others – including powerful institutions – explains why certain physical spaces and spaces of participation remain inaccessible to them. It finds institutional practices perpetuate these boundaries by not recognising such complexities and how they alter local participation. This research demonstrated that the perception of accessible spaces extends beyond distance and physical accessibility to a desire for power to shape those spaces. By critically examining the factors that delimit movement in space, this article extends understanding of access and participation, highlighting that the two are not in a straightforward linear or hierarchical relationship in which one precedes the other. Rather the two can be sought together, with participation a prerequisite for access. Secondly, effective participation does not just require power to be shared across the boundary between institution and “community” – it should also be distributed across the community, and traverse social boundaries within it.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD)
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 1354-9839
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 July 2022
Date of Acceptance: 26 May 2022
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2023 21:18

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