Domesticating Public Space
Caring for the Neighborhood and a Public Square in the Transvaalbuurt
Eline van Oosten 10643826
Supervisor: Dr. Mandy de Wilde
Collaborating Organization: WomenMakeTheCity Master Cultural and Social Anthropology (Applied) Words: 24.580
Table of contents
+ The analytical tools……….7
Chapter 1: Valuing public space………15
1.4 To conclude………24
Chapter 2: ‘There has not really been made an effort to make it into something gezellig..25
2.1 I never go and sit there……….26
2.2 Situated concerns: Not so mooi, safe and clean………..28
2.3 A gezellig square……….32
2.4 To conclude………..34
Chapter 3: Caring for a square………36
3.1 Care ‘work’………...37
3.2. Karima’s caravan……….42
3.3 To conclude……….45
Applied report (in Dutch)………50
“Declaration: I have read and understood the University of Amsterdam plagiarism policy [http://student.uva.nl/mcsa/az/item/plagiarism-and-fraud.html]. I declare that this assignment is entirely my own work, all sources have been properly acknowledged, and that I have not previously submitted this work, or any version of it, for assessment in any other paper.”
This thesis presents the results of ten weeks of fieldwork centered around the question: How do women, as users of the city, domesticate public space? In order to answer this question I conducted a case study of Transvaalbuurt and the Krugerplein, the central square of the Transvaalbuurt. This research focuses on the everyday ways in which women, as users of the city, make public space into their own. I draw on analytical tools from the field of science and technology studies that I appropriate to analyze objects in public space. In the field of STS, scholars have been preoccupied with understanding the interaction between (technological) objects and humans. I draw on the concept of domestication as coined by Silverstone and Hirsch (1992), and thereafter appropriated by Berker (2011) and Mandich and Cuzzocrea (2016) to the built environment and public space.
In addition to domestication, I use the script approach as described by Akrich (1997). I view these concepts through the analytical lens of care as defined by Mol and Hardon (2020) to interpret and analyze the collected data. I present a material-semiotic analysis in which I argue that through care practices my interlocutors aim to make the Krugerplein, the central square of the Transvaalbuurt area, into their own. I term the things my interlocutors do care practices since they are aimed at an improving effort towards what my interlocutors have termed as ‘good’ then and there. From my data, four goods emerged: mooi, safe, clean and gezellig. I argue that these goods are enacted in care practices in order to improve public space and specifically the Krugerplein. These care practices succeed when they are able to mobilize various actors towards what locally counts as good.
Moreover, I point out that caring practices in public space are adaptive, my interlocutors tinker with what is available at a specific time and place in order to improve public space and a public square. Moreover, I argue that caring for the neighborhood and public space does not come naturally but is rather the result of municipalities effort to craft local communities to take responsibility for the public shared space in their area as well as the local ‘community’(de Wilde 2013; 2016). They do so by igniting specific feeling rules in which loyalty to the community and informal everyday activities are praised in order to improve social cohesion and the living environment. However, even though municipalities are increasingly invoking local communities to care and collaborate in solving problems of the neighborhood, they are not always given the access and amenities needed to be successful in caring. Moreover, these carers remain reliant on the municipality as the one to set the conditions for appropriate and desired caring. The results of this research are aimed towards supporting the work of WomenMakeTheCity, a board of women that advises the municipality of Amsterdam on the design of the city.
Firstly, I want to thank my supervisor Mandy de Wilde for many hours of guidance in thinking together through my collected data and thesis challenges. Your comments were extremely helpful and I am thankful for the growth I have been able to make academically in using STS and ANT concepts and methods under your guidance. I want to thank my friends who served as living proof that eventually I would also finish my thesis just like they did. Also, thank you for sharing your personal thesis stories over much needed dinners and drinks. Thank you to Isa, my sister, who at the same time as me was writing her thesis, your very honest comments on my draft were very helpful. Thank you for my parents and their support during my thesis. Thank you Yian, Marinka and Irina, my anthropology peer group, for the nice walks and regular zoom calls on Friday. Also thank you to the weekly Pomodoro writing sessions hosted by Naomi on Zoom, they were effective and fun. Thank you to my girlfriend Claudia for your words of reassurance, proofreading and being the one I could think out loud with about my thesis. Last but not least, a big thank you to the women I did walking interviews with. Thank you for providing me with the interesting and sometimes funny insights and your generosity in helping me reach other informants. Besides walking for research purposes, walking with you was fun and along the way I found out a lot about my (now ex-) neighborhood. Finally, I cannot write a thesis in which I acknowledge the agentive role of objects and leave them out of my acknowledgments. I want to thank my big red comfortable couch on which I finished the last weeks of writing when I had no more shifts available in the university library for the week. Also thank you to Karima’s caravan where I spent an afternoon one week before the thesis deadline observing and talking to initiators and volunteers and helping out.
This thesis is the result of ten weeks of ethnographic fieldwork focused on the question: How do women, as users of the city, domesticate public space? In order to answer this question, I conducted a case study on the use of public space by women in the Transvaalbuurt area and specifically the Krugerplein, the central square of the Transvaalbuurt. This research was done in collaboration with WomenMakeTheCity, a board of women that advises the municipality of Amsterdam on its spatial design and planning. WomenMakeTheCity was set up in 2019 by Marthe Singelenberg, after an initiative of alderman Marieke van Doorninck (spatial development and sustainability), who was curious to see what happens when you look at the development of the city through the eyes of women.1 From these 80 women, nine women were selected for the women advisory board to advise the municipality of Amsterdam on the omgevingsvisie 2050, the spatial vision for the city of Amsterdam for the next 30 years. The involvement of WomenMakeTheCity in decision-making processes in city planning can be understood as part of a wider acknowledgement that women and other minority groups have often been left out of city planning in western Europe and the US.
According to scholars in urban planning, the fact that these groups have been left out led to cities that do not always cater to the needs of women and other minority groups (Jacobs 1961;
Sandercock & Forsyth 1992; Beall 1996; Damyanovic & Zibell 2013; Escalante & Valdivia 2015;
Tummers 2016). Alongside that, participation of users in city planning has increasingly been opted for when dealing with problems of the city in the Netherlands as well as Europe in general.
Municipalities are appealing to community groups to organize in ways that help neighborhoods become better and more socially cohesive (de Wilde 2014: 3366; de Wilde & Duyvendak 2016).
