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Panel 44. Spatial Politics on the Narrow Margins: Advancing Dialogues on Public Space and the Colonial Lives of Property


  • Claudio Alvarado Lincopi, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
  • Isabella Pojuner, Birmingham City University
  • Olivia Casagrande, University of Sheffield
  • Samuel Burgum, Birmingham City University


Marginalised urban groups find themselves increasingly squeezed. On one side, they are routinely denied recognition as legitimate users of city space or as members of ‘the public’. Whilst on the other, they are increasingly criminalised, policed, and controlled through trends of securitisation and privatisation. This pincer movement creates and maintains the ‘narrow margins’, making life unbearable and near impossible for many disempowered communities across different urban settings. Colonial framings of space and subjectivity continue to determine who is or is not considered a ‘legitimate user’ of urban space in post-colonial cities (whether Santiago de Chile or London). The ability or inability of different groups to legitimately use city space can be traced back to colonial property regimes, which sought to control occupied territory through techniques of alienation (e.g., surveys, planning, registers) which made it easier identify a ‘legitimate’ user (i.e. a titled property owner) (Bhandar 2018). These colonial logics of property were also extended into public spaces as different marginalised groups found themselves the subject of exclusion from the ‘public’ and ‘citizenship’.

Yet at the same time as being spaces of oppression, the narrow margins are also sites of contestation through protest and political actions that directly challenge who may or may not inhabit urban spaces. We argue that these three themes – property as a colonial construction, the creeping privatisation of public spaces, and their contestation at street level – are all connected within specific urban contexts, as well as across transnational histories and the back-and-forth transfer of colonial epistemologies. We call for a greater understanding of the way urban processes in seemingly distinct geographical settings have interacted and influenced one another through the co-development of colonial property frameworks. Using this approach, we seek to advance dialogues between and within urban contexts currently treated as if ‘unconnected’.

Contributions to this session might include (but are not limited to) papers which:

  • Have developed empirical insights by working alongside marginalised groups and which contextualise findings across different scales, traversing the transnational, historical, national- regional, and street
  • Have collaboratively engaged with alternative epistemologies for thinking urban space beyond colonial property frameworks in or across different (post)colonial
  • Trace changes in the use of public space during moments of political/social upheaval.
  • Offer critical insights into power dynamics between different publics in urban space.
  • Reflect on normative conceptions of the ‘public’, public space, and private
  • Investigate the roots and influence of colonial framings of public space and
  • Contextualise the extension of private property logics into public space (e.g., criminal law, trespass, surveillance, policing, private security).

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM