The Privatisation of public property: the development of a shopping mall in Sydney and its implications for governance through spatial practices

Malcolm Voyce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the planning application and current operation of a new shopping mall in Sydney. I use this analysis to argue that the owners of the mall, Westfield, govern, through spatial practices, the physical space in the mall and the shopping practices of the people who enter the mall. By the term govern I mean the spatial practices by which Westfield controls the shopping area of the mall. I follow the idea of governance inspired by the governmentality literature to show that those connected with the mall are shaped by spatial practices which envisages subjects which are morally free and yet are shaped by shopping mall practices (Foucault, 1975, 1980). By these spatial practices, I argue, Westfield creates a certain ambience in the mall, which conveys the message that the mall is an attractive and safe location, which welcomes certain customers and excludes others. This collective impression of mall atmosphere, I argue acts as a spatial practice, which in effect governs the mall. One of the features of shopping malls is that public or civic space is replaced with 'semi-public space' owned by developers. In this context the protection of private property has coalesced with the preservation of public order (Gray and Gray, 2000, p. 23). In shopping malls people considered disruptive to shopping are excluded and shops found in the high street such as pawnshops and second-hand bookshops are not granted a tenancy. Other unwelcome folk include the homeless and groups of teenagers. n this article I plan to analyse the spatial practices which restrict full public access to such places as the Hornsby shopping mall. Accordingly, I firstly show that the concept of property should rightly be seen as containing social ideas, secondly I discuss the nature of spatial practices, which materially and discursively lead to the exclusion of certain people and thirdly, describe notions of community which help define who are proper mall entrants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-262
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Policy and Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • shopping malls
  • property
  • public space
  • governmentality
  • Foucault
  • governance
  • consumption
  • neoliberalism


Dive into the research topics of 'The Privatisation of public property: the development of a shopping mall in Sydney and its implications for governance through spatial practices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this