Agency, Agenda, and Social Space

Image: “Q2P” by Paromita Vohra (right): A film on gender, toilets, and the city to be discussed in class.

I am thrilled to have been awarded an opportunity to teach a graduate seminar in Fall 2012 as part of a newly instituted competitive fellowship at the Taubman College. The course entitled, “Agency, Agenda, and Social Space” speaks both to my ongoing dissertation and my broader intellectual interests in the realm of critical theory and design. Here is the course description. All thoughts are welcome.

Agency, Agenda, and Social Space | Fall 2012

Following Henri Lefebvre’s theory of production of space, many scholars have come to view space as a distinct social and political category, actively produced at the intersection of mental, material, and experiential phenomena. The argument that space has political meaning and that it should be conceived of as a social product has provided a valuable framework for architectural theorists and environmental design researchers interested in examining questions of human agency and social agenda in architecture. At the same time, however, the conception of everyday nature of power in practices of space without the agency of community has become popular.

How might we study the narrative about social space within architecture, whilst also investigating the meaning of agency towards greater clarity? How might we examine material responses to questions of social space involving divergent expectations? Is it possible to reconcile spatial strategies that raise social questions and those that work with them through direct action?

This course will investigate politics of space, agency, and practice and their interrelationships from a range of theoretical perspectives and design juxtapositions. We will work through the writings of late 20th-century social theorists who discuss the relationship between space and society in terms of agency and materiality of everyday life. We will contrast writings and design practices that battle issues of social inclusivity and autonomy with those that encourage critical explorations of space through participation. The syllabus will also include texts on urban practices that focus on space and subjectivities such as women and loitering, youth and skateboarding to help connect specific renderings to a wider context of social theory and spatial scholarship.


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