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Dimensions of spatial transformation

The purpose of this project is to write a framework article on the meanings of spatial transformation. Spatial transformation is a term we often use, but we don't always define what we mean by it. In fact, it means quite different things in terms of what should happen spatially and what the justice implications of these spatial changes are. It could mean (type 1) racial desegregation of residential areas - a direct counter to apartheid's presumption that people of different races could not be neighbours. It could mean (type 2) class desegregation of residential areas - particularly given that much of the racial integration that has taken place reproduces class heterogeneity. Both 1 & 2 seek, in a sense, to re-shape the apartheid city by creating greater heterogeneity and spatial inclusion to areas that were historically exclusive. Other meanings don't prioritise this. Spatial transformation can mean (type 3) creating better connections so that lower-income residents are able to get to livelihood or education opportunities in the city. Thus, the city is not 'desegregated' residentially, but it becomes, in a general sense, more accessible to all. A different take is (type 4) investing in working-class spaces so that they serve their residents better by adding infrastructure, housing and economic opportunities. Some versions of this definition of spatial transformation expect that working-class spaces could become more self-sufficient, negating the need for residents to move out for work or education. Definitions 3 and 4 expect that spatial transformation will be state-led. A further definition (type 5) recognises vernacular and often 'informal' (i.e. unsanctioned) processes - occupying land for residential purposes or establishing places to trade. These definitions suggest ways of reading the movement towards spatial justice, or not, with each having quite distinct implications for justice. The point of the article is to advocate that people specify what type of spatial transformation they are referring to when they are using the term.

Last updated: 13 December 2023


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