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Heritage Discourse and the Desexualisation of Public Space: The “Historical Restorations” of Bloomsbury's Squares

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Abstract:  In recent years, the local authorities in London's historic Bloomsbury district have carried out a number of refurbishments of the area's public squares. These landscaping schemes have typically been labelled “historical restorations” in attempts to predetermine the evaluation criteria as “historic” rather than political, social and aesthetic. Focusing on Russell Square and Bloomsbury Square, this paper illustrates how the “restorations” were selective: the introduction of gates and railings and the removal of planting were not primarily designed to restore these historical gardens, but reflect a surveillance‐friendly ideal of urban space, specifically introduced to displace the men who used these squares for cruising. Through a detailed review of archival material from both mainstream and gay media, I illustrate the shifting forms of policing and landscaping in Bloomsbury's squares, while also highlighting how homonormative capital has colluded with the regulation of public space in this part of London.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2011.00960.x

Affiliations: School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK;

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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