Urban exploration as deviant leisure

Kindynis, T. 2019. Urban exploration as deviant leisure. In: Thomas Raymen and Oliver Smith, eds. Deviant Leisure: Criminological Perspectives on Leisure and Harm. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 379-401. ISBN 9783030177355 [Book Section]

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Recreational trespass or ‘urban exploration’ is the practice of researching, gaining access to and documenting forbidden, forgotten or otherwise off-limits places, including abandoned buildings, high-rise construction sites and infrastructure systems. Over the past two decades a global subculture has coalesced around this activity. More recently, however, the practice has begun to transform along divergent lines. As numerous corporations have sought to cash in on what they see as the latest edgy urban branding opportunity in an attempt to market their products to young urban consumers, new and increasingly image-centric, spectacular and conformative variants of the practice have emerged. Based on ongoing (auto)ethnographic research and in-depth interviews with urban explorers, this chapter considers how processes of commodification and corporate sponsorship, in conjunction with the emergence of new social media platforms, have drastically altered both the firsthand experience of the practice and the dynamic of the subculture more generally. The chapter suggests that urban exploration has been thoroughly assimilated into a dominant neoliberal culture of spectacular consumption, exhibiting the kinds of individualistic, competitive and risk-taking behaviours valued within the current social conjuncture, and asks: to what extent, if any, can urban explorers recuperate the practice’s transgressive potential? It is my hope that the potential of urban exploration, and of other similar practices that engage with urban spaces in novel and informal ways, as genuinely prosocial forms of leisure can be realised. However, we must first recognise and understand the myriad harms associated with commodified leisure more broadly.

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Book Section

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Deviant leisure, Urban exploration, Commodification, Transgression, Harm

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29 September 2019Published

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08 Dec 2021 10:30

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08 Dec 2021 10:30



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