Contested Sites was a series of actions designed to seek out fissures and fault-lines in the dominant production of space in the city. Each action began with a walk in the city with another person, someone who had identified a site where the social imaginary was in conflict with the material reality, or contradictory logics were seen to be operating, or where forces of abstraction could be identified at work.
Each action performed a critical examination of ways in which logics of enclosure are worked into the social order. They did so by employing a three-stage method based on the depth ontology of critical realism (after Banfield, 2004):
i) phenomenological; a specific set of socio-spatial circumstances was observed first-hand in the company of a person who had identified it as a contested site;
ii) trans-phenomenological; the contested nature of the site was further explored by drawing on discursive materials and official representations, to identify logics and processes working on the site; and
iii) counter-phenomenological; further deductive work and theoretical analysis was carried out to detect some of the distorting effects of economisation and enclosure and to make those visible.
The actions were informed by Lefebvre's triadic scheme for the formation of social space, made up of spatial practices, representations of space and spaces of representation (1991). Following the first encounter with the space, a multi-modal discourse analysis of official documents and visual/textual materials related to the site revealed areas of emphasis and omission that pointed to overarching logics and dynamics shaping the production of space in the city. By engaging with the material conditions of each of the contested sites, fragments, residues and the messy contingencies of lived space, usually flattened by forces of abstraction, were pieced together to form a counter-representation.
The images above show four drawings that map the walks conducted for Contested Sites using GPS location.
Banfield, G., 2004, What’s Really Wrong with Ethnography?, in International Education Journal Vol 4, No 4, 2004 Educational Research Conference 2003 Special Issue.
Lefebvre, H., 1991, The Production of Space, trans. D. Nicholson-Smith, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.