Such is the case with WomenMakeTheCity, which stems from the municipalities’ motto: ‘Think along, talk along and participate. Because together we make Amsterdam.’2
Since 2019, WomenMakeTheCity came up with a set of ten recommendations for the omgevingsvisie 2050. These ranged from the preservation of greenery to investing in the safety of public spaces. These recommendations are all aimed towards policy and design for a more inclusive, just and fairer city.3 However, the strength of the anthropologist is to move away from policy and planning and instead focus on the everyday lived experience of women in these planned spaces (Jaffe & de Koning 2015). Moreover, solely focusing on planning and policy would ignore the everyday (co-occurring) activities and work done by users of public space to make public space
1 Report of WomenMakeTheCity 21st of June 2019, obtained through Marthe Singelenberg
2 See https://www.amsterdam.nl/bestuur-organisatie/volg-beleid/coalitieakkoord-uitvoeringsagenda/fijne- buurten/omgevingsvisie-0/overzicht/omgevingsvisie/ (4/11/2020)
‘work’ after it is put in place after a policy or planning decision. Therefore, this thesis presents a material-semiotic analysis of the everyday ways in which women make public space in the Transvaalbuurt area into their own.
The Transvaalbuurt is located east from the city center of Amsterdam. One of the main challenges of this area is the nuisance caused by youth and criminals and reports of feelings of unsafety by residents and entrepreneurs (Gemeente Amsterdam 2020: 4). The overall feeling of safety in residents in this area is even below average compared to other areas of Amsterdam (Gemeente Amsterdam 2020: 6). To relieve the experience of unsafety, the municipality plans to strengthen the social function of the squares in the Transvaalbuurt and wider Oud-Oost area.
According to the municipality, squares increase the social cohesion in neighborhoods (Gemeente Amsterdam 2020: 4). Moreover, the municipality plans to for example replace benches with greenery to alleviate nuisance and hanging around (Gemeente Amsterdam 2021: 13). The municipality is also aiming to increase greenery to make public space more pleasant and to soften the densely built and stony character of the Transvaalbuurt. The Transvaalbuurt is an interesting case study since it reports below average on feelings of safety in residents. This is interesting, considering that more than half of women living in Amsterdam have reported feeling unsafe and in public space in Amsterdam.4 Therefore the Transvaalbuurt proves to be an interesting case study.
This study focuses on women as users of the city, since the results of this research are aimed at improving insight into the way women experience public space in order to contribute to WomenMakeTheCity’s work with the municipality. Alongside that, WomenMakeTheCity departs from the idea that women have been underrepresented in urban planning and design which is in line with a wider acknowledgment of the underrepresentation of women in the urban (Jacobs 1961;
Sandercock & Forsyth 1992; Beall 1996; Damyanovic & Zibell 2013; Escalante & Valdivia 2015;
Tummers 2016). However, the results of this case study need not be essentialized to women in general. I do not view identity markers such as gender as categories that exist in a vacuum. Rather identity markers become real in context. They are not static but always performative and changing according to the context and relations they emerge in (Butler 1990; Mol 2015).
This thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter deals with three different goods in public space: mooi5, safe and clean. I argue that these goods are enacted in practice and I use
4 Press message by the municipality of Amsterdam ‘Worries about safety of girls and women in Amsterdam’
https://www.amsterdam.nl/bestuur-organisatie/college/burgemeester/persberichten/zorgen-veiligheid-meisjes- vrouwen/ (8/6/2021)
5 Beautiful, the English translation of the Dutch word mooi, does not quite cover the meaning of what mooi means.
these three goods as a directory for the second chapter, in which I focus on the Krugerplein, the central square of the Transvaalbuurt. My interlocutors described the square as a place that is not mooi, not safe and not clean. Moreover, a public square should also be gezellig6; a place where neighbors can meet one another and have a chat. Most women in the first round of interviews only used the square to get from point A to B even though the square is designed to be the social square of the neighborhood. In the second chapter, I introduce the concerns of my informants with the Krugerplein and show how these four values: mooi, safe, clean and gezellig are situated and often in tension with one another. This sheds a light on the fact that public space is a shared space in which its design and use needs to be shared among various users. I, therefore, bring in the analytical lens of care to understand how this negotiation between various uses and users is done.
In the third chapter, I show how my interlocutors aim to improve the square by enacting the goods I describe in my first chapter and second chapter. This chapter deals with the care practices that my informants do in order to do mooi, safe, clean and gezellig so that they make the square temporarily theirs and aim to improve it. Finally, I will arrive at the discussion and conclusion as well as the recommendations for WomenMakeTheCity.
My research question is: How do women, as users of the city, domesticate public space?
+ The analytical tools
The central focus of this research is to gain an understanding into the way women, as users of the city, make themselves at home in public space. In order to understand this process, I draw on analytical tools from the field of science and technology studies, hereafter STS. In the field of STS, scholars have been preoccupied with understanding the interaction between (technological) objects and humans. I draw on the concept of domestication as coined by Silverstone and Hirsch (1992), and thereafter appropriated by Berker (2011) and Mandich and Cuzzocrea (2016) to the built environment and public space. In addition to domestication, I use the script approach as described by Akrich (1997). I view these concepts through the analytical lens of care defined by Mol and Hardon (2020) to interpret and analyze the collected data.
Objects do not become incorporated into people’s lives right away; they are often negotiated to fit into someone’s everyday routine during which both the everyday routine and the objects themselves may change. This process of negotiation is captured by the concept of domestication. This concept was developed by Silverstone and Hirsch (1992), originally media
6 Gezellig or ongezellig do not easily translate into English. The Dutch word gezellig could be translated into cosy or being in a cosy atmosphere. Gezellig is also about being with others in a cosy and fun atmosphere. Ongezellig refers in this title refers to a square that is not cosy or fun to be on with others.
studies scholars, to understand how households included objects like the television into their everyday lives. The concept of domestication encompasses a four-phase adaptation process:
‘acquisition, objectification, incorporation, and conversion’ (Mandich & Cuzzocrea 2016: 227). We must keep in mind that these phases do not necessarily occur chronologically and may overlap.
The first phase, acquisition, is the process of including the object into everyday life. The object is acquired, obtained and put in place. Secondly, appropriation encompasses both objectification and incorporation. Objectification is about the ways in which the meaning of an object changes due to the context. Berker (2011), for example, shows that when a new building is put in place, its meaning changes according to the other objects or buildings that are already there, this is what is meant by objectification. Mandich and Cuzzocrea (2016) argue that you know the object is incorporated when it gets the ‘status of being “taken for granted”’(227). Besides this, the objects often get re-inscribed with different uses or functions than those that the designer had previously inscribed into the object. In this way the new object becomes incorporated into its users’ routine and life. The final dimension is conversion. This is the stage in which the object becomes a true part of someone’s life and identity. It has shifted from a new object into a familiar one. It is in the users’ interest to make objects fit into their everyday routine besides the possible benefits users gain through using the object, the work done by the user to make the object work for them creates a sense of familiarity. This sense of familiarity is the end goal of domestication and can also be understood as ontological security. Ontological security is defined as ‘a sense of confidence and trust in the world as it appears to be’ (Mandich & Cuzzocrea 2016: 229). This sense of confidence and trust helps users to move through the world in a way that feels comfortable and safe since the world becomes more predictable.
