Exception and the rebel body:
the political as generator of a minor architecture

Abstract for Exception and the rebel body:
the political as generator of a minor architecture
,

PhD dissertation, September 2017; ETSAM School of Architecture,
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Versión en español.

Following the Iranian elections in 2009, the city of Tehran experienced a wave of protests to denounce alleged irregularities in the electoral process. As the streets were lined with police chasing protesters, they climbed to the city’s rooftops to express their disagreement. Thus, every night a chorus of voices intoned the same chants their parents’ generation had used to protest against the Shah exactly thirty years before and from that same roofscape. In doing so, these rebel bodies unfolded a common spatiality beyond the reach of power: the political dodged the spatial forms of exception. An exception exploited within a realm of politