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.
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.
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.
Though not an exhaustive list, these are many of the main areas we cover.
Writings that critically engage the ongoing conditions of coloniality and its effects. Entries in this section may also speculate on intellectual, political and organizational tactics that work to resist coloniality, colonization and colonialism’s effects in the present.
Examines the evolving social, ecological, cultural and geopolitical impacts of energy systems and resource extraction, with particular emphasis on the spatial relationships that structure the extraction, production, distribution and consumption of energy and other natural resources and raw materials
Chronicles past, present, and potential impacts of technoscientific development on the production of space. Provides critical looks into how scientific disciplines and industries influence how we analyze, categorize, experience, interpret, navigate, and represent that which we call space.
Investigates the spatial implications of the mass production, consumption, and disposal of digital media. Core areas of study include the environmental impacts, industrial landscapes, infrastructures, political transformations, social activities, and subjectivities particular to the digital age.
Charts the role that maps and various other forms of geo-visualisation play in the production of space. Offers a critical forum for investigating older modes of cartographic representation as well as newer approaches to big data and the politics of algorithmic and other data-driven processes.
Investigates relations between policing (narrowly and broadly understood), incarceration, and the production of space and spatial knowledge. Borders, criminalized neighborhoods, detention centers, heavily securitized areas, internment camps, jails, prisons, rendition sites, and the spatial relations that they rely on and produce are explored as sites of power and subversion.