Seats of Power

Inaugural day in Brasília, 21 April 1960. Original monochrome photograph: anonymous/Manchete magazine. Courtesy of Julieta Sobral/Lúcio Costa Archives.

The main purpose of this section, including the tagged blogposts, is to function as a repository for early drafts and pre-publication papers from the project of the same name. Papers authored by guests may also be featured.

As a whole, the project addresses the ways in which public power is experienced as the lived detail of a constituted space. Individuals namely experience the political and legal arrangements under which they live as, among other things, spatial contours with reference to which they also negotiate their own relationships to power and domination. These power-related spatial contours are especially discernible in the architecture and urban planning of cities that are specifically designated as seats of power.

More specifically the project asks what constituted space with its architectural designs and city plans, understood now as the containers and conduits of our lived experiences of political and legal power, tell us about the constitutional arrangements themselves. How is this physically constituted space possibly reflected in the more symbolic environments of power like constitutional designs, public service design models, e-government architecture, etc.? How is constituted spaced gendered, racialised and ethnicised, and as such, how does it facilitate, hinder or manage human rights and civil liberties? How do individuals perceive the constituted physical environment in which they live? What are the spatial solutions that inform the political strategies of governing on the one hand, and resistance on the other?

Over the course of the project, these questions will be addressed by focusing on four individual case studies: Helsinki, Brussels, Hong Kong and Brasília. The case studies will be analysed using an ethnographic method that is theoretically framed by Henri Lefebvre’s triadic notion of the production of social space. Document sets that consist of urban planning documents and architectural designs (i.e. the conceived dimension of constituted space) will be studied through qualitative document analysis, while the daily routines of the relevant social actors within those spaces (i.e. the perceived dimension of constituted space) and the meanings that social actors themselves attach to the spatial raw material in their relationships with public power (i.e. the lived dimension of constituted space) will be studied through a self-reflexive variant of visual ethnography in which the ethnographer herself, embedded in the environments that she studies, not only documents them with photographs, but also uses photography to communicate her own sensory experiences of how public power is spatially ordered.

You’ll find observations from my ‘walks’ under the sub-menus.