The Space of Conflict

Conflicts unfold at various interconnected scales: global, territorial, state, urban, human. Their geographical scopes stretch from the localized sites of citizen contestation and micro-struggles to the global networks of terror. Conflicts transform land uses, territorial arrangements, urban processes and human settlement patterns according to temporalities that range from short-lived states of emergency to the longue durée of chronic violence.

This course examines the connections between space and conflict through the lens of interventions. It uncovers the array of intentions, actions and technologies that are deployed in response to war or violence, focusing primarily on interventions that alter the built environment and the materiality of everyday life.

In doing so, the course places the emphasis on the role of planners and designers as active participants in spaces of conflict, and poses the following questions: What are the logics, modalities, forms of expertise and knowledge practices through which planners and designer understand and manage conflicts? When and where may they intervene? Are the allegedly stable professional categories and methodologies onto which they rely compatible with the sites, scales, and temporalities of conflict?

This graduate seminar will combine theoretical inquiries into a literature that spans multiple disciplines in the social sciences (planning, architecture, geography, medical anthropology, international relations, critical legal studies, science and technology studies, etc.), with a series of guest lectures on various modalities of intervention – case studies varying from military, health, refuge, food aid infrastructures to violent ecologies, land conflicts. The 3-hour sessions will be divided equally between student-led discussions and guest lectures.

Course Requirements
The course requirements will revolve around an in depth investigation of a specific site, network or process that relates to the materiality and geography of conflict. Critical reading, discussion, and analytical writing exercises will be accompanied by, and lend depth to, explorations in visual rhetoric/narratives (in the form of maps, illustrated timelines, diagrams, etc.)