Re-imagining space: placemaking through physical activity in super-diverse neighbourhoods

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Broerse, Jora (2021) Re-imagining space: placemaking through physical activity in super-diverse neighbourhoods. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


In this thesis I discuss placemaking through physical activity as it connects to multiculturalism. Three bodies of literature form the conceptual framework: placemaking, urban diversity, and the spatiality of physical activity. Placemaking is further conceptualised utilising Henri Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial triad. Applying this triad to multiculturalism enables the fleshing out of the multiple dimensions of multiculturalism and their effect on everyday lived experiences. Urban diversity is conceptualised utilising the concepts of everyday multiculturalism, which is a growing body of literature popularised by Amanda Wise and Selvaraj Velayutham (2015). The third body of literature is concerned with social construction and spatialisation of physical activity (cf. Koch, 2017). This thesis builds on and contributes to a small but growing body of literature on physical activity as both spatial practice and a way to connect spatially to a super-diverse urbanity (Aquino et al., 2020; Rosbrook-Thompson, 2020; 2018). I developed both an ethnographic design and a methodology to immerse myself in the field as a researcher, and to capture the everyday experiences of diversity and use of public space over a period of 1.5 years. The geographical focus of the study is multiple physical activity spaces in the City of Maribyrnong, Melbourne, which is one of Australia’s most diverse inner-suburban areas. Chapter 4 describes the City of Maribyrnong following Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial triad that describes the three dimensions: spatial practices, representation of space, and representational space. The data is presented in five chapters. In chapters 5-8, I discuss placemaking in relation of multiculturalism in four unique yet relationally constituted contexts: sports clubs, a sport-based migrant settlement service, community centres, and pick-up games in parks. In each context, placemaking in relation to multiculturalism is performed differently. Thus, possibilities of both intercultural and co-ethnic coming together open up that may foster spatial connection to diverse urbanity. In each context, too, different challenges to multiculturalism emerge, including access to space among pick-up games and a diverse membership base. In this thesis, I critically reflect on my positionality, multiculturalism, and decoloniality. I do so by employing a complicity approach (Spivak, 1999). This enables me to critique multiculturalism as a form of population management, for its postcolonising tendencies, and to address ‘whiteness’ in academia. This is of particular relevance in Australia as it is a postcolonising country (Moreton-Robinson, 2015, 2003). As I demonstrate and based on the data, the different ways of using public space for physical activities facilitate unique types of placemaking. The four contexts of physical activity are relationally constituted, forming the collective flows and rhythms of the physical activity space. The main argument of this thesis is to re-imagine and prioritise public space for physical activity use. Valuing the everyday conditions of co-ethnic coming together, intercultural mingling, or temporal sharing of public space for physical activity in diverse forms through multiple trajectories (cf. Massey, 2005) can foster democratic modes of living together and planning with difference (Fincher & Iveson, 2008) in a constantly changing urban environment.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 4410 Sociology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords placemaking; physical activity; multiculturalism; urban diversity; public space; City of Maribyrnong; sports clubs; community centres; public parks; qualitative research methods; urban studies; sociology
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