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Durham e-Theses
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Light, traces and identity: The embodied experiences of urban
explorers within abandoned spaces

BRAILSFORD, POPPY-ANN (2022) Light, traces and identity: The embodied experiences of urban
explorers within abandoned spaces.
Masters thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version


Urban exploration is an activity which requires practitioners to be within and move through derelict,
abandoned, or otherwise off-limits spaces. These spaces possess a range of affective qualities, thus
affording the urban explorers who embody them sensorial experiences that may not be accessible
within increasingly sanitised urban public spaces. This research utilises a combination of qualitative
video analysis, online ethnography, and narrative storytelling to understand the embodied experiences
of the urban explorers who frequent abandoned spaces, and how they choose to represent these spaces
through social media and other online sources. Five locations within the North of England and the
East Midlands were selected to be the focus of this research. A total of 99 videos and 54 narrative
forum posts, which detailed the personal experiences of urban explorers at these locations, were
analysed. The findings highlight that, whilst space is experienced subjectively, there are a number of
affective qualities that influence how urban explorers may perceive abandoned spaces. Furthermore,
this research notes that many abandoned spaces retain material traces that reflect their former uses.
The urban explorer is represented as an investigator who embodies these traces, reassembling the
histories of the spaces that they visit. This research also evaluates academic criticism that the urban
explorer identity is controversially linked to the idealisation of masculinity and white privilege. It
does this through delving into the relationships that explorers have with positionality, identity, and
online representation, finding that there is some evidence of assumed white privilege and hypocritical
behaviours by a small minority of the urban exploration community.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:urban exploration, urban geography, ruin, abandoned, photography, ethnography, social media
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Nov 2022 14:35

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