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Power, Production and Perception: Reconsidering Space and the Built Environment

Wednesday 29th September 2021

Space is universally experienced but frequently contested, both physically and philosophically. Lefebvre’s (1991) notion of space as socially produced remains influential in scholarly discourse, with space frequently conceived as a dialectical relationship between everyday [spatial] practice, the materialities of spaces [representational space] and the ideas and design of space, as conceived in the abstract [representations of space]. 

Space can be defined by its boundaries. For Heidegger (1975) the limits of a space are essential for its existence, providing a clearing for “the locale of the truth of Being”, and reflecting the finitude of human existence. However, if we consider space in the Foucauldian sense of an essential site for exerting or enacting power (Foucault, 1991), these boundaries can also entrap or exclude. Who constructs and enforces these physical and notional boundaries? How do they expand, evolve or degrade over time?

An alternative view centres the self in space. For Lefebvre, understanding the relationship between space and the body is an essential method of overcoming dichotomous subject-object distinctions, and a means to gaining alternative historical and political perspectives on space. This highly contextualised and personalised understanding recalls Ingold’s idea of place as a nexus for many bodies to meet on individualised journeys as “wayfarers” (Ingold, 2011). This relational understanding is echoed by Massey, who conceives space as “the sphere of coexisting multiplicity, space as a simultaneity of stories-so-far” (2005, p.54). 

Yet the way in which actors experience such movement and multiplicity is tempered by factors such as gender, race, (dis)ability, politics, belief and resources. As such there are many aspects of the production and relationality of space, including their influence on the built environment, which remain underexplored in scholarship. In both post-industrial societies and the Global South, Lefebvre’s radical imagining of “differential space” as a rejection of consumerist norms, and Harvey’s Spaces of Hope (2000) seem further away than ever. 

In a one-day online symposium hosted by PhD researchers from Coventry University and De Montfort University, space and the built environment will be explored through an interdisciplinary lens, to promote deeper understanding of the political, social and cultural significance of space in society from an arts and humanities perspective. 

We welcome papers from PhD students and early career researchers on a range of themes around space and the built environment, including but not limited to:

  • Public space, including civic and community spaces
  • Spatiality and social relations in spaces
  • Nature spaces, and more-than-human encounters
  • Heritage and historical spaces
  • Design and production of space and the built environment
  • Gendered spaces
  • Enactments of power in spaces – who is included and who is excluded?
  • Diasporic and migratory spaces, including postcolonial placemaking
  • Private, hidden or imagined spaces, including domestic settings
  • Emotional or affective spaces, and formation of self in spaces
  • Contested spaces, or spaces of conflict
  • Peripheral spaces, including imagined, constructed or enforced boundaries
  • Methods of documenting or narrating spaces, including mapping, storytelling, visual art and soundscapes.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words as a single PDF or Microsoft Word file to powerproductionperception@outlook.com. Presentations should not exceed 15 minutes. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 6th July 2021, with all successful applicants notified by the end of July.

References 

Foucault, M., ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’ in Foucault, Michel and Rabinow, Paul (ed.), The Foucault Reader (London: Penguin, 1991) pp. 239-257 
Harvey, D., Spaces of Hope (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000) 
Heidegger, M. & Hofstadter, A., Poetry, Language, Thought (New York, NY: Perennial Library, 1975)
Ingold, T., Being Alive (London: Routledge, 2011) 
Lefebvre, H., The Production of Space (London: Blackwell, 1991)
Massey, D., For Space (London: Sage, 2005) 

Organisers 

Eleanor Cooke (Coventry University), Jessica Cretney (De Montfort University), Joanna Meredith (Coventry University) & Laura Parsons (De Montfort University)

Wednesday 29th September 2021

Online