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Citizenship as ‘lived experience’ in the city. The consequences of women’s fear of violence for their citizenship in the city

Christine Hudson
Umeå Universitet
Christine Hudson
Umeå Universitet
Elin Kvist
Umeå Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper focuses on citizenship as a lived experience, contextualized in relation to the city. Theoretically the right to the city should be the same for all citizens, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity or handicap. However, our embodied positioning affects our citizenship status - offering different opportunities and potential for inclusion/exclusion in the processes, places and spaces of the city. The corporeality of citizenship is highlighted by men’s violence and harassment in all spheres of life and women’s fear of that violence. For many women, their ability to use and to participate in the city is curtailed by their fear of sexual assault and crime, thus constraining their freedom to exercise their citizenship and raising fundamental problems for democracy. At the same time, women continually challenge and contest the “man-made” boundaries and power structures of the city through their every-day practices, engaging in a process of continuously (re)negotiating their citizenship. We analyze these issues using material from focus group interviews gathered in four Swedish municipalities and drawing on theories relating to the embodied nature of citizenship. The aim is to explore how the social construction of public spaces as dangerous for women exacerbates the interviewed women’s fear of violence, analyzing the ways these fears impact on their use of and access to the city and the consequences for their citizenship. Further, the intention is also to gain insights into the strategies the interviewed women adopt to negotiate and cope with these perceptions of vulnerability in their pursuit for inclusion.