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Neighborhood Outsiders, Field Insiders: Latino Immigrant Men and the Control of Public Space


 This paper examines how a group of primarily Latino immigrant men claim and control a sought-after and contested public soccer field in a West Los Angeles public park. In contrast to previous studies that took the stability, viability, and visibility of groups, and their claims, as given, this study examines how group boundaries become constructed and taken-for-granted in working out the use and control of public space. As this study reveals, control is premised on creating and sustaining meaningful distinctions between insiders and outsiders, which are far from self-evident in open gatherings. Control is also constructed through the enforcement of informal authority, which is inherently uncertain in public space, especially for stigmatized groups with no formal association to the area. By studying how social organization is repeatedly challenged and reconstructed on the playing field, this paper sheds new light onto how informal claims on public space are made and remade in the contemporary city.


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