Academic journal article Hagar

Bodies and Places in Jerusalem: Gendered Feelings and Urban Policies

Academic journal article Hagar

Bodies and Places in Jerusalem: Gendered Feelings and Urban Policies

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper revisits earlier work on gender and the city (Fenster, 2004, 2005, 2007) and proposes another perspective on how feelings of discomfort, disbelonging and lack of attachment can be attributed to the contextualization of women's bodies in certain places and how urban policies reinforce such contextualization. The paper focuses on the Jewish ultraorthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, Palestinian East Jerualem and the Old City, and public spaces and urban parks in West Jerusalem. The connection between this analysis and the epistemological development of planning knowledge and local knowledge is discussed.

Introduction

In this article I would like to revisit some of my early work on gender and the city (Fenster, 2004, 2005, 2007), offering a new angle on how discomfort, disbelonging and disattachment can be attributed to the way women's bodies are contextualized by place, as well as how urban policies1 reinforce such contextualization, mainly by enforcing patriarchal norms that restrict women's use of these locations. The paper focuses on various places in Jerusalem-a city of multifaceted and diversified characters and also my own city of residence, to which I feel attached and intimately familiar from my own bodily experiences and knowledge of specific urban policies that sometimes make me feel discomfort and disbelonging.

The various places at focus in Jerusalem reflect different types of contextualization of women's bodies and different links between women's bodies and urban policies. The first is the Jewish ultraorthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, which reflects a religious and cultural contextualization of women's bodies that contradicts urban policies. The second is Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Old City, which reflect ethno-national contextualization of women's bodies reinforced by discriminatory urban policies and increased deurbanization (a result of lack of development) that imposes greater patriarchal restrictions on Palestinian women's freedom to use and appropriate public spaces. Finally, the third place is public spaces and urban parks in West Jerusalem, indicating how, even in their own etlino-national context, Jewish women avoid their use because of insensitive "male" planning that generates fear.

Looking at these conflictive sites within gendered power contexts helps point out a range of expressions, from the protest of discriminatory urban policies to surrender, compulsion, concession, renunciation, survival and acceptance of existing inequality and discrimination. These reactions result in two embodied actions: avoidance of and appropriation of public spaces, alongside verbal expressions of discomfort and disbelonging. To interpret these feelings, I use Bayat's (2000) concept of the "quiet encroachment of the ordinary." I analyze urban policies that enforce patriarchal norms on these places and the gendered feelings and actions (avoidance and appropriation) that develop out of their everyday use. As will be shown, avoidance of "dangerous places" at "dangerous times" is the predominant strategy adopted by women, both Jewish and Palestinian (Valentine, 1989).

The following section presents a brief review of sense of place and placelessness and their connection to urban policies, after which I briefly discuss the notion of resistance and its various expressions. I then consider the connection between contextualization of women's bodies, urban policies and daily practices as expressed in women's and men's feelings of discomfort, disbelonging and disattachment in these places and their interpretations within gendered power contexts as practices of resistance or acceptance. The connection of this analysis to the epistemological development of planning knowledge and local knowledge is discussed at the end of the paper.

Sense of place: Placelessness and resistance

Sense of place

Sense of place is defined as

Emotive bonds and attachments, both positive and negative, that people develop or experience in particular locations and enviromnents. …

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