64 SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Even though the visibility of these squatter settlements is constantly sought to be erased by moving them elsewhere, by bulldozing them, and by evicting the inhabitants, squatter settlements are spatial forms which make assertions, which contest dominant relations, and which make the dialectic between the forces of dominance, and those of resistance starkly visible in a way no other medium can do. They are a constant reminder of an unequal society, that has no place for a majority of its people,—and they point to the myopic visions of those who organize spatial forms to represent narrow ends. And they are difficult to ignore, as any urban dweller will testify.
These squatter settlements made of tin, scraps of cardboard, newspapers and rags, hit one with the full force of a sledgehammer. They intrude into individual consciousness at traffic crossings, in public parks, while crossing pavements, while going to work, while coming back from work, or while engaged in leisure activities. They speak to us in various ways, they inform us that cities are unequally constructed and maintained, but they also tell us about the urban poor. The inhabitants of these settlements are people who are denied personhood, because they are denied a home, and yet they are people who manage to talk back to both history and geography. Spatial forms of the urban poor, disrupt the coherence of the planned urban landscape, they retaliate, and talk back to history and geography, by making the homelessness of these people dramatically visible, as much as they demonstrate the determination of these people not to be excluded and isolated.
The urban poor make and remake space in way that allows them survival, they seize spaces and reshape in this way the entire urban form. The appropriation of space allows the urban poor to dissolve spatial boundaries set from above. The geographical remapping of the city which follows, symbolizes a political strategy of resistance. Now, all this implies that the spatial dimension of societies, is as important in the study of social resistance, as other modes of inquiry. This is because, the production of space is an inherently political process, it is symbolic of both power and resistance to these symbols of power. An interrogation of spatial representations, thus allows us an entry point into questions of social power and the responses it elicits.
It is however, only very recently, that social theory has begun to take space seriously. Social scientists concerned themselves with time and the temporal unfolding of events. Time was accordingly privileged over space, and history was privileged over geography. 'Space1, writes Michael Foucalt,
was treated as the dead, the fixed, the undialectical, the immobile. Time, on the other hand, was richness, fecundity, life, dialectic. The use of spatial terms seems to have the air of anti-history. If one