The following is the much revised abstract for the research paper I have been preparing for upcoming publication. Hopefully this paper will be completed within May, allowing me to progress on to other emerging research projects and papers.
The Emancipatory Politics of Informal, Spontaneous, and (maybe) Autogestive Space;
Critical intersections in the anarchist housing practices of John Turner and the socio-spatial Marxism of Henri Lefebvre
Abstract (150 words):
This paper critically re-frames anarchist development practices designed to support and facilitate informal settlements in the Global South as a potentially emancipatory alternative to the economically and politically co-opted architectural processes that produce Westernised space. In order to ground this discussion, the work of participatory development practitioner John Turner in 1960s Peru is posed as a practical realisation of the political potential of autogestive space advocated in Henri Lefebvre’s post-Marxist discourse. This analysis of the grass-roots political action of participatory development in the Global South reveals a critical intersection of autogestion and informal space, and subsequently a re-contextualisation of the socio-spatial contrasts of anarchist and Marxist theories. Highlighting this intersection of Turner’s anarchist self-build housing practices and Lefebvre’s spatial appropriation of Marxist autogestion also frames wider questions of Western assumptions of social and political interpretations of value, autonomy, choice, participation, and social sustainability. Thus, Lefebvre’s much cited post-Marxist proposition of the social production of social space is here critically re-framed against Turner’s seminal anarchist questioning of ‘Who Decides and Who Provides?’
Autogestion, informal space, self-build, participatory, anarchist, Marxist.
This is the outline for an ongoing and long-term research project that I will be pursuing in the coming years. It is currently being prepared for UK research funding applications and pilot funding from my host university.
A critical analysis of the loss of informal space in the UK as a counter-narrative to the UK’s contemporary housing crisis.
This research project will pursue a critical enquiry into the relationships of informal space, land ownership, and housing practices against a framework of theoretical discourses concerning the political policy, ideology, and domination of the social production of space.
Using a GIS mapping methodology, the research will critically analyse a broad narrative of housing and land ownership in the UK, from the 18th and 19th Century Inclosures Acts, the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, through the Allotments Acts of 1908 and 1922, and finally on to the Town and country Planning Act of 1947. This mapping process will analyse a specific range of case studies to produce a critical analysis of key informal spaces in the UK. The intersections of this mapping analysis against a framework of critical theory will be explored in order to highlight the social, cultural, economic, and spatial impacts of these successive acts on the UK’s collective social understanding of land ownership, home, and life.
This research process will conclude by posing critical challenges to the contemporary housing situation facing the UK and wider Westernised space: What are the social and political consequences of the loss of informal space and housing in the UK? What can we learn from the historical successes and failures of informal space in the UK? What political and planning policy changes are necessary to afford a change to this un-sustainable production of spaces and lives? How can we use the principles of informal space to create subsistent spaces to afford people to have productive lives?
Informal space, housing, plotlanders, allotments, anarchism, mapping