Reclaiming the City

Sometimes a city can feel like it is not your own, or has been taken away from you, a current example of this being in Gaza- a part of the Palestinian territories which includes the infamous West Bank. For the inhabitants of this district their movements are restricted both in and out of the area, and no building materials- amongst other things- are allowed to be imported in. Therefore, the buildings that are crumbling- either through conflict damage or age- are unable to be repaired, so it becomes difficult to maintain the city that is yours. However, some of the residents of the region have set about reclaiming the city through movement, fighting back against the system that confines them, and opposing the danger of the territory with the danger of their sport;

What could be more unsafe than moving across, over, between, or under the city’s structures with what seems to be a joyous and blatant disregard for their intended use? -Thomson, 2008

This resistance in the face of adversity has been documented by the street artist ‘Banksy’ who has gone about reclaiming the city in his own way through art, creating a number of new works in the territory.

Bavinton (2007) examined parkour’s key philosophy of turning ‘obstacles into opportunities’. The author found that traceurs’ (a person who takes part in parkour/free running) ability to reinterpret ‘space’ and use it in unconventional ways upsets embedded power relations within urban settings. Through the traceurs use of their bodies, they exert the power of their movement and their ‘selves’ on the city that is crumbling around them, making it their own, a playground from a battleground; as well as contributing to their sense of agency- something that may be threatened when their actions are so restricted.

References:

1. Banksy. (2015). After Banksy – Parkour in Gaza . Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TO4W2vSsN8&feature=youtu.be. Last accessed 14th March 2015

2. Bavinton, N., 2007. From obstacle to opportunity: parkour, leisure, and the reinterpretation of constraints. Annals of leisure research, 10 (4), 391–412

3. Clegg, J. L., Butryn, T. M. (2012). An existential phenomenological examination of parkour and freerunning. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health. 4 (3), p320-340

4. Thomson, D., 2008. Jump city: parkour and the traces. South Atlantic quarterly, 107 (2), 251–263

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