When appropriating the concept of domestication outside of the household context, I take my cues from Berker (2011) and Mandich and Cuzzocrea (2016). In the built environment, acquisition becomes about the ‘access and control over a space as a consequence of established and regular practices’, a place is objectified when it is put into context and takes a place in what is already there, how does the new place interact with the already existing places out there? It becomes incorporated when it becomes a part of everyday routines in people’s lives, this can mean part of the specific routes people take or visiting a place at specific times every week. It is then given a function by becoming part of the everyday routine of the user and reaches its taken for granted status (Mandich & Cuzzocrea 2016). In the fourth dimension, conversion, the space becomes a place, when the space becomes redefined or re-inscribed by the people using it, through their everyday routines and the meaning they attach to the place. In the case of public space this could mean that a group of different people all share a particular meaning and function for a place.
In the case of a public garden, for example, the garden can become a place where people always have a picnic on Wednesday afternoons. This means that alternative routines and meanings from the original script are attached to the space making it a place.
The theoretical concept of domestication is interesting for this research project, as it foregrounds the work done by users, both individuals and communities, to adopt new objects into their everyday lives. During this process however, it is not just the everyday routine of the user that may adapt to the new object. The object itself may also be changed in the process. A designer designs an object keeping in mind potential users and uses of the object. However, through using the object the user may find new uses that were not anticipated by the designer by which in the process the object can be changed too. This is illustrated by Denis and Pontille (2015) who through the example of a directional subway sign that is ‘sticking part way out of a garbage can’ show that the sign no longer performs its anticipated function as a performer as part of a wayfinding network (Denis & Pontille 2015: 339). This example illustrates that objects are dependent on a network of various actors in order for them to work. This directional sign only works as a wayfinding agent when it is put in the ‘right’ place, standardized and recognized by users as a wayfinding agent. This means that the object is changed according to what users or maintenance workers do to it as well.
When the sign ends up in the garbage it no longer performs its desired function, Denis and Pontille (2015) argue that this highlights a crucial point about materiality, that rather than understanding materiality as being stable and durable we should understand materiality as inherently fragile. It depends on a variety of actors in order for it to work. Or as de Wilde (2020) describes it:
‘Technicians share with users and technologies the responsibility for bringing into existence, maintaining, and repairing usership conditions that must be “in place” for a technology to function’
(De Wilde 2020: 5). Thereby implying once again that in order for something to function various actors need to take responsibility to maintain and repair the conditions needed for objects to
‘work.’ According to Denis and Pontille (2015) it is this inherent fragility that requires one to perform the ongoing work, or maintenance, that is needed in order to keep the object ‘working.’
However, it is not necessarily obvious what it means for something to work or function.
This is illustrated by De Laet and Mol (2000), who show that what it means to work for the Zimbabwe bush pump, a water pumping device, ‘can only rarely be answered with a clear-cut “yes”
or “no”’ (de Laet & Mol 2000: 225). Just like its design, whether the pump is working or not is rather fluid than fixed. It is the fluidity of the object that allows it to work in a variety of settings and situations. In the case of public space, Kim (2019), in line with this, argues that public spaces are often successful when designed ‘to have more than one relationship with users rather than working only as a pre-conceptualized one’ in terms of domestication (Kim 2019: 252). In other
words, the more open or flexible the design of the public space, the more likely it is for multiple user groups to use it and become ‘successful’ for them.
The designer in that way also plays an important role by designing objects and scripts that keep in mind its intended user and the possibilities of use for that object (Akrich 1997). In the script of for the object, in this case a built environment, users are defined with ‘specific tastes, competences, motives, aspirations, political prejudices, and the rest’ (Akrich 1997: 208 in Kammen 2000: 10). What makes the script approach interesting as an analytical tool, is that it does not focus solely on the sphere of production, the designer, but also focuses on the sphere of consumption, the user. Once an object is acquired by users they can accept, use, reject and adapt the script inscribed by the designer. A flexible script and thus flexible object are way more likely to succeed since the script allows for flexible use by which users can re-inscribe the object through using it in a way that works for him or her. Through this process not only the users are changed but the objects can be changed as well as shown earlier. When considering that public spaces need a flexible script in order to cater to the needs of a diversity of users, I consider Akrich’s (1997) script approach interesting since it allows me to look into the flexibility or fluidity (de Laet & Mol 2000) for that matter, of the design of public space.
The negotiation of the script that takes place when users acquire an object can be partly explained through the concept of domestication, however, when appropriating the concept of domestication to public space the shared aspect of the objects in public space makes ownership or control over an object much more blurry. Since no one owns public space like one can own a television we need to expand our analytical toolbox. Domestication, which centers ownership and control over an object as a prerequisite for domesticating it, does not suffice completely in understanding the dynamics of using public space which is a shared space with various shared objects in it. In public space, use has to be negotiated and mediated between various users and uses. Moreover, besides other users, there is also negotiation with the materiality of the objects.
De Laet & Mol (2000) argue that in order to keep the Zimbabwe bush pump working it is dependent on a community to form around it that both installs the pump and maintains it after installation. It needs to build a community around it that takes care of it, it needs skilled people that can fix the pump when it breaks, it needs easy access to spare parts, and so on (de Laet & Mol 2000). In the case of a public square this brings up the following questions: What network is needed to sustain a public square? And what does it mean for a public square to ‘work’? This is never univocal as from my data emerged more stories of tension with ‘other’ users and uses than those of ownership and control over objects in public space. The concept of domestication by itself does not suffice in analyzing these stories. Moreover, it does not suffice in analyzing the role of
materiality as an actor in interaction with users. Therefore, I draw on care as an analytical tool (De Laet & Mol 2000; Denis & Pontille 2015; De Wilde 2020; Mol & Hardon 2020).
