The Politics of Public Space and the Emergence of the Commons in Contemporary Athens

Dimitriou, Orsalia. 2016. The Politics of Public Space and the Emergence of the Commons in Contemporary Athens. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis investigates the public spaces of the contemporary city of Athens within a democratic political framework, analysing the urban space as ‘produced’ (Lefebvre,1991) by material practices of representation and everyday practices of appropriation, rather than as a fixed physical entity. The timeframe of this research coincides with radical changes in the sites that are the subject of the key studies, as the urban riots of December 2008 shattered the solidified and unequal relationship between state and society, introducing new public actors and spaces, such as the commons, while the indignants movement in 2011 questioned the statutory definition of public sphere and the incumbent democratic model.

In order to respond to the challenges of this highly shifting research field, focused in the main statutory square of Syntagma, the notorious main square of Exarcheia and Navarinou Park, and in order to explore the emerging commons and the elusive, informal and heterogeneous civic practices, this project adopts a visual ethnographic perspective. The research material is edited in two separate short films that are intended at the same time as methodological tools, as justification and records of this research, and as creative filmic works and means of advocacy and as such are an intrinsic part of this project.

The core argument and key finding of this thesis is the conjoining of the terms commons and public, spatially, notionally and politically that signals their reciprocal influence and constitution and herein lies a dramatic departure from those urban and social theories in which public space in contemporary democratic society is regarded as inherently bound up with the notion of the state. When analysed in regards to the democratic political model, their convergence constitutes a shared field of practices that enriches the public sphere and can lead to a deepening of democratisation processes.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Public space, Commons, Social Movements, Athens, Exarcheia, Urban, Urban Theory, Urban Design, Visual Ethnography, Architecture, Politics, Democracy, Indignants, December 2008

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


30 June 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

04 Jan 2017 15:15

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:12


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