Miguel Slva Graça


Between the romanticized version of a Greek Agora and the intense contemporary shopping centers there isn’t probably a disparity as considerable as we can imagine, since both can be easily mistaken with the ancient markets and the public squares of today. Before, as now, there is a clear separation between the production of discourse and the experience of the symbolic spaces of the city.

It is a fact that shopping centers are, in general, seen and used by people as effective "public spaces" of the contemporary city.

As evidence of this, is the way we see emerge today phenomena that were hardly visible but in public spaces, such as urban tribes, sport celebrations, political demonstrations and strikes, or even deviant events: suicides committed within their areas. Traces that, taken together, make us consider on the true nature of these heterotopic places.

Therefore, if today the urban daily life of Europe's inhabitants is undoubtedly both linked to the use of public spaces and shopping centers, it's not surprising that political demonstrations are nowadays equally visible in city squares and shopping center plazas, where these are also increasingly common.

For example, in Portugal, we have observed since 2007, a systematic use of shopping centers as an arena of political protests, generally against precarious labor conditions; under this thread, this paper will try precisely to map these and other “public” practices that take place at a wide range of privately owned collective spaces in Europe.

Unquestionably, this "quasi"-public condition of contemporary shopping centers will enhance the doubt on what role these retail typologies may yet take part in the construction of the European city, giving a completely new meaning to the well-known Jordi Borja and Zaida Muxí's assertion that "public space (...) is [the place] where society makes itself visible" (Borja, Muxi; 2003:15). By the fact that if we still don't know what are they turning into; we have, however, a strong suspicion: that, in a near future, these will be more "public" than "shopping" places.


Shopping centers; privately owned collective spaces; political demonstrations; Portugal; Europe.

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Revista de Comunicação e Idiomas |  ISSN 2183-7198

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