Insurgent Play

Insurgent Play

Social Worlds of Urban Disruption

By Duncan McDuie-Ra

Anthem Studies in Urban Sociology

Insurgent Play: Social worlds of urban disruption explores play as a transgressive expression that disrupts the modern city.

Paperback, 150 Pages


May 2025

, $24.95

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About This Book

Insurgent Play: Social worlds of urban disruption explores play as a transgressive expression that counters the existing urban order (neoliberal, authoritarian, militarised). Insurgent play is disruptive, yet through disruption it brings social worlds into being, undergirds global subcultures and overcomes hostile urban environments characterised by ever-diminishing spaces for free expression. Acts of insurgent play are claims on space lasting from brief moments to years, animating patches of the city designed for commercial, industrial and logistical imperatives. Even in public spaces designed for leisure and play, insurgent play brings different expressions at different speeds, transgressing designated uses and bodily expectations. Through insurgent play people find belonging in the city, especially for those excluded from other spaces based on race, class, sexuality and citizenship. As such, stories of insurgent play are stories of alternative ways of inhabiting cities stemming from the widespread human desire and need for play, for joy and for sociality.
Insurgent Play draws upon examples from street skateboarding. Street skateboarding disrupts the city in the pursuit of play, enlivens patches of space through temporary claims, and initiates encounters with authorisers, property owners and citizens gravid with hostility with instants of wonder. Insurgence is a way of being, and the desire for insurgent play cannot be placated by better urban planning or formal expertise. Nor will multiplying designated play spaces, creative precincts and ‘flexible’ public spaces stop people seeking out space to create their own worlds of disruption.
The book makes four arguments. First, insurgent play is bodily expression that can challenge, disrupt and transgresses dominant ways of city-making. Second, insurgent play takes us to parts of the urban landscape that we might not otherwise go, politics we might not otherwise recognise and encounters we might otherwise overlook. Third, claims on the city made through insurgent play enliven urban space through transformative power. In this way, these claims territorialise patches of the built environment intended for other uses. Last, insurgent play space is generated from below, never above. Insurgent play shapes, and is shaped by, identities that position adherents in opposition to prevailing urban orders.


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Author Information

Duncan McDuie-Ra researches urban migration, urban conflict, urban culture, urban technology and urban play. He is the author of eight other books and 70+ articles and essays.


Anthem Studies in Urban Sociology

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