Care as an analytical tool centers the ongoing practices of improving, maintaining and restoring that are needed to keep something working (Mol & Hardon 2020: 185). In contrast to domestication in which an object can take the status of being taken for granted, meaning the object is domesticated, caring rather emphasizes the ongoing work that is needed in order for things to
‘work.’ According to Mol and Hardon (2020), care is not just about being concerned about something but about doing something and translating this concern into a practical engagement (Mol & Hardon 2020: 185). Caring are all the things we do because we think they are improving towards a goal that we have valued as important or good (ibid.). This ‘good’ should not be understood as a mere passing of judgement but rather as enclosed in the activity, it is by cleaning that one enacts cleanliness as important for example. Moreover, this good is not universal, there can be many versions of good. This means that caring is always aimed at working towards something that ‘counts locally as “good”’ (Mol & Hardon 2020: 196). What counts locally as good can differ per individual or group of users as well as per time or place. Therefore, these different goods that are practiced can be in tension with one another and it is part of caring to negotiate and align these different valuations (Mol & Hardon 2020: 196).
As I have previously argued by example of Denis & Pontille (2015), caring can never be attributed to an individual but rather is spread out over a network. For something to work means that there must be a network in place that sustains it. Mol and Hardon (2020: 190) illustrate this with the example of a car. For a car to work it needs an infrastructure to be in place, gasoline, spare parts and mechanics that can repair and maintain the car, and so on. Bringing in the analytical lens of care allows me to understand more extensively how women, as users of the city, make public space into their own. Since public space is not an object that is owned or controlled by one individual or household, care as an analytical tool allows me to interpret and analyze data about the practices that are performed in order for objects to ‘work’ or to be stabilized temporarily. Also, caring puts more of an emphasis on the ongoing character of being with objects; there is no end station in caring. The understanding of caring by Mol and Hardon (2020) as not necessarily a positive or universally good practice allows me to interpret how modes of caring can be in tension with each other. While also focusing on the needs that users want to get met by or in public space and how through practices these needs of both users and objects are acted out. This is in line with de Wilde (2020), who argues that, by maintaining and taking care of the needs of household technologies, users in turn get some of their needs met by these technologies. Moreover, the understanding that for an object to work a network needs to be in place to sustain it (de Laet &
Mol 2000; Mol & Hardon 2020), brings in a new question, namely: What network is needed to sustain public space and more specifically Krugerplein? And for whom? This then also allows me to map tensions between different valuations and uses and on how Krugerplein becomes a ‘good’
or pleasant square for them, there and then.
This research is focused on what women do to make public space their own, the data I was looking for was data that informed me about practices. Since practices are things we do, it would not suffice to ask my informants about what they do in a sitting down interview. Therefore, I chose mobile methods such as walking interviews and observations in which interaction with public space was more visible. Ross et al. (2009) show that mobile methods in research such as ‘guided’
walks work effectively in researching the relation between self and place since ‘a world is not only perceived or conceived but also actively lived and receptively experienced’ (Ross et al. 2009: 606).
Besides, mobile methods such as walking give insight into how the mobility of my informants is shaped by social relations that are present in the design of the city. Avoiding areas or rerouting at certain times of the day are important indicators of safety practices, movement then becomes ‘a product of socio-cultural worlds as well as structural political-economic configurations.’ The method of following movements through mobile interviews then becomes a way to examine ‘the complex, lived performance and negotiation of inequalities’ (Jaffe & de Koning 2015: 53).
Moreover, mobile methods allow the researcher to gain insights into the more non-verbal assets of living in a city such as ‘tacit knowledge of the urban landscape’ and ‘insight into the embodied, sensory aspects of urban life: the smells, sounds and affects that are central to the experience of the city’ (Jaffe & de Koning 2015:18). Therefore, mobile methods such as walks move beyond the sitting-down interview in which a perception of the world is told into the realm of doing, since participants are allowed to interact with the environment in a way that is not possible during a sitting-down interview. During my interviews I let the interviewee guide the walk, which has been argued to be beneficial in giving the interviewee a sense of control over the direction of the interview which can be advantageous to building trust and helping the interviewee open up more (Ratzenböck 2016). Moreover, letting the interviewee guide the walk led them to show me what they did in public space and allowed me to get a better understanding into the non-verbal ways of experiencing the city in an everyday context (Ross et al. 2009: 608).
In order to answer my research question: How do women, as users of the city, domesticate public space? I divided my fieldwork into two phases. One explorative phase during January 2021 and one focused phase, starting in the beginning of February until mid-March 2021. All informants
were gathered through snowball sampling in various ways. I emailed most women’s organizations in the Amsterdam area, posted calls for informants in Facebook groups and contacted local organizations and entrepreneurs. In addition, WomenMakeTheCity, the organization for whom I conducted this research, provided me with two informants. A table with some background information about my informants can be found in appendix 1.1. The names of all participants in this study are feigned for privacy purposes.
In the first fieldwork phase I conducted seven walking interviews with eight women, between the ages of 17 and 65, living in the Transvaalbuurt area of Amsterdam. These women led the way during our walk through their neighborhood while I asked them questions in order to figure out how they used and experienced public space. The interviews in this phase were purposefully left open-ended in order to find out what was pressing or important for my informants. I transcribed my interviews and coded and analyzed them to look for themes and objects that recurred. Recurring themes I found were various ‘goods’ such as mooi, safe and clean as well as greenery, maintenance and accessibility. Objects that recurred were the various pedestrian underpasses in the Transvaalbuurt and the Krugerplein, the central square of the Transvaalbuurt.
The Krugerplein came to the fore in almost all interviews in the first round as many women said they did not feel the Krugerplein was their place to be in the city. The square was also present in various gebiedsplannen and gebiedsagendas over the years 2018b, 2019, 2020, and 2021. These reports are published by the municipality and detail plans for improvement of city areas. During 2020, the square attracted quite a lot of media attention that reported on a shooting that took place there as well as general nuisance by youngsters.7 Most reports frame the Krugerplein as a square that has been conflicted for a few years now. The Transvaalbuurt was labeled as a Vogelaarbuurt in 2007, which was a popular label for problem areas in the Netherlands during the Balkenende period.8 This might also explain why my informants were not using the square more than getting from point A to B. When looking at the fact that my interlocutors did not use the square extensively, through the lens of domestication, feeling like something is yours and hence having a sense of control over an object is part of domesticating that object. However, the women in this study expressed feeling out of place and therefore presumably out of control over the square. They did not deem themselves as the intended user of the square. Notably, they also argued that the square had not
7 https://www.parool.nl/amsterdam/krugerplein-opgeschrikt-door-schietpartij-wat-gebeurt-er-in-deze- buurt~bfdd8815/
been designed with care; multiple informants identified a visible lack of care and maintenance for the objects on and the square itself. This lack of care and attention made them feel like the square attracted nuisance and other uses that they deemed negative like littering and drug dealing which in turn made them avoid the square. Therefore, this square became the focus of my second phase of fieldwork.
