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Feldman (spaces of violence)spatialization of violence

Spatialization of violence or how space become power

Feldman (1991, 1997) theoretical insights emerge from his reading of
Ireland sectarian violence and the role played by violence constituting fields of
social representation and inscription. Violence, as he observes, acts as a
performative force, i.e., a semantically modal and transformative practice (Ibid,
1991, p. 20) that enable contexts and modifies conducts, introducing
differentiation among actors and their self-identification process. In such a way,
violence is an institutional practice with () its own symbolic and performative
autonomy (Ibid, p. 21). This autonomy is culturally encoded, as it is emphasized
along the work of Feldman, and intertwined with the topographic composition of
the social space creating an interesting interplay between geography, political
agency, self-representation and violence as spatial practices.

The observation of the topographic reconfiguration in Northern Ireland

throughout ethnic lines, instigated by the escalating violence from 1969,
describes the relationship between the coercive force and the process of
signification of the social space. The city geographical contours, fed and
sketched by historical narratives and origin myths, become the strategic map
under which social actors acts violently upon the city to restore the mental maps
previously orientated by those narratives and myths. The geographical
organization of the city is productive of violence as a form of conduct but the city
itself is resulted of social imaginaries constructed through historical discourses
that claim original links to that topos. Violence, following Feldman reasoning, in
the context of that resurgent ethnic conflict configures a way to appropriate
materially and symbolically of the disputed geography of Belfast, functioning as
a () nemonic for historizing space and spatializing history (Ibid, p. 27).
Consequently the city and its topographical content are no more things
where situations occur. Inscribed with the emotional codes coming from the
ethnicity fractures, the city topographical features begin to act as truly forces.
Feldman describes this process of embodiment of the city as if it takes on a life of
its own highlighting the relation between space and violence; to this extent,
topography become () much more than a passive template for the inscription
of violence or an object to be manipulated in order to create political
representations. Space became a power and an animated entity (Ibid, P. 28).
Not surprisingly the forced displacement of civilian population produced by this
initial spatialization of violence is considered one of the largest in postwar Europe
(Ibid, p. 23).
In these spatial fractures traversed by ethnic differences, parades are
other manifestation of spatialization of violence. The ritual character and the
intimate relationship with the city geography, make the movement of the mob
under the theatrical deployment of political demands a channel through which
violence codifies the boundaries between different groups. The interface, that
physical limit between catholic and protestant neighbourhoods, is materialized in
the own movement of the parade, and the violence of the separation implicated
in the interface is symbolically deployed as well in that movement (Ibid. p. 3931). Eventually, over the time, the interface lost its mobility engender rigid

spaces of ethnical exclusion and seclusion, making the inhabitants () hostages

to their barricades and their ossified boundaries(Ibid, p. 31). The space of the
boundary inevitably became an intersecting node, enabling the reproduction of
the violence as in an electrical circuit like fed by the own social representations
outcome of the enclosure. The correlation between space, spatial representation
and violence configures a structure productive by itself of new spatial and
violence distributions. Feldman (op cit. p. 35) introduces the terms of this
relationship as it follows:
The ideological and physical plotting of urban space took the following
form: sanctuary/barricades-interface/adversary community () the
conversion of communities into no-go areas automatically codified the
other side of the barricade as an immanent source of transgression. The
entire symbology of purity and impurity which impregnated the polarities
of ethnicity received a reifying substantiation in the inside/outside
division of social space. This division was particularly cogent when the
other side of one communitys barricade or wall was a doubled
antagonistic community with its own set of barricades and vigilante
patrols. Spatial formation was recognized into a mirror relation that had
a profound ideological impact

This process of multiple feedback shows the arrangements that conduct

violence and make it a structuring forced in a complex social dynamic of creation
and destruction of spaces. Representation and space become forces mutually
implicated in the rationale of violence with deep consequences for the manner in
which political agency is thought and how interests articulate themselves to the
course of violence.
The following spatial formation Feldman notes resulted of the initial clash
between political confessions is the Sanctuary. An arrangement constructed upon
the recognizable surface of the community secluded by the arising interfaces,
population displacements and the reconfiguration of the old mixed
neighbourhoods into homogeneous communities geographically based. The
sanctuary, explains Feldman (Ibid, p. 36-38), apart from being a topographical
representation of the community with the religious resonances of the concept,
acts as a space reproductive of the community channelling and managing
violence through spatial devices. Following the disruption of the previous devices
to conduct and limit the use of force, the sanctuary acts as a mechanism of
violence modulation: proliferation of violence functions () from the vantage
point of the sanctuary /interface ensemble, as an effort to concentrate violence
in manageable but exchangeable forms. (Ibid, p. 37)
In this regard, the sanctuary works as a sort of container of the
experiences and mental maps of its inhabitants, and in turns functions as surface
that make possible the reflection of those experiences and relations into courses
of action, which in this case were especially violent. As an example of those
courses of action enabled by the topographic and symbolic conformation of the
Sanctuary, are the tactics called runbacks performed by the Paramilitary units
to ease the setting up and escape from murder operations. Beyond its technical
implications, those tactics entail the deployment of symbolic architectures
anchored in the order of the binary division of the Sanctuary space:

The spatial and performative polarity between community space and violent
interface inflects the transformation of agency and identity as the paramilitary
enter in the terrain of political action. This spatial qualification is informed by
the stigma of contamination in which violence, as the production of matter out
of place, must be confined to a specific space. In performing violence one
moves from the terrain of the pure to the impure (Ibid, p. 44).

This sacrificial connotation of the spaces open through the advance of violence,
are just a few examples of the relation between the violence as a productive
force and the links woven between social agency, space and the potentiality of
being eradicated/killed.