Subaltern and minority occupations of space: histories, methods, lessons for design

Research seminar series

Japanese Room, Level 4, Glyn Davis Building (Melbourne School of Design), Masson Rd, University of Melbourne Parkville, VIC 3010

ABP Research Seminar Series 2022: Subaltern and minority occupations of space: histories, methods, lessons for design

ABP Research Seminar Series 2022: Subaltern and minority occupations of space

"There's really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard." - Arundhati Roy

Drawing from a range of sites across Sri Lanka and India, researchers present historicised political theory, empirical research, and innovative methodologies as alternative frameworks that are receptive to subaltern and minority occupations of space. Presentation highlights include creative works informed by markers of informality, morphological mappings that are receptive to and capture tenuous and ephemeral spatial appropriations of marginal communities and analysis of South-South diplomacy during the Cold War through architecture and spatial tactics. The panel’s overarching objective is to aid in the disentanglement of subaltern and minority sites from the peripheries of academia and practice, reflecting the reality that the majority of the world’s occupiers of space are from these backgrounds. It is the panel’s contention that equity and other positive change can only be achieved by drawing these marginalised voices into the discourse, positioning their issues as subjects of study in their own right, and shifting away from the Westernised gaze.

About the panel

Presentation 1:

Ishita Chatterjee is an architect who has worked in India and China before joining academia. Her doctoral thesis studied the diverse growth processes of informal settlements in India by examining the everyday politics and the structural processes that impact them. Her other work focuses on urban citizenship, spatial justice, counter cartography and architectural pedagogy. In addition, she has been an active participant in social movements on housing rights.

Presentation 2:

Anoma Pieris is a Professor of Architecture at The University of Melbourne. Her previous publications include Architecture and Nationalism in Sri Lanka: The Trouser under the Cloth (2012), Hidden Hands and Divided Landscapes: A Penal History of Singapore’s Plural Society (2009), Sovereignty, Space and Civil War in Sri Lanka (2018) and the anthology Architecture on the Borderline: Boundary Politics and Built Space (2019). She is co-author with Lynne Horiuchi of The Architecture of Confinement: Incarceration Camps of the Pacific War (forthcoming in 2022).

Presentation 3:

Kelum Palipane is Lecturer in Architectural Design at the University of Melbourne. Through her research and teaching Kelum investigates how creative ethnographic methods can inform design in demographically complex urban conditions. Recent publications include, ‘Socio-sensory Practice and its Potential for Identity, Plurality and Dissonance’ in the Journal of Intercultural Studies and ‘Multimodal Mapping: A Methodological Framework’ in the Journal of Architecture.


Dr Yvette Putra is an architectural historian. Her research provokes intersections of architectural representation and art, cultural, and social histories, in underrepresented groups and regions. Her most recent publications are "Architectural Models at the Boundary," in Architectural Theory Review, and "'Ugly' Architectural Drawings," in Architecture and Culture.

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