Next VizCult: Chris Butler, Griffith University, TODAY

“The Politics of Inhabitance and the Possibility of Spatial Justice”
Wednesday, April 29, 5:15 pm
University Art Museum
Brisbane

Two versions of modernism – two forms of inhabitance. A ‘fibro’ shack in the shadow of the legendary ‘Torbreck’ tower block, Highgate Hill, Brisbane, Australia, 2000.

Contemporary philosophical accounts of the relationships between dwelling and modernity have been particularly influenced by the work of two twentieth-century writers: Martin Heidegger and Gaston Bachelard. Certainly Henri Lefebvre’s writings on space and inhabitance are critically engaged with Heidegger’s reflections on the intimate connection between dwelling and ‘Being,’ and with Bachelard’s depiction of the poetic force of the home. However through his linking of spatial aesthetics to a politics of concrete utopianism, Lefebvre attempts to move beyond both Heidegger’s formulation of the problem of dwelling and the aura of nostalgia that surrounds Bachelard’s poetics of domestic space. In this paper, I will explore how Lefebvre’s intellectual engagements with these two thinkers were pursued in his writings on the right to the city and in his direct contributions to a number of architectural and urban planning projects in a number of cities around the world. Lefebvre’s reworking of the question of dwelling will be compared with reflections on this topic that appear in the architectural philosophy of Massimo Cacciari and Manfredo Tafuri. In doing so, I will argue that Lefebvre provides a way of understanding how everyday spatial practices and the ordering of the built environment are structured by a politics of inhabitance – a politics which defines the very possibility of spatial justice.

Chris Butler is a lecturer in the Griffith Law School at Griffith University in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

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