The rise of the sanitation movement in the 19th century served an important function in the modernist city as it sought to eradicate the presence of disease and plague which was prominent in society. This movement encapsulated values of a progressive society, a society embedded within the framework of modernity and its values, and a society in which a narrative of progress could be articulated through the shaping of space and ‘the body’. Thus, as Foucault argued, this concept of modernity was crucial in forming and normalizing a dominant public identity, and a subsequent public sphere.
The proliferation of the bathhouse served as an essential component of this sanitation movement in the city. These institutions offered the individual the opportunity to clean themselves, and to engage in recreational activities, and thus the bathhouse became a crucial component of contemporary social life in the city. Indeed from an Irish perspective the first bathhouse, St. Anne’s Turkish Bath, Blarney, was constructed in 1856 (Archiseek, 2014). However while the baths served these important functions, embedded within this movement lay a greater underlying narrative of dominance, power and hegemony.
The function of these baths would be to essentially clean the public. However, with this physical cleaning of the public, society itself would be cleansed, and the previous values and expectations of society would be transformed. Subsequently a new urban citizen would be propagated, and individuals who would now not meet these transformed expectations would become excluded, ‘othered’ and differentiated. As a result these bathhouses can be considered institutions of self-regulation in which society was controlled, and the body disciplined (Legg, 2005).Thus, in effect, the clean and sanitary would now embody the dominant hegemonic identity of society, while those who did not meet this criterion would become differentiated and ‘othered’.
In conclusion these spaces in which these new urban institutions occupied articulated negotiations and narratives of power and identity, and as a result impacted on the experiences of those living in the city. They propagated a new experience, and a new type of urban citizen. Yet they also became exclusionary spaces through self-regulation, which articulated the ‘subjugation of bodies’ through bio politics (Foucault, 1976).
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