Thursday, March 09, 2006

architectural arrangements for exclusion

From the Mitchell book cited earlier this week (p49):

"In general, you can see what really scares a society - its collective vision of the dangerous other - by examining its architectural arrangements for exclusion and isolation."

I was thinking along these lines as I sat in the Schengen lounge of Schiphol the other day. Understand that it was the first time that I had had the seeming privilege of being there. Why "privilege"? I do recall being in the other part/wing of the airport back in September 2004. I had arrived from Cape Town (or maybe Johannesburg, it doesn´t matter) and had to wait to get my flight to Barcelona. I remember that at the time I wondered how it was that things were so rather "incómodo" to my mind. There really were no places in which to wait, except the shops (mall) or in the eating places. There were no places in which to simply wait comfortably, and not feel compelled to spend money on goods or services so as to have a seat somewhere (in a lounge, say). Thát was what I´d noticed.

So, it was quite a surprise for me find said ideational lounge in the Schengen area. Hey, it could be that the airport has been changed since I´d last been there. Maybe lounges have been added for those persons who come from outside the Schengen zone. Who knows. I don´t for sure. So, makes one think about the Mitchell quote, these rather subtle architectural arrangements for exclusion. I say "subtle" because Mitchell goes on to write about walls (e.g. walled encampments as are found in refugee camps, etc), which of course are not subtle at all.

But then all airports throughout have these kinds of arrangements, I imagine. That does not make it okay, no. My point is that it is something probably very subtle, and very ubiquitous (north and south of the equator, if I have to hint at my posting of yesterday).

This brings us to notions of citizenship, because these airport spaces invariably function to separate the citizens of the place/zone/country (of the airport), from the citizenry from "other places/countries". That is the simple separation which is manifested in the architectural arrangement.


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