Rights in places: An analytical extension of the right to the city

Joseph Pierce, Olivia R. Williams*, Deborah G. Martin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Following recent scholarship on place and place-making, we identify key challenges for contemporary empirical research using the "Right to the City" as an analytic. We seek to distinguish between the aspirational "right" articulated as a political and conceptual call to arms on one hand, and the "actually existing rights" that are carved out through both formal and informal mechanisms (including political protest) in the everyday city on the other. Actually existing rights are defined not through fiat or via momentary revolutionary acts, but through the durability of relationships between multiple actors, including residents, citizens, states, and corporate agents. We re-articulate urban rights as actually contingent and agonistic properties of the relationships that citizens have with places. This paper uses the historic conflict over community gardens in New York as an illustration of how thinking of rights regimes as multiple, overlapping, and placed helps better illuminate potential political interventions. Thinking of rights and places as plural, overlapping, and contingent is analytically productive because it highlights (rather than overwriting) conflicts between competing articulations of rights and privileges in cities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Lefebvre
  • Place-making
  • Politics
  • Right to the city
  • Urban rights


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