Pseudo-spatial justice

With experiences that occur within a certain space also comes the experience that happens outside of that space.  From the sanctity of diversity where no one majority is present to the spaces where diversity becomes distilled, in the places where the minority is the majority, this experience of comfortable spaces, or spaces in which a sense of belonging and unfettered access were determined to be present once again. However, this majority-minority experience in the urban pockets of the city professes a disengaged or fringe community where a ghetto-isation of the “same” occurs simultaneously with socially sanctioned access. In this instance, access to space as a qualifier for justice seems to lose its potency and rather, a type of pseudo-spatial justice goes on to inform the experience of the person who is present. This pseudo spatial justice which is achieved through such forms of isolation or distillation, however, is markedly different to the individual pleasure of anonymity, which every citizen should have the right to enjoy … “anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority…”

Without the ‘multiplicity’ or dynamic presence variation, access to space seems no longer the political and social activation that it necessarily becomes when the presence, particularly of the minority or the marginalized, occupy public space, especially in spaces where their presence is not ordinarily received and even more so if the space they occupy is that of a disputed space or a space of exclusivity. Pseudo-spatial justice enacted via the premise of “access” can nominally exist in any given private residence and any given space where similar people associating with each other through their identity markers or their minority status. Presence or occupation of such spaces rarely challenges the real issues of access and justice that exist throughout cities; it can in fact do the opposite and potentially perpetuate further and more widespread variations of injustice by locating certain presence to particular spaces almost exclusively at a disadvantage.

Spatial justice is a necessary concept for communities to articulate in order to achieve a means towards incrementing justice the way forward. With Lefebvre’s rethinking of space as moving beyond the ‘empty place’ and Soja’s radicalizing of this to activate political action within space; the notions of what is public space is and how that space is presented or occupied conceptually, experientially, physically and through our imagining becomes fundamental. Acknowledging the multiplicity of presence, of being in the public realm, of justice in view and of occupying public spaces with presence and in keeping presence in the shared or general public domain becomes a crucial part of seeking spatial justice beyond an individual level or for the sake of one’s own comfort.

There is something almost radical in the way in which Harvey excites the sense of the right to the city, not just as individuals but in the ways in which we can and should change it for others. There is a fundamental principle of spatial justice in relation to the access and presence in public space, particularly for those belonging to a minority community where this notion of the “occupation” of space becomes essential. Being present enables one to share in the re-imagining of space; this ability to be in the reality of the space whilst at once being able to imagine the space harnesses the essential notion of the spatial with our entire individual history in place. “The child hood experience that determines spatial practices later develops its effects, proliferates, floods private and public spaces, undoes their readable surfaces, and creates within the planned city a “metaphorical” or mobile city…” (de Certeau 1984, 110).

In Soja’s thirdspace we meet, and at the time and space cross there is a new understanding emerging, one that gives the notion of justice its place beyond the societal experiential, in summary the crucial nature of space in seeking justice can be encapsulated in this quote by French sociologist Bruno Latour

“Revolutionary time, the great Simplificator, has been replaced by cohabitation time, the great Complicator. In other words, space has replaced time as the great ordering principle.”

With that we may understand spatial justice to be determined somewhat by the space itself; including that of the past, present and future realities and imaginings; where we may go on to perhaps ask ourselves, do we in fact experience spatial justice or spaces which are just?


About TheWordEmpress

Nur Shkembi is a Melbourne based curator, writer and scholar. Nur has produced and curated over 150 events, exhibitions and community engagement projects, including You Am I, the first nationwide annual exhibition of contemporary Australian Muslim artists. She has been part of the team establishing the Islamic Museum of Australia since 2010, and until recently served as the museum’s Art Director, Exhibitions Manager and foundation Curator. Much of her interest has been in the development of community awareness in relation to the arts with a focus on the presence of Australian Muslim artists in the dominant discourse. As a museum curator, Nur brought together artefacts, traditional art and contemporary art as a means for collective storytelling, subverting stereotypes and as a provision for the individual narrative. She has served on numerous boards and committees and is a member of the Museums, Cultural Heritage and Cultural Development Advisory committee and the VicArts Visual Arts Advisory panel and Chair of Theatre funding at Creative Victoria. Nur is an editorial assistant for the peer reviewed material conservation journal AICCM Bulletin and an Academic Teacher and Lecturer for the Masters of Curatorship course at the University of Melbourne. She is a published author, with her debut novel Rookie distributed nationwide for the Australian high school curriculum by Cengage. Her writing is also featured in the National Gallery of Victoria’s Gallery magazine and the international arts magazine ReOrient. Nur is also a member of Eleven; a collective of eleven contemporary Muslim Australian artists, curators and writers led by internationally acclaimed artist Khaled Sabsabi. The collective includes the artists Abdul Abdullah (four times Archibald Prize finalist), Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Khadim Ali, Walkely Award winning artist Safdar Ahmed, Abdullah M.I. Syed, Idil Abdullahi, Rusaila Bazmalit, Hoda Afshar, Shireen Taweel, Zeina Iaali and the writer and producer, Eugenia Flynn, who is currently one of the nation’s top 10 ‘deadly’ bloggers. Eleven: Nur holds a Masters (First Class Honours) from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA & MCM) and is currently a PhD candidate – Doctor of Philosophy – Art, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne and is undertaking interdisciplinary research in material conservation, curatorship and the work of contemporary Muslim artists within the current socio-political climate. Nur is also investigating object agency theory and the contemporary manuscript as an object that disrupts history; employing the de-colonial linking and epistemic disobedience of Walter Mignolo, post-colonialism and the theories of Foucault and Said.
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