Owning the Street
The Everyday Life of Property
- Shortlisted for the Socio-Legal Theory and History Prize from the Socio-Legal Studies Association
- Honorable mention for the Australian Legal Research Awards Book Award, 2022
344 pp., 6 x 9 in, 86 b&w illus.
- Published: December 15, 2020
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: December 15, 2020
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How local, personal, and materially grounded understandings about belonging, ownership, and agency intersect with law to shape the city.
In Owning the Street, Amelia Thorpe examines everyday experiences of and feelings about property and belonging in contemporary cities. She grounds her account in an empirical study of PARK(ing) Day, an annual event that reclaims street space from cars. A highly recognizable example of DIY urbanism, PARK(ing) Day has attracted considerable media attention, but not close scholarly examination. Focusing on the event's trajectories in San Francisco, Sydney, and Montréal, Thorpe addresses this gap, making use of extensive fieldwork to explore these tiny, temporary, and yet often transformative urban interventions.
PARK(ing) Day is based on a creative interpretation of the property producible by paying a parking meter. Paying a meter, the event's organizers explained, amounts to taking out a lease on the space; while most “lessees” use that property to store a car, the space could be put to other uses—engaging politics (a free health clinic for migrant workers, a same sex wedding, a protest against fossil fuels) and play (a dance floor, giant Jenga, a pocket park). Through this novel rereading of everyday regulation, PARK(ing) Day provides an example of the connection between belief and action—a connection at the heart of Thorpe's argument. Thorpe examines ways in which local, personal, and materially grounded understandings about belonging, ownership, and agency intersect with law to shape the city. Her analysis offers insights into the ways in which citizens can shape the governance of urban space, particularly in contested environments.
The book's foreword is by Davina Cooper, Research Professor in Law at King's College London.
"This wonderful book makes the law of property as engaging as a novel, and shows that ordinary people can be more creative in city-building than city planners ever imagine."
Mariana Valverde, Professor, Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto
"Through a remarkably vivid and detailed account, Amelia Thorpe explores how PARK(ing) Day unravels contemporary assumptions of legality, ownership, and property rights in the city and unleashes its latent possibilities."
Jeffrey Hou, Professor and Director of Urban Commons Lab, University of Washington, Seattle
"Owning the Street is lively, smart, and original. Amelia Thorpe uses DIY urbanism to explore the lived and everyday enactments of property and ownership, in original and creative ways, revealing their significance and ambiguities."
Nicholas Blomley, Simon Fraser University
"Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property is invaluable for everyone interested in the future of cities and especially for those in search of novel ways to radically accomplish incremental change through continued civic creativity, committed talent, and dedication."
Carlos J. L. Balsas
"Interrelationships between sociology, law and planning are not much explored in scholarly and professional fields of planning, to put it mildly. Amelia Thorpe's publication, Owning the Street, gives a wonderful demonstration of the significance of adopting just such an interdisciplinary perspective. [... ] This inspiring book must be used and discussed in bachelor or master classes of planning schools."
"Amelia Thorpe's Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property is a thought-provoking scholarship on the role of user-generated urbanism in shaping the contemporary metropolis. [... ] Thorpe weaves magic through her captivating story-telling style backed by state-of-the-art research to elucidate the role of PARK(ing) Day as a compelling idea which disrupts the status quo to be a zeitgeist, which could revolutionise the contemporary socio-political discourse and inspire the readers to work for a sustainable future."
Emotion, Space and Society
"Owning the Street is an engaging, charmingly authentic work that highlights how property is too frequently overlooked as local, small-scale, and vernacular. [... ] [It] is an important addition to the burgeoning scholarship of critical property theory and its intersections with the city. Thorpe takes a quirky, playful, and above all transitory intervention into public space, and yields a work that is rich, creative, and enduring in its significance to law, property, and social politics."
"Owning the Street should be essential reading for property scholars and for all those using property to understand issues related to citizenship, agency, power, and urban governance."
"Thorough, thoughtful, and nuanced."
Journal of Sociology
“Owning the Street: The Everyday Life of Property is both a meaningful contribution to property law and sociolegal scholarship, and an important advancement of pop-up and DIY urbanism.”
Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence
“Owning the Street, however, is not about parking spaces as much as about how temporary, bounded moments can reveal longstanding efforts to reimagine a social order.”
Law & Social Inquiry
“PARK(ing) Day is a powerful example of small-scale activities by which residents can claim their right 'to make the city their own work of art' (Roulier, 2022, 597), and Amelia Thorpe's insightful book does a wonderful job of exploring it.”
Tanu Sankalia, University of San Francisco