Kathputi dweller, New Delhi, photo by Jordan M. Jones (2013)

What’s Spatial Justice?


Spatial Justice is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges for cities around the world nowadays, but a truly urgent issue in rapidly urbanising societies in the Global South. Growing inequality, spatial fragmentation and lack of access to public goods are threats to  the sustainability of our cities, especially when we consider sustainability in its three fundamental dimensions (social, economic and environmental). Spatial Justice is a relatively new area of study that focuses on mainly two ‘types’ of justice: distributive justice and procedural justice. On one hand, justice is sought through the creation, fair allocation of and access to public goods, resources and services throughout the city. On the other hand, justice or injustice can also be found in the planning and design procedures, laws and regulations of a city. For example, planning processes that are transparent and allow some form of participation are bound to be more just than those which don’t.  We wish to analyse concrete cases of spatial justice and injustice in cities around the world and how contemporary theories apply there. We wish to shift the attention given in the last few years to issues of spatial justice in the Global North, to issues of spatial justice in the booming metropolises of the South, where spatial fragmentation and inequality are extreme.

Spatial Justice is also an evaluative framework that enables action to improve our cities and make them more livable and socially sustainable.

This is crucial in order to promote more equitable and fair societies and to promote the full realization of human potentials. On one hand, cities in the developing world are far from offering those conditions to most citizens. Meanwhile, cities in the developed world are becoming increasingly more unequal and spatial opportunities are becoming more concentrated in certain prime spots. While gentrification can lead to some positive effects, structural gentrification of the type experienced by cities like London, New York or Amsterdam can lead to dire social problems.

Spatial Justice is also intimately related to the concept of Life Chances, which is the ability of households and individuals to design their lives upwards. As cultural, economic and environmental opportunities are not fairly distributed over space, we must strive to make them accessible to all.

SPATIAL JUSTICE is an essential element of SUSTAINABILITY, understood the integration of SOCIAL, ECONOMIC and ENVIRONMENTAL DIMENSIONS that will allow future generations to enjoy healthy and happy lives.

SPATIAL JUSTICE IS A RIGHT FOR ALL and is an especial element of democracy. In order to achieve spatial justice, we must work towards sustainable governance, fair redistribution of resources and spatial benefits and opportunities. These things will be more easily achieved through democracy and participation.

* Image: Kathputi dweller, New Delhi, photo by Jordan M. Jones (2013)


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