[URBANTH-L]CFP: Spatial Justice (Paris, France)

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Sun Mar 4 12:11:56 EST 2007

Call for Papers


an international interdisciplinary conference
March 12-14, 2008, University of Paris X-Nanterre, France
Proposal Deadline: April 30, 2007

With the support of :
Gecko Laboratory (Géographie Comparée des Suds et des Nords, EA 375, Paris X 
University, France)
Mosaïques Research Group (UMR LOUEST, CNRS/ Paris X University /EAPVS, 
UMR 5600, Environnement, Ville, Sociétés, CNRS-Jean Moulin University (Lyon 
III University, France)
CUBES Laboratory (Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies, University 
of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
Dipartimento di Pianificazione, Università Iuav di Venezia (Italy)
UCLA Social Sciences Division (USA)

Abstracts from a wide range of disciplines and professional affiliations are 
welcomed and contributions will be accepted in the form of presentations, 
round tables and posters. Collective contributions will also be considered. 
The international scientific committee of the conference will examine all 
proposals in May 2007.

The debate on justice is crucial to democratic societies, at all scales. The 
context of academic rejection of metanarrative theories and the relativism 
associated with postmodern deconstruction has, however, undermined a rich 
engagement with this topic for some time. This process has been reinforced 
by the rise of various social movements (feminist, ecologist or 
anti-racist.) as well as the development of multiculturalism which has meant 
that a range of key political players have been confronted with differing 
concepts of what is "just" and "unjust". At the same time, in a rather 
vexing development, some ultra-liberal discourses are increasingly ignoring 
the issue of social justice. Paradoxically, social protest movements, 
deconstructivist intellectual movements and neo-liberal economics discourses 
have converged to contest the idea of a universal justice. This context 
forms the basis of our exploration of the notion of spatial justice.

Spatial justice is the ultimate goal of many planning policies. This idea 
has held such sway that some have even argued that planning and the search 
for spatial justice are equivalent . The diversity of definitions of 
"justice" (and of the possible "social contracts" that legitimate them), 
however, has meant that the political objectives of planning can be quite 
different and even contradictory. The idea of spatial justice has been taken 
for granted to the extent that it is rarely questioned (particularly since 
the work of Anglo-American radical geographers in the 1970s-1980s) and it is 
often only defined negatively through the denunciation of spatial 
unfairness. It has become essential therefore that the question of spatial 
justice be reopened and freshly critiqued.

Two contrasting concepts of justice have polarized the debate. On the one 
hand, John Rawls defines justice as fairness. His theory of justice is not 
strictly egalitarian, but assumes the intrinsic equality of the value of 
each individual. It justifies inequalities on condition that they maximise 
the share of the least-favored members of society. He claimed that this 
theory, relying on a hypothetical and non-historical processual 
demonstration, guaranteed universal principles of justice. This concept of 
justice is based on the individual. On the other hand, communitarians have 
focused their definition of social justice on communities, whose rights 
precede those of individuals. Justice has yet another meaning for marxists, 
who pursue the suppression of all socio-economic inequalities. All of these 
concepts of justice, though, hold a common assumption that justice is about 
socio-economic equality or inequality and aims to reduce, suppress or 
appease socio-economic inequality. In the 1990s, however, the philosophical 
reflection on justice underwent a radical shift, as demonstrated in the work 
of Iris-Marion Young . This author dismisses the idea of a universal notion 
of justice in favour of identifying the specific forms of injustice that 
affect certain social groups. She argues that the socio-economic dimension 
was not sufficient to define justice: fair politics should pursue the 
suppression of any kind of oppression. The five faces of oppression as 
characterized by Young were soon taken up by David Harvey who, in a famous 
article, analyzes how Young's work could be applied to urban policy. Thus, 
assuming a processual definition of justice rather than a structural one, a 
new conception of social justice emerged, that was based on the recognition 
and affirmation of difference. This in turn led to planning policies that 
sought to ensure the rights of different identity groups.

The conference will be organized around the six main themes that are 
presented in the following sections. The objective of the conference is to 
open discussion from all intellectual quarters at a range of scales.

What is spatial justice?

Rather than attempting to build further metanarrative notions of justice, it 
is essential that the question of what constitutes justice be examined. 
Although the binary opposition of structural and processual is still 
central, have new theoretical developments emerged, allowing for the 
reformulation of the question of spatial justice? In this context, is it 
fruitful to revisit the classical theories?
Even if it is ambiguous, polysemous and perhaps threatened, the concept of 
justice remains an essential, mobilizing political lever that is understood 
and practiced in the everyday lives of citizens. It is equally obvious that 
social inequalities do exist and that they are generally spatialized. We 
would like to focus the discussion on the interaction between space and 
society and the question of scale (from the micro-scale of domestic spaces 
to the grand scale of the global) is crucial. At which spatial and social 
scales can we formulate these debates? How are these scales linked? At the 
same time, this central question calls for an examination of representations 
(how and at which territorial level do people create a sense of belonging) 
and political negotiation.

