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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban spaces of deviance and rebellion : youth, squatted houses and the heroin scene in West Germany and Switzerland in the 1970s and 1980s Friedrichs, Jan-Henrik


Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, Western European societies experienced a deep crisis, involving economic turmoil and youth protest, that became most perceptible in an alleged crisis of the city. This dissertation argues that as a reaction to this crisis a spatialization of the social took place that established urban space as a prime object of governmental policies. It argues further that the transformation of social problems into questions of spatial order was mirrored in a growing reference by non-conforming youth to space as a site of liberation. Both developments supported and influenced each other and were based on the conception of certain socio-geographical spaces as counter-sites that differed entirely from all other spaces. Spaces of non-conforming youth are therefore at the heart of this dissertation. Meeting places of the heroin scene and squatted houses in Zurich and various West German cities, most notably West Berlin, serve as examples of such spaces and their significance for European societies in the early 1980s. This study employs a double perspective. It traces the spaces of youth deviance as an object of governmental technologies and seeks to deconstruct the underlying assumptions about normalcy, deviance, youth, and urban space. At the same time, it explores the practices and imaginations of those youth who were seeking to evade or rebel against the hegemonic order through squatting of, and sojourning at, specific urban spaces. To grasp the perspective of both governmental institutions and non-conforming youth, a combined analysis of their discursive and spatial practices is employed. Making use of Foucault's concept of heterotopia, or “other spaces”, the possibilities and limitations in regulating and creating social change through urban spaces of deviance and rebellion comes into focus. This dissertation therefore contributes to a social and cultural historiography of the 1980s as well as furthers our understanding of the mutually constructed nature of space, youth, normalcy, and deviance.

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