Ontological boundaries or contextual borders: the urban ethics of the asylum

Högström, E. and Philo, C. (2020) Ontological boundaries or contextual borders: the urban ethics of the asylum. Urban Planning, 5(4), pp. 106-120. (doi: 10.17645/up.v5i4.3554)

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Publisher's URL: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v5i4.3554


What and where is ‘the asylum’ today? To what extent do mental healthcare facilities stand out as clearly bounded entities in the modern urban landscape, perhaps reflecting their history as deliberately set-apart and then often stigmatised places? To what extent have they maybe become less obtrusive, more sunk into and interacting with their urban surroundings? What issues of urban ethics are at stake: concerning who/what is starkly demarcated in the city, perhaps subjected to exclusionary logics and pressures, or more sensitively integrated into the city, planned for inclusion and co-dwelling? These questions underscore our article, rooted in an in-depth case study of Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Glasgow, opened as a ‘lunatic asylum’ on its present, originally greenfield, site in the 1840s and remaining open today surrounded by dense urban expansion. Building from the ‘voices’ of patients, staff and others familiar with the site, we discuss the sense of this asylum as ‘other’ to, as ‘outside’ of, or merely ’beside’ the urban fabric. Drawing from concepts of ‘orientations’ (Ahmed, 2006), sites as spatial constructions (Burns & Kahn, 2005), the power of borders and boundaries (Haselsberger, 2014; Sennett, 2018), issues of site, stigma and related urban ethical matters will be foregrounded. Where are the boundaries that divide the hospital campus from the urban context? What are the material signifiers, the cultural associations or the emotional attachments that continue to set the boundaries? Or, in practice, do boundaries melt into messier, overlapping, intersecting border zones, textured by diverse, sometimes contradictory, bordering practices? And, if so, what are the implications?

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Philo, Professor Christopher and Hogstrom, Dr Ebba
Authors: Högström, E., and Philo, C.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Urban Planning
Publisher:Cogitatio Press
ISSN (Online):2183-7635
Published Online:12 November 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Ebba Högström, Chris Philo
First Published:First published in Urban Planning 5(4): 106-120
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
173400GART-PSYSPACChristopher PhiloEuropean Commission (EC)706026GES - Human Geography