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Marginal Spaces: constructing 'other[ing]' home

Part 2 Dissertation 2003
Nishat Awan
University of Sheffield | UK
The dissertation seeks to address the relationship between 'architecture' and 'race' and is based on my personal experience as a Pakistani who moved to England at an early age. Therefore I will address issues concerning the "diaspora", but also those concerning the 'coloniser/colonised' relationship. I will try to define how a 'home' can be constructed in a country that is foreign; where being called British does not automatically lead to a sense of belonging and does not fully describe who you are.

'Identity' is expressed through a practice of space and the space of the city is a canvas for the many identities it is home to. But the modes of representation that are dominant can erase the identities of the minority. Through a privileging of space over place, I am seeking to find ways in which minority identities, their histories and modes of representation can be made visible in space. A number of tools will help to achieve this aim, most importantly perhaps the work of the feminists, the first 'minority group' to try to achieve these aims.

I will first try to define 'place' as an inclusive space and will look at the dialectical relationship between the margin and the centre and how the margin can become a home for those of us that choose it. I will also try to reveal the importance of the figure of the 'mother' in both creating this home, and an identity, within the margins. Through an understanding of space according to Lefebvre’s thinking, the site of a 'third' or 'other' space is revealed – a space that is situated within the margins described above. By analysing the work of Michel de Certeau, I will show the importance of 'everyday practices' in constructing identities.

A separate thread running through the dissertation is the 'thirdspace' of my work, it is where I write about space and city as I see it through my own eyes. Here I will use 'walking' and 'photography' as experience and tool to reveal the hidden identities within a city landscape.

Nishat Awan

The essay is an original approach of issues of space and post-colonial identity from the point of view of an architect, women and immigrant. For Nishat, ‘how to construct home in the margin’ is both an architectural concern and a question related to the feminist ‘politics of location’ and the ‘third space’ of the post-modern sociologies. This question is addressed performatively, from a critical subjective position; her ‘home in the margin’ is a locus in movement, a ‘locality’ (Apadurai) between theories, personal memories and spatial experiences, a ‘tactical’ home that continually reconfigures itself.

Nishat’s most innovative contribution is at the level of the discursive construction, where her question becomes ‘how to construct home within the discursive space of a dissertation’. She uses ‘walking’ and ‘displacement’ as both a metaphor and a metonymy. The act of writing-walking constructs a subjective path within the space of the dissertation, both physical and theoretical, a space of freedom where a ‘nomadic subject’ (Braidotti) can mark her otherness within the established identity of the academic discourse. Walking is considered as a discursive practice that allows subjectivity to traverse different theories of space (i.e. Marxist, post-structuralist, feminist, post-modern, post-colonial) while producing a space of memory and imagination, a political and poetical space of identity in which a paradoxical home can be constructed by crossing over and simultaneously inhabiting many kind of margins.

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