In the early hours of Friday, November 15, 2019, Iranian state television broadcasted a message from the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution company, stating that, effective immediately, gas would be rationed across the country in addition to a fifty-percent increase to its price. Within twenty-four hours, there were protests in dozens of cities across Iran, in response to which the state-deployed riot police and security forces to quell them by any means necessary.
In the evening of August 13th, 2016, the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin erupted into protest. Earlier that day, a Milwaukee police officer had shot and killed 23-year old neighborhood resident Sylville Smith, prompting hundreds of people to flood the streets of Milwaukee’s north side. For three days, protestors faced down police in riot gear and snipers situated atop nearby buildings.
Twenty years have passed since the battles of Seattle when tens of thousands of protestors confronted the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its Third Ministerial meeting. For many geographers of my generation (at least in the US and Canada) the protests on November 30, 1999 (N30), constitute one of the high-water marks of left political activist organizing—an event that raised hopes for a radically different world. Although our hopes were not realized, the twentieth anniversary of these events provides an occasion for reflection.
Shortly after the completion of what will be one of Mies van der Rohe’s most famous American projects – the Farnsworth House, in Plano, Illinois – a local plumber visits the house to work on a recurrent leak.
As the “Black Snake” known as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) threatened entry onto the Sioux Nation 1851/1868 Treaty Territory at Standing Rock in 2016, images of an old yet ongoing war would circulate throughout the internet with the #NoDAPL and #StandwithStandingRock handles.
In August 2016, behind the Maritime Museum in North Jakarta’s kota tua (old town), we walked into the neighborhood of Kampung Akuarium, or rather its ruins. The kampung – a term meaning village that is used in the urban context to describe self-built, semi-formal neighborhoods – and its 500 some residents had been forcibly evicted by the city government four months prior.
This text begins from a central question: what is a critical spatial practice in a contemporary moment marked by planetary breakdown, by the increasingly visible presence of climate change across a number of different scales, by the sense of a future and present gone violently awry?
Climate change is reshaping our planet: the spaces we live are becoming hotter, dryer, wetter, stormier than they have ever been before. As atmospheric carbon dioxide saturation exceeds 415 parts per million, the places we live, from rural farmland to coastal villages to sprawling metropolises, are faced with shifts in weather and climate that our built world can no longer accommodate.
As other contributors in this thematic issue discuss, the notion of critical spatial practice springs from Michael de Certeau’s distinction between tactics and strategy. This is often interpreted as implying two scales of action, typically understood as oppositional. For Jane Rendell, credited with coining the academic term “critical spatial practice,” de Certeau’s tactics are closely associated with Henri Lefebvre’s emphasis on the “right to the city,” which frames urban space in general and public space in particular as a terrain of political conflict (Rendell 2008).
On August 3, 2019 Patrick Crusius opened fire in a crowded WalMart, killing 22 people and injuring 24 more. The killer left behind a manifesto in which he justified his actions as a defense against the “replacement” of white Americans by Latinx people, a threat exacerbated, he explains, by climate change.