In addition to walking interviews, I conducted two observations. During the first observation I walked past multiple pedestrian underpasses in the Transvaalbuurt area and in the second observation I walked and sat down in the Oosterpark. During both observations I took pictures and made notes about how people used objects in public space. My guiding questions were: What objects are present in this area of public space? What do they invite its users to do?
How are the objects used by users?
In the second phase of fieldwork, I focused on the Krugerplein. As my research question focuses on the way women, as users of the city, make public space their own, it emerged from my first phase of fieldwork that they seem to be somehow obstructed or compromised in doing so at the Krugerplein. I conducted 12 mobile interviews in place on the Krugerplein that lasted around 20 minutes each and varied in length from 11 to 43 minutes. I also interviewed one man, the gebiedsmakelaar9 for the Transvaalbuurt, for contextualization and background information about the Krugerplein. During this phase of fieldwork, I managed to collect most of my informants through snowball sampling. In the last weeks of my fieldwork, I started to get more and more contacts through women that were very active in organizations or volunteering in the Transvaalbuurt and on the Krugerplein. Most of them had already lived in the Transvaalbuurt for years and were very familiar with the Krugerplein as they had organized multiple activities and events on the square and had also seen the neighborhood and the square change over the years.
Through these women, I managed to get into contact with multiple informants that were active in the neighborhood and around the square. Next to women who had a clear affiliation with the square, I also interviewed people who just lived near the square or happened to be on the square.
In the second phase of fieldwork, I conducted short observations before, during and after interviews as well as longer observations up to an hour in which I would sit and walk around the square and take notes about and photos of the objects. The questions that guided me during the observations on the Krugerplein were: What do these objects do? What do these objects afford or invite its users to do? How are these objects used or not used? In order to structure my
9 The gebiedsmakelaar (literal translation: area broker) is the first contact person from the municipality that residents
observations, I used a table inspired by the one Kim (2019) used in her study on public space. The observation table can be seen in the appendix 1.2.
When finishing this thesis, I spent one afternoon on the square in June 2021 at Karima’s caravan to collect more data. Karima’s caravan was put in place on the Krugerplein in order to invite neighbors to chat and meet one another. I was invited by one of the initiators to visit the caravan. During this afternoon I chatted with those present around the caravan, one of the women I interviewed happened to be there as well and I helped her out with some daily tasks for the afternoon. I taped the conversations and made field notes.
This research aims to add to existing literature on the interaction between public space and its users. By focusing on the everyday work done by women, as gendered users, to make public space into their own it moves away from a sole focus on planning and design. By moving away from an understanding that domesticating is a public space and bringing in the analytical lense of care this opens up new ways of understanding the interaction between public space and its users. In public space various users need to negotiate both among each other as well as with the material or non- human actors how to deal with and be in public space together. By relying on theories and concepts from the field of Science and Technology studies, I bring in materials and objects as agents rather than viewing users in a one-way interaction with the environment. This research shows that materials and objects do things to users as well. The insights derived from this research will be written up in a rapport with recommendations in order to add to and support the work done by WomenMakeTheCity in order to design more just and inclusive cities.
1 Valuing public space
I am taking a walk with Jelena and Lotte, a mother and daughter, who both moved to the Transvaalbuurt two years ago after living in another neighborhood in Amsterdam for 18 years. We are walking through the neighborhood, and they point out in detailed ways what they think of the design of the area. We stop at a small communal garden next to the basketball field on the corner of the Tugelaweg and Maritzstraat. Jelena points to a part of a fence around some bushes that is missing. She says indignantly: ‘Someone here has taken a part of the fence and then I made a report of it. And then they [the municipality] said: Madam, we do not repair fences. We either place an entirely new one or it stays like this. So, if someone breaks something here it invites them to keep going like that and it stays like that.’ Later, we cross the Maritzstraat and continue walking along the Tugelaweg. On this side there is a community center, and the grass is neatly mowed and kept up. The blooming flowers and plants in the
slope stand up straight in contrast to the withered plants partly enclosed by the broken fence on the other side of the street. After crossing the street Jelena immediately notes: ‘You see that it looks way neater here?’ She then says:
‘When you enter here it seems like there is another atmosphere here. I cannot put it into words, maybe you [Lotte]
can do that better than me?’ To which Lotte says: ‘It looks thought out, I don’t know it is much more neat, much more atmospheric... I also like it better to walk here than on the other side of the Tugelaweg. Over there [other side of Tugelaweg] it is a whole other design, there is I don’t know, no attention and care.’ Both emphasize that they rather walk on the neater side of the Tugelaweg, there is less trash there, it feels more pleasant and there is a lot of light.
In this chapter I discuss the data from my first round of explorative walks. I will do so by discussing how women value public space. I argue that valuing is not the same as a mere passing of judgement but rather enacted in practices. It is by making a report about a broken fence that one values public space that is whole and not broken as important and it is by walking on one side of the street because it looks neater that one values mooi design and cleaned up streets as good. Value is thus created through these practices and inherent to caring practices as they enact an improving, restoring or maintaining effort towards a certain local ‘good’ (Mol & Hardon 2020: 196; Lehtonen
& Pyyhtinen 2020). Moreover, we must keep in mind that when we talk about public space we are talking about materiality, in other words, ‘place is stuff’ (Gieryn 2000, 465). The objects in public space must not be understood as the mere background or decor to which these women go about their everyday lives. These objects also perform ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ and thus do things to which users do things in return. For example, the performance of objects as clean/unclean shape the (re)routes my informants take and in turn also the attention and care these objects receive. In this chapter I deal with three values that are enacted as good: mooi, safe, and clean. In discussing these three goods and how they are practiced, I will show how they are connected to each other. For example, a green area that performs mooi through its caring design becomes a place that is safe while a broken fence invites more vandalizing.
Valuing what things in public space look like was an important topic for conversation in my first round of interviews. Objects in public space were judged among informants according to whether they were mooi or not. During our walks my informants would point out what they found attractive
10 Beautiful, the literal English translation of the Dutch word mooi does not quite cover the meaning of the word mooi in Dutch. Therefore, I will stick to the Dutch word mooi in this thesis. Mooi means something that is
or not attractive in an aesthetic sense. Here, I will sum up the different ways mooi is practiced as a good as well as how mooi as a good is related to other goods such as safety and cleanliness. The main practices that do mooi are taking walks through green areas, maintaining a geveltuintje, and calling the housing corporation for the maintenance and embellishment of an area.
