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Politics of the parking space: Rights, identity, and property

Sarah K Marusek, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the tradition of legal pluralism, I explore the various notions of a right influenced by claims on little bits of contingent space. As a consequence of this territoriality, the municipal regulation of and local politics surrounding parking spaces produce competing notions of legality. The jurisprudence of the parking space examines a type of governing that is local and often contested. In spaces where formal law is evident, yet dominantly absent, social law become judge and jury. Right and its regulation are culturally dependent and politically malleable. The right to park is a special right, considered to be a presumption of expectation connected, literally, to a person driving a car and lines on the pavement. Jurisprudentially, this special right is enacted between individuals in everyday parking environments where often the social norm operates as 'the law.' In many cases, formal law is distanced. Feeding the meter manages the threat of a ticket. The appeal of a ticket is the pronouncement of right. Yelling angrily at a driver who parks triumphantly in a coveted space is a noisy but weak attempt to assert a right. The fundamental issues that I explore in the project involve the hybridization of right, identity, and property. My study of the parking space is complex, as I consider the semiotics of the terrain, the embodiment of jurisdiction, and expertise as governance as factors of legitimacy focused on the visibility of who is parking. This notion of belonging is central to the frameworks of community and citizenship in which parking spaces become site of politically constructed architecture. These sites are policed officially by the sexualized authority of parking enforcement and unofficially (and often violently) by other parkers. In this way, law is personified, with the administration of authority inviting closer scrutiny into the nature of constitutive legal theory. At both the level of the United States Supreme Court and in the everyday parking area, the parking space engenders disputes over equal protection guarantees, acts of free speech, and assertions of reserve that reach beyond the stated scope of policy.

Subject Area

Law|Political science

Recommended Citation

Marusek, Sarah K, "Politics of the parking space: Rights, identity, and property" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325127.