New Course Musings I

28 Oct

KG just sent me an interesting document about Critical Planning.

The document is authored by the ‘Critical Spatial Practice Reading Group’ and presents question and answer interviews that the group conducted via email with three people from different disciplines on the concept of spatial justice.

One of the people interviewed is Don Mitchell, a pretty prominent geographer from Syracuse University.  One of the first questions posed to him in this interview is: “What does an understanding of space have to contribute to struggles for justice?”

I instantly stopped to celebrate this question mentally, which emerges like manna from the heady conversational heavens of an Illinois Reading Group to answer the plebeain intellectual groping that some friends and I have been attempting these last few weeks in our attempt to assemble an idea for a new course at school.

Earlier today we met again to discuss the Critical Geography Reading Group we were in last year, and to brainstorm how it might be able to manifest as a course at the university. The discussion group arose as an opportunity to learn what critical geography is  and what a critical geography framework would look like, and to tackle some of the challenging primary sources in social theory which come up over and over again.

The paradox which had become more obvious by the day was how the hell we were going to assemble a cohesive blurb or direction for a topic when we had turned to it last year precisely because we struggle to define and do not understand it.

After many hours of conversation, researching course descriptions and syllabi, haunting the offices of certain professors, and exploring own interests and understandings we had renewed enthusiasm, determination, but still no clear summary or direction.

Discussion today seemed to theme around the necessity of breaking down challenging but seminal works in social theory and applying them to geography, an interest in the history of critical geography within critical theory (its emergence and the context of its emergence) but a distaste for the long-reaching chronology of urbs intro classes and ‘stage’ learning. Another theme was the insistence that this be relevent, and figuring out how to summarize the importance that education was a tool of improving the human condition, for realizing justice and fighting for a real and healthy equality. How can this course strengthen our own activism? How can this course facilitate change?  Another thought was navigating the department divides of ‘Urban Planning’ and ‘Geography’ and ‘Environment’ and how to make this course reach out to everyone.

It seemed many questions, very broad, divergent.

And yet, in this question, “What does an understanding of space have to contribute to struggles for justice?”  we find perhaps the path to the ‘critical geographic framework’ which we were calling out for- with confusion- last year.

And to include Marxist geographies in the exploration of class hierarchies, and critical feminist geography, to look from the bottom of the ladder of priviledge in this struggle for justice.



2 Responses to “New Course Musings I”

  1. Kiley October 29, 2011 at 12:57 am #

    The article from the Critical Spatial Practice Reading Group was called ” What Makes Justice Spatial? What Makes Spaces Just?” from the Spatial Justice issue of the journal Critical Planning (Volume 14 – Summer 2007).

    The site for the Critical Spatial Practice Reading Group talks about their objectives, and might help us sort through what we are trying to accomplish. They also have their reading list up.

    You might be also interested to note “walking as knowing as making“.

    Also on Spatial Justice:
    I’ve started reading an article in the “International Journal of Law in Context” called Spatial justice: law and the geography of withdrawal by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos:
    “In this article, I suggest that the concept of spatial justice is the most promising platform on which to redefine, not only the connection between law and geography, but more importantly, the conceptual foundations of both law and space.

  2. geogging October 30, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Probably a good place to also link to this:
    Race, Space and the law by Sherene Razack, which was one of our readings from the discussion group last year.

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