As I have argued above, valuing is more than a mere passing of judgement about whether something is mooi or not; the value mooi is done in practices that enact mooi as good. Multiple informants expressed going on walks through areas that they described as mooi, it is by choosing routes based on their aesthetics that my informants enact mooi as important. One informant for example said about walking alongside the Amstel: ‘You have this wide view of course, on the water which is very pleasant and mooie houses. It radiates a kind of tranquility; it is a sort of calm point of the city I think.’ Most informants chose a route through a green area for our walk and greenery as a mooi object was a recurring topic of conversation. Some informants attached routines to green places such as Linda who took a daily morning walk through the Frankendael park. The appearance of the green park as mooi was beneficial for her relaxation and mental stability, she said. Farida sat by the water which for her and her disabled daughter formed a great source of tranquility. We see here how daily routines such as walking or sitting by the water value green as mooi as well as relaxing. Overall greenery is often proposed in urban areas to increase attractiveness and overall well-being of residents (Lennon et al. 2017). In line with this, the municipality of Amsterdam makes it a point to provide plenty of green space because of the strong positive experiential value of greenery in contrast to the often stony and hard character of urban areas (Gemeente Amsterdam 2018a). Thus, we can see that greenery besides performing mooi can enact various goods such as relaxation and tranquility. It is by consciously seeking out these places that are mooi that user’s value mooi as good.
However, greenery as an expression of mooi was also enacted in another practice. Anoushka who lived in a ground floor apartment in the Transvaalbuurt, told me that she put in place a geveltuintje11 and hung-up flowers in front of the windows of her apartment. She embellished the area in front of her apartment in order to ward off loiterers and other forms of nuisance. She was experiencing issues with loiterers that smoked, littered and hung out in front her apartment. It was by putting in place a geveltuintje and hanging up flowers in front of her apartment window that she tried to overcome these issues. She explained:
11 A geveltuintje would translate into english as a facade garden. It is a small public garden that one can put in place in front of the facade of their apartment. Even though it is a public garden, a geveltuintje is maintained by the resident of the apartment
We now made a geveltuintje as a sort of way to guard territory… I am also regularly busy with the broom in front and with planting flowers. I do not know but just to be like we live here and it is not fun for you to hang around next to your neighbor who is busy here.
Here we can see how sweeping and planting flowers are both practices of embellishing and making mooi as well as aimed towards warding off of users that smoke and hang in front of her apartment.
By sweeping and planting flowers, this informant aims to expand her territory by eliminating conflicting or ‘bad’ use. After our walk, we arrived at Anoushka’s apartment, where she showed me that the loiterers had now moved two doors further in front of her neighbor’s apartment where cigarette buds and burning stains were visible on the tiling. During our interview Anoushka also noted that she made a request to her housing association to paint a wall on which men were regularly peeing in the street. It is through contacting the housing association with a request for painting a wall that Anoushka again enacts mooi not only as important, but she enacts embellishment as a way to ward off use that is unwanted. It is by embellishing an area through material interventions such as flowers, a geveltuintje and the proposal of painting a wall that Anoushka aims to eliminate conflicting users and uses.
This form of making territory can be understood through Karrholm’s understanding of territory as ‘a spatial actant’ that ‘brings about a certain effect in a certain situation of place’
(Karrholm 2018: 440). Karholm understands territory as reliant on a network of actors, that is both rules and intentions as well as people, their behaviours and material to keep the territory working (Karrholm 2018: 440). In the example given by Anoushka we can see how mooi is done by mobilizing a network of actors and knowledge. It is by embellishing through materials such as flowers, plants, soil, bricks and water that mooi is enacted. It is by putting in place these materials and by maintaining them, guided by her knowledge on planting flowers and greenery that she performs the ongoing work needed to delimit that space as her territory and thereby warding off those that perform behaviours that are not desired in her territory. It is by making a proposal to paint a wall to ward off those who pee up against it, that Anoushka aims to mobilize both the materiality of paint and the knowledge and skills of the painter to embellish the wall and delimit that territory as no longer intended for bad use.
In line with this, multiple informants talked about how objects that looked mooier invited more ‘good’ use and warded off ‘bad’ use. Laura, for example, argued that most pedestrian and bicycle underpasses that she used looked neglected. She said:
There is more and more graffiti on the walls which gives it an even poorer appearance. And I also noted that the train viaduct over the Wibautstraat looks dirty and unkempt. Same goes for the train viaduct towards the Beukenweg. And then I can think like: Gosh, how would they [underpasses and viaducts] be maintained? If they even are maintained.
She describes here how the appearance of the underpasses led her to experience these tunnels as gloomy and then goes on to say: ‘I think that if you make things mooi or attractive, and also maintain that a little bit that then would also increase the feeling of safety.’ We must keep in mind that what is valued as mooi is never universal or specific. For example, graffiti can be a form of (informal) embellishment to some while Laura perceives it as a sign of decay. In 2013, the pedestrian and biking underpass crossing the Tugelaweg and Wibaustraat was embellished with a light installment to make users feel safer in the tunnel.12 Here we see once again how mooi, in the form of an art light installment, enacts not only mooi as more attractive but in this case mooi becomes also a performer of safety as important.
It is quite interesting to note that pedestrian underpasses are put in place to allow safe passing underneath busy roads and railway tracks but most of my informants expressed taking detours or biking faster when moving through these underpasses because of their perceived unsafety. It was mainly the decayed and dark appearance that made them perceive these underpasses as unsafe. It is through the practice of detouring and speeding up that informants perform safety as a concern and priority over efficient routing and mobility. In line with this, multiple informants also avoided parks and green areas at night even though during the day they would actually seek out routes that went through the park or a green area as a form of enjoyment.
We can see through these examples that valuations such as mooi and safe are carefully weighed in practice considering the time of the day and more specifically whether it is light or dark.
Practices that enacted safety as important were widespread among my informants. It is acknowledged that safety for women and girls in public space in Amsterdam is an issue. The municipality conducted research during 2020 and 2021 into this issue and found that more than half of their female respondents dealt with street harassment over the last year.13 In this section, I
12 https://www.parool.nl/nieuws/tunnel-oost-krijgt-vensters-van-licht~bef19faa/ (8/6/2021)
13 Press message by the municipality of Amsterdam https://www.amsterdam.nl/bestuur- organisatie/college/burgemeester/persberichten/zorgen-veiligheid-meisjes-
will detail practices that do safe as important. In the previous section, we have seen how mooi as a good in turn also performs safe by for example embellishing an underpass with an art light installment. In the same vein, interventions are made by my informants that work towards their ability to move through public space safely.
