chapter  6
Space, politics, justice chris butler
Pages 19

In recent years, the physical and cultural usage of space has been widely acknowledged as a crucial element in the strategic armoury of radical politics. The explosive challenges to state power that marked the rebellions of the Arab Spring, the challenges to capital in movements such as Occupy and the massive demonstrations against the neoliberal constitutionalisation of austerity by the Aganaktismenoi in Greece, the Spanish Indignados and the Nuit Debout movement across France, are all prominent examples of this phenomenon (Douzinas 2012; Guardiola-Rivera 2012). The use of public space by each of these ‘occupying’ movements has been materially and symbolically central to their challenges to existing political and legal orders (Wall 2012). Of course the political uses of space have also been intrinsic to the emergence of innumerable social movements which extend beyond these instances of public assembly. A classic Australian example is the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, established in 1972 on the lawn in front of Old Parliament House in Canberra. This extended campsite on land at the centre of the national capital has not only operated as a public demand for the formal recognition of Aboriginal land rights, but is in itself an open-ended assertion of ‘the authority of a sovereign people to use their land’ without seeking permission (Iveson 2014, 253). Another example of the politicisation of the inhabitance of space can be seen in the struggles against evictions and campaigns for the provision of public housing by the South African shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo (Pithouse 2009; 2010).