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‘Public toilets for a diverse neighborhood’: Spatial purification practices in community development discourse



This paper explores the dialectic of place and community identity in Mount Pleasant, a multi–ethnic and multi–class U.S. neighborhood where definitions of place are hotly contested among its residents. In a grant proposal for public toilets, Mount Pleasant writers use linguistic strategies such as presupposition, deixis, and contrast, coupled with discursive themes of filth and geography, to construct a core of the Mount Pleasant community. The writers place themselves and people who share their values in that core, and immigrants at the margins. These strategies serve as a discursive type of spatial purification practice (cf. Sibley 1988) through which the grantwriters set up a moral and spatial order where they and other core community members are deemed to use space ‘appropriately’, and thus inhabit positive moral positions, while immigrant community members’ imputed ‘inappropriate’ use of space is used to construct negative moral positions for them.

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