Occupying (dis)ordinary space

Jos Boys, Pam Shakespeare

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This paper starts by outlining some key work in ethnomethodology, which understands everyday, unnoticed social and spatial practices as “problematic accomplishments ”(Ryave and Schenkein:1974 65-274). Such practices involve a considerable amount of detailed ─ usually seen but un-noticed ─ work in order to maintain the commonplace world where people know what ‘anyone’ knows and does. We are interested to show how doing ‘nothing much’ is a socially achieved activity; how such ordinariness has consequence for those who specifically 'cannot be ordinary'; and in the implications for the everyday occupation(s) of built space. We do this by investigating occupation through the narratives and strategies of diverse disabled people using a tactic that Garfinkel calls breaching. He argues that the underlying practices in commonplace situations are best made visible through their disruption, through ‘making trouble’ (1967, 37-8). Disabled people are often not perceived as ‘anyone’ – not because of any particular impairment but because they do not fit the unspoken conventions of what constitutes doing ‘being ordinary’ (Sacks: 1984 413-429). Here we outline how a disabled-led perspective on occupation can reveal both the amount of work involved in negotiating physical space and how it goes unnoticed as ‘nothing much’. Finally, we look briefly at Milton Keynes Shopping Centre to explore what kinds of descriptions of buildings such an approach might offer. We suggest that rather than simply mirroring what ‘anyone’ knows or does, the design of a particular built space intersects in complex ways with occupation and doing being ordinary.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - Jul 2009
EventOccupations: negotiations with constructed space - University of Brighton
Duration: 1 Jul 2009 → …


ConferenceOccupations: negotiations with constructed space
Period1/07/09 → …


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