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Safe Spaces and Good Places: The contribution of safety to community sites and social change

Drummond, Molly Grace

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Molly Grace Drummond


Susan Bruce


This project explores the contribution of considerations of safety to communities and sites of social change. In this thesis, the concept of safety is grounded in contemporary conceptualizations and ongoing debates about safety found in discussions of safe space practices in universities. In these debates, understandings and definitions of safety are frequently displaced in favour of further discussion of violence and freedom, to which safety is often defined as the absence or opposite of these concepts. However, contemporary practices and demands for safety are often rooted in longer histories and broader contexts of LGBT+, antiracist, and feminist grassroots activism. Furthermore, forms of safety that are frequently under-interrogated include normalized and mundane practices such as health, hygiene, and safety, which also have histories grounded in radical social movements. To discuss contemporary forms of safety contextualised by these longer histories, I turn to two case studies of communities who share a participatory ethics and a pursuit of social change: a community bakery/café and zine community and culture. These communities’ work is situated within and understood through a broader political context of their ongoing contestations with forms of socio-economic inequality which are, in this thesis, focused on barriers to cultural democracy, political agency, and basic material needs: art, work, and food. Using a combination of participatory observation and textual-material analysis, I focus on modes of community and spatial formation in these sites, and the tensions that emerge here. Through discussions of community representation, temporality, and labour, this project makes visible overlooked and underexamined forms of vulnerability and practices of safety in everyday activities and community contexts. These practices are then used to intervene in and re-evaluate limited conceptualizations of safety in contemporary debates about safe space practices. Developed through a combination of ethnographic fieldwork and a broader theoretical framework that draws upon utopian theories, particularly theories of utopia in the everyday, the case studies demonstrate how contemporary practices of safety can be understood as prefigurative practices that contribute to demands for social change and the transformation of the everyday.


Drummond, M. G. (2022). Safe Spaces and Good Places: The contribution of safety to community sites and social change. (Thesis). Keele University

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Award Date 2022-12


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