Architecture, Human Rights + Spatial Politics


Spring 2013

Felicity D. Scott, instructor

This seminar investigated the roles architecture and urbanism play (or might play) in current debates over questions of political representation, human rights, the organization of territory, surveillance, warfare, political conflict, defense and cultural heritage as well as in questions of citizenship, diaspora, humanitarian intervention, justice and democracy. Recent architectural publications were studied along with key texts from recent debates within human rights, political theory and spatial politics in order to set out a framework through which to identify new lines of research and further critical prospects. If architecture has at times been identified with ideals of social and political progress—being embraced by the United Nations as having a role to play in rights issues such as housing—the discipline has also provided technical support and spaces for colonization, apartheid planning, encampment, and other forms of violence. The primary question pursued during the course was how the architect might position his or her work with respect to the complicated ethical and political questions raised by these fields of inquiry—that is, how they might take responsibility. Sessions included: National, International, Postnational; Democracy, Rights, Justice, Public Space; Humanitarianism and its Discontents; Extraterritorial Space/Camps; Architecture (on the League of Nations and UN buildings); Other Architectures; Media/Political Space; Technologies of Occupation (Borders I); Technologies of Separation; and Cities at War/Urbicide/Militarism.