One of the main practices that enact safety are rerouting, speeding up and scanning the environment for signs of unsafety. In line with Lehtonen and Pyyhtinen (2020), who conceptualize the scavenger gaze, as the gaze of dumpster divers, I propose the safety gaze to understand how my informants move through public space. This safety gaze is a way of looking towards the cityscape and interpreting the signs in it as standing for something else. This exemplifies how different users according to what they are looking for, in this case safety, interpret signs in the city scape (Lehtonen & Pyyhtinen 2020). For example, a pedestrian underpass is no longer a safe way to cross underneath a busy railroad track or road for women when it is badly lit or at night since darkness is a sign of unsafety. Farida said about this:
Now look at this bridge, for example. It is that cars are driving by it because this is also not a fun bridge to walk under at night after taking a walk and when it starts to get dark. Then I am like, I will look over my shoulder.
Here we see that Farida performs the bodily practice of looking over her shoulder as a way to look out for her safety. Another informant used another bodily practice of speeding up or taking a reroute: ‘Yes I actually taught myself, just take a detour or bike faster.’ It is through these forms of bodily practices that women look out for themselves and simultaneously enact safety as important.
Their gaze is shaped by safety as they perform specific forms of looking.
In addition, darkness and the decayed and uncared for character of the underpasses were actors that shaped safety practices that my informants did such as avoiding or speeding up.
Moreover, the appearance of these underpasses was also interpreted by other users as signs standing for something else. Abandoned and neglected underpasses that were badly lit generally attracted users that did not want to be seen, such as drug dealers and dwellers without a house.
These users then in turn became signs of unsafety for my informants. Here we see that signs such as darkness and being out of sight by the enclosed character of an underpass are not necessarily good or bad in itself. It is through practices that users do that they value these as good or bad.
Moreover, this shows that areas that are used during the day by my informants are not used at night, implying there are various factors besides the design of public space that influence whether it is used or not, such as times of the day and the level of visible maintenance.
Moreover, an important denoter for practices that enact safety has to do with lighting.
Whether that is artificial or natural lighting. The installment of an art light installation led to more light and since light performed safety for most of my interlocutors, they no longer avoided that specific underpass. Lighting whether artificial or natural is thus an important actor in deciding walking and biking routes for my informants as becomes also visible from what Farida said:
You have that little bridge there behind the Praxis. Yes, well I am not going to walk that route at night as it begins to get dark. Not even if you would give me a million!
Here we see that at night when it begins to get dark, Farida does not take a walk underneath a specific bridge. This implies that the level of light is an important actor in deciding whether or not specific routes are taken. When asking Farida about ways her safety could be increased, she proposed more lighting as well as cameras:
Yeah, well well, especially a lot of lighting and cameras, and with cameras I mean real cameras, not those cameras from the noughties where people are blocked in the image. Because then you have imagery but still you do not recognize anyone.
You know. But just good cameras.
While good security cameras on the one hand enact supervision and surveillance according to Farida, other informants argued that they pose a threat to privacy as a good. Laura would rather see wijkagenten or boa’s14 and argued that their visibility would do the job:
Just visibility of boa’s and police, I think that is more effective. Or yeah, a wijkagent I am just thinking out loud. That gets to know the people that hang around there, and that you are on top of that right away.
Here we see again how different objects that perform safety as a good for some may at the same time perform ‘bads’ such as a lack of privacy for others. This implies that objects in the cityscape do things that may be in conflict with each other and that they never unambiguously perform one value. In the same vein, greenery as a mooi doing safe can also become unsafe and unclean when growing too tall, as I will show in the next section. Therefore, these multiple goods need to be
14 Boa’s are special investigation officers and Wijkagenten are community officers
weighed carefully and the objects that perform them need to be maintained attentively, as I will show in the next section.
In the above sections we have seen how mooi and safe as values are done and connected with each other. It is by making mooi, such as the embellishment of a pedestrian underpass with an art light installment, that safety as important is enacted. The third good that emerged from my data is clean.
Clean as a good was present in many examples and complaints of my informants, it was also enacted in the objects we stumbled upon during our walks like the many trash cans, the signs that prohibited feeding doves, rat traps and the many vans of the municipalities’ maintenance workers.
Greenery, which was in the above sections an important enacter of mooi and as well of safe, can at the same time become an enactor of (un)clean as we can see in the following example. Jelena told me a story about the bushes in a small public garden in the Transvaalbuurt. She explained:
But here, for example, I think they have now. No, they did not prune here but here it is a little bit bare [no leaves on the bushes]. In the summer when it is green. I do not know if you have ever seen someone that sits over there [on a bench in the garden]. I never sit there, I do sometimes see two men go in there I am not sure what they do there. Drugs or ehm…? But why not put a grassfield there? Why do you create space where someone can pee? Because I have also made a report of men peeing in there. I once saw a car stop and there was a man near the viaduct, they just got out of the car and peed there.
In this segment we clearly see how greenery which this informant expressed as a ‘good’ earlier in the interview in this case becomes ‘bad’ since the bushes create places for people to deal drugs and pee. She proposes a grassfield instead of bushes, since bushes, according to her, create space where someone can pee. The fact that she made a report to the municipality about men peeing enacts cleanliness as desired and shows that, according to her, greenery is not the place to perform sanitary acts. Moreover, this segment implies that maintenance of greenery, in the form of pruning the bushes to a desired length, is important to keep nuisance like peeing and drug dealing out of the green. She later says indignantly: ‘Just peeing in the bushes when girls of thirteen are playing over there [on the basketball field],’ thereby implying that those two activities cannot go together. It is thus by complaining to the municipality and pointing this example out to me that she values
sanitary acts in public space as improper and that maintenance is needed to make sure clean as good is performed by the objects such as greenery.
Maintenance, and who or what is responsible for it, was often a topic of conversation during our interviews. It is noticeable that ‘doing clean’ was more often done in collaboration with the municipality, by making reports and assigning responsibility for maintenance to the municipality, in contrast with the other values mooi and safe. Mooi and safe were more often done by these women themselves in collaboration with other objects such as in the example of a geveltuintje. This might have to do with the fact that objects such as trash cans and underground waste containers are not that accessible to residents since they are more closed off. One needs a key to open a trash can and in order to empty it one needs a garbage truck that lifts the underground containers, empties it and takes the waste to another location. This might explain why my informants often made complaints and reports about uncleanliness to the municipality in order to assign responsibility for cleanliness as good to the municipality. One informant said about writing reports:
The people that live here can also write reports and take initiatives, but I notice my neighbors, there is not one among them that takes initiative. I am the only one that does anything. They do not even send an email when a pavement tile is in the way or when too much garbage is being dumped. There is not one neighbor that makes a report.
Firstly, this implies what Jelena finds are threats to cleanliness and order such as litter and a pavement tile that is out of place. This quote is also about the responsibility that neighbors should take to signal and report cases that threaten cleanliness, that is garbage and broken things. Here, clean as a good is not just assigned as a responsibility of the municipality but just as well as a responsibility of the neighbors. By pointing out how her neighbors fail to make reports this informant is able to present herself as a good neighbor that does take the initiative to make reports.
Besides making reports, informants also did other things to care for the responsibility for maintenance and cleaning of public space. Linda noted that she always picks up cans and plastic that she finds on her walks through the park, by doing this she enacts clean as good. Another practice an informant noted was that of taking trash back home or walking to another trash container when trash containers were too full and not emptied in a timely manner. The act of searching for another container or taking the trash back home tells us that this informant values cleanliness and doing away with waste in a responsible manner. However, this informant also
argued that other people would just throw their trash next to the container when a container is too full. Once again, we see that by expressing frustration about the lack of care of others, my informants perform themselves as carers of public space. This frustration with how other people went about their trash was more widely spread, Anoushka said about this:
Right in front of my apartment there is a trash pick-up place, that really seems to be a hotspot. Well, we have experienced and seen that as well. But anyways, with New Year’s Eve I have been there sweeping and removing garbage, I clean it all up anyway. It is for my own benefit as well of course. Well, we got a fine because in the middle of that pile of trash that was already there, we put a small cardboard box. It just feels like...we wrote a whole letter saying like yes sorry we are on the right track to keep everything clean and now this.
Here we see how this informant is both taking measures to keep the trash pick-up place clean by sweeping and cleaning up while also breaking municipality rules for dealing with trash and getting punished for it with a fine. The act of then writing a letter in which she frames herself as the one who is doing a lot to keep everything tidy not only enacts clean as good but is also a way to differentiate herself according to the responsibility, she takes for cleanliness from those others whom she cleans up after. This illustrates the tensions that dealing with cleanliness in public space can create. Informants do not just have to deal with their own trash but also that of others while mediating responsibilities on who takes care of what.
1.4 To conclude
In this chapter I have shown that the process of making public space into our own is one in which users need to mediate various goods among different users and uses. Since the objects in public space are shared objects, its use needs not just be mediated with how things are designed, but just as well with (conflicting) uses of other users or lively matter such as rats, doves and greenery. This mediating and messiness is therefore inherent to the practices that my informants undertake to do mooi, safe, and clean in public space. In order to understand in more detail how these valuations work in practice, I will focus in my second chapter on one square in public space: the Krugerplein.
The Krugerplein is the central square of the Transvaalbuurt. The square kept recurring in my first round of interviews as a place where my informants felt out of place. Therefore, most informants would avoid using the Krugerplein in contrast to other squares such as the Beukenplein and Steve Bikoplein which they did use to meet up, have a coffee, sit in the sun and so on. The municipality
gebiedsagendas that detail the plans for improvement for every year. In the next chapter, I will introduce the Krugerplein through the concerns of my interlocutors with the square.
2 There has not really been made an effort to make it into something gezellig15
When walking over the Krugerplein, Yvonne points to a wooden plate attached to an apartment balcony adjacent to the square. On the wooden plate a pink heart is painted, underneath the heart the word ‘Krugerplein’ is painted on in thick black letters. Yvonne asks me: ‘Has someone told you the meaning of that heart that is hanging there?’ I answer her no. She explains: ‘We had a shooting here on the square.’ She points across the street and says: ‘Over there in front of the hairdresser. It was followed by negative publicity of course. And the people that live here were bothered by the negativity and they said it is actually a lot of fun here. So as an act of defiance they put the heart up there. So that is kind of mooi.’
The goal of making public space into our own is to reach a sense of familiarity with and security in the world around us (Berker 2011 & Mandich & Cuzzocrea 2016). If public space feels familiar and predictable, users are more confident in their ability to move through it. It is therefore in the users’ interest to make public space into their own, since in that way users can also get their needs met in public space. This sense of familiarity and security can also be understood as ontological security, that is the end station of domestication (Mandich & Cuzzocrea 2016). Ontological security is defined as: ‘a sense of confidence and trust in the world as it appears to be’ (Mandich
& Cuzzocrea 2016: 229). However, as I have shown, making public space our own consists of mediating various goods that may be in tension with one another. In a public space that consists of shared objects, various goods need to be negotiated among various users, lively matter and materiality.
In this chapter I will introduce the Krugerplein through the concerns of my interlocutors and the gebiedsplannen and gebiedsagendas from the municipality. In general, the women I spoke to in the first round of fieldwork only used the Krugerplein to get from point A to B. Some even avoided the square altogether. This then brings up the following question: How do my informants make the Krugerplein into their own, when they feel it is not their place to begin with? I will focus here on how the goods: mooi, safe and clean, that I have identified in the first chapter, are in tension with one another on the Krugerplein. In addition, I introduce another good, that is gezellig, as it
15 Gezellig or ongezellig do not easily translate into English. The Dutch word gezellig could be translated into cosy or being in a cosy atmosphere. Gezellig is also about being with others in a cosy and fun atmosphere. Ongezellig refers in this title refers to a square that is not cosy or fun to be on with others.
became apparent from interviewing in place on the Krugerplein that a public square should be a gezellig square as well. In this chapter I will introduce the Krugerplein and the concerns of my interlocutors with the square. In the next chapter, I will move to the caring practices that my informants do or have done to make the square into their own.
2.1 I never go and sit there
Image : Left and right: Overview of the Krugerplein surrounded by trees, on the far left side the fountain is visible on the far ride side we see the jeu de boules tracks in between the yellow blocks. On the right side next to the jeu de boules track we see the transformator house.
Photos taken by author
The Krugerplein is the central square of the Transvaalbuurt area. From my first round of interviews, it became apparent that most of my informants only used the Krugerplein to get from point A to B by foot or on bike. Both the appearance of the square as well as other users and uses that they deemed ‘bad’, such as drug dealing and lighting fireworks, were reasons for my interlocutors to avoid the square. In general, my informants described the Krugerplein as a place that is either not mooi, not safe and/or not clean. Laura said:
Ehm, what is the name of that square? Krugerplein! There are often groups there and it is not a square where I would necessarily... it is nice that they have jeu de boules tracks, but I would not so easily go and play a game of jeu de boules there.