Lyndsey Deaton: No Place to Play? Studies of How Adolescents Use Public Space in Dispossessed Communities

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Lyndsey Deaton, Ph.D., RA, AICP, PMP is passionate about current issues of social sustainability in the city. She engages these issues through academic and professional roles. She is the Director of the Urban Design Lab (UDL) at the University of Oregon, an organization that gives students the opportunity to practically apply theory to real design projects. At the UDL, she continues her dissertation research investigating the spatialities of neoliberal dispossession through children's use of public space. She is also the co-founder of and a senior architect and planner at The International Development Collaborative, where she manages the design and construction program for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Lyndsey has worked on over 82 design projects across the United States, the Middle and Far East, Asia, and Africa receiving 21 awards. Her work has been featured in Architect Magazine (2011) and she has recently published an article in Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Freemen's Town versus Frenchtown: A Spatial History of Black Settlements in Houston, TX (2020). Her research has been supported by the Julie & Rocky Dixon Foundation and the Sasakwa Young Leaders Fellowship Foundation as well as partnerships with Save the Children Australia, the Hyderabad Urban Design Lab, and the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments.


As competition for space in the city heats up, development-forced dispossession generally described as complex neoliberal processes often pushes out or squeezes in low-income communities reducing their access to quality public space. Although scholars agree that public space is essential for adolescents living in low-income communities and that development-forced dispossession is now more widespread than ever, the lives of adolescents in dispossessed communities have rarely been subjected to systematic and in-depth study. In this talk, I approach the spatialities that perform as public space and adolescents' behaviors within them through the lens of environmental psychology. I use a sequential case study model first investigating public space in four resettled communities on the periphery Manila, Philippines, and then transfer the protocol to three "erased" communities in Hyderabad, India, all the time working inductively through a series of iterative and participatory methods with local children, community stakeholders, and planning professionals. These adolescents reveal that they socialize in small informal public spaces, typically threshold or transitory spaces, that were closer to home than the current international planning standards suggest. I conclude by drawing transnational conclusions about the deeply gendered consequences of development-forced dispossession in low-income communities.

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