Spatial justice and globalization

Does economic globalization lead to more socio-spatial inequalities and, if 
so, at which scales? To what extent do these spatial inequalities amount to 
injustice? The answer is not obvious, especially if viewed from an 
historical perspective. Are globalization discourses an instrument to 
justify and uphold inequities between different economies or is it possible 
to ensure equity at the global scale despite the (increasing) differences 
between countries and regions? Within this theme we will also examine the 
impact of globalization discourses (on the necessity of global economic 
competition, on multiculturalism.). Finally, does globalization present 
opportunities for new forms of resistance and struggles for spatial justice 
to emerge, especially at a global scale?

Spatial justice: identities, minorities

Young (1990) describes several forms of oppression which target particular 
identity groups (minority groups). New forms of racism have constructed a 
figure of the Other on cultural premises. The systemic violence associated 
with the exclusion of these Others has a spatial dimension since frequently 
each cultural group is assigned a particular territory. In many instances 
these spatial dynamics may be less overt, for example, gender cannot be 
analyzed in terms of residential segregation but, patterns of segregation 
are nonetheless visible in the workplace or in terms of mobility. A spatial 
approach does not merely entail a description of the distribution of 
minorities in space, rather it enables an evaluation of how this 
distribution is experienced. It then becomes possible to reflect on forms of 
oppression which fall out of universalised notions of justice: positing that 
all individuals are equal may in fact obscure many forms of identity-based 

Environmental justice

"Environmental justice" emerged in the 1980's in North-American cities as 
the spatial correlations between racial discrimination, socio-economic 
exclusion, industrial pollution and vulnerability towards natural hazards 
became more and more overt. In the poorer countries of the South, national 
parks and other conflicts about natural resources have revealed the 
ecological dimension of economic and political domination. As the global 
ecological crisis has deepened, the emergence of the concept of sustainable 
development has favoured a reflection on environmental equity. This concept 
questions our ontological relationship to the world, and the possibility of 
just policies which articulate with the needs of humanity - present and 
future, local and global - and new forms of governance. As ecological 
inequalities deepen, the politics of spatial ownership and control at 
different scales has resulted in the co-existence of preserved spaces (for 
the few) and zones of ecological exploitation. Could a reflection exploring 
the relationships between ecological inequalities and justice contribute 
towards establishing and building just environmental policies?

Spatial justice and segregation

Segregation has been widely discussed in the field of social sciences from a 
range of theoretical perspectives, especially in geography. One of the key 
unifying themes of this research (be it qualitative or quantitative) is that 
segregation is inherently a spatial injustice. However, the link between 
segregation and injustice should be examined more closely: is any 
socio-spatial division of space - especially in cities - by definition 
unjust? Both the injustice of the processes which produce segregation, and 
the effects produced by segregation, should be challenged. In the same way 
as we have questioned universalised notions of justice, the objective of the 
socio-spatially mixed city, often considered as a "just city", must be 
questioned: for instance, pre-industrial cities were much less segregated, 
but were these more just than contemporary cities? Finally, does the 
question of mobility require us to rethink the relationship between justice 
and segregation?

What is a just territorial policy?

Is the function of public policies (planning, management.) to establish 
spatial equity? Is their aim to treat all spaces equally? Are these issues 
the pre-condition for- or even the definition of- spatial justice? Is a 
"just" policy a policy which rebalances spatial inequalities, through some 
forms of positive discrimination? Or, should "just" policies be 
non-interventionist and allow spatial dynamics to balance processes such as 
those of the market? If we question universalised claims to justice, is it 
still possible or even desirable to build "just" and stable spatial 
structures? Alternatively, should we focus on ways to establish flexible 
regulation, with the aim of reducing spatial injustice in a responsive and 
context driven manner, without privileging any particular (utopian) spatial 
pattern? But, even if they can prove illusory, aren't the territorialized 
images of the actions aiming towards justice a requirement of any action? 
This questions the validity of the territorialisation of public policies 

Conference organisers : F. Dufaux (Mosaïques-UMR LOUEST, University of Paris 
X-Nanterre), P. Gervais-Lambony (Gecko, University of Paris X), S. 
Lehman-Frisch (Mosaïques-UMR LOUEST, IUFM of Versailles), S. Moreau (Gecko 
and Laboratoire Etude Comparée des Pouvoirs, University of Marne-la-Vallée), 
M. Rubin (CUBES, University of the Witwatersrand).

Please send abstracts of no more than one page (in French or in English) to 
the following e-mail address: Philippe.Gervais-Lambony at u-paris10.fr

Philippe Gervais-Lambony
GECKO Laboratory
University Paris 10 - Nanterre
200 avenue de la Republique
92001 Nanterre Cedex

Email: philippe.gervais-lambony at u-paris10.fr
Visit the website at http://www.justice-spatiale-2008.org/ 

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