Shopping in the public realm: A law of place

Antonia Layard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Through a case study based in Bristol, this article explores how the 'law of place' has transformed multiple heterogeneous city centre spaces into a single homogeneous and commodified privately owned retail site. Drawing on de Certeau, Lefebvre, and humanistic geographers including Tuan, the article explores how law facilitates spatial and temporal enclosure through conventional understandings of private property, relying on techniques of masterplanning, compulsory purchase, and stopping up highways. It suggests that the law of place draws on binary spatial and conceptual distinctions to apparently separate places from spaces, applying different legal rules either side of an often invisible boundary line. The article questions this legally facilitated spatial and conceptual enclosure, particularly as it restricts spatial practices within the public realm. It concludes by rejecting an urban 'right to roam' as insufficiently transformative, calling for a broader interpretation of Lefebvre's 'right to the city' instead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-441
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2010


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