Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Sarah Chinn

Subject Categories

American Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History | Public History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social History


pools, rules, swimming, segregation, race, gender


Swimming in a Sea of No's: Managing and Controlling the New York Public Pools traces the genealogy of the regulations, surveillance, and rules employed at New York public pools. The thesis discusses the intent and implications of the spatial strategies created to order and control the environment surrounding the swimming pools, and discusses how municipal public pools as specific, local landscapes manifest broader social and cultural processes. The main focus is on the transformation of the pools during the 1980s and 1990s, two decades after the fiscal crisis in 1975, when the pools had become defunded, dysfunctional spaces. By tracing the fluid interplay between the problems that arose at the pools, the public imagination, and the following response from the city, this analysis attempts to illuminate how the pools were a key part of the overall emergence of neoliberal public strategies to remake New York, and to remove what was considered urban disorder. Widening the scope even further, this thesis also traces the genealogy of swimming pools back to New York's first public baths. I argue that the changing political definition of pools, as well as their symbolic and cultural significance, reflect the changing understanding of shared space throughout American history.