Connecting space and justice in metropolitan Porto: the discourses of inhabitants on the spatial dimension of justice

This investigation on spatial justice, while being fundamental research, has empirical pertinence and operational quality in the form of a justice-minded urbanism. Connecting the concreteness of cities with the societal objectives of development and of justice lays at the heart of the relationship between space and justice that this thesis sets out to develop. This project proposes an encounter among erudite studies on space, justice and spatial justice and between these theories and the discourses of citizens on what matters for justice in space. A theoretical contribution (a program for a theory of spatial justice) intersects an empirical terrain, based on the metropolitan area of Porto. Exploratory interviews with a sample of this society allow the participants to determine the themes of pertinence to discuss the spatial dimension of justice. Listening to what the inhabitants of metropolitan Porto have to say about injustice and their habitat produces a better understanding on the ways in which space and ethics are related in this society. Does space matter for justice? How do individuals problematize injustice through space? Is there one or several spatial justice conception in the society? Are individuals coherent or do they affiliate with different political-philosophical orientations in function of the themes at stake? In the pursuit of answers to these questions we conceive space and justice as two separate planes. We are interested in seeing the specific contribution of deontological components (rationality, impartiality and reasonableness) and ideas of justice (equality and freedom and their interrelations) vis-à-vis the proper spatial imagination of inhabitants. We arrive at the conclusion that there is a strong interconnection between the ways in which inhabitants treat these two dimensions in their configuration of spatial injustices and the proposition of their contraries. The capacity to imagine space as a resource for society's development project co-varies with the comprehensiveness of the "materials of justice" which are implied in the reversal of injustice. We identify that there is a proper ethical capacity involved in telling the just and that such capacity has varying degrees in different individuals. Through the quantitative and qualitative exploration of the corpus we observe that there are today, in Porto, ten different ways of connecting space and justice. Two main fields ¿ one located in an epoch of morality and the other in ethics ¿ compose contrasting urban problems: societal versus non-societal scales, metrics of continuity or of separateness, and varying degrees of complexity of the substance of space. These contradictions confirm the idea that urbanism needs to be a political process, inclusive of all voices of a society holding different spatial justice conceptions, yet working towards their convergence as well. A theory of spatial justice can support the actors in detecting the reasons for their disagreements and in their reconstructive work towards the consensus of spatial-ethical values.

    Keywords: space ; ethics ; spatial justice ; city ; urbanism ; capability ; Porto

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 7287 (2016)
    Programme doctoral Architecture et sciences de la ville
    Faculté de l'environnement naturel, architectural et construit
    Institut du développement territorial
    Laboratoire Chôros
    Jury: Prof. Philippe Thalmann (président) ; Prof. Jacques Lévy (directeur de thèse) ; Dr Luca Pattaroni, Prof. Álvaro Domingues, Prof. Erik Schokkaert (rapporteurs)

    Public defense: 2016-11-24


    Record created on 2016-11-21, modified on 2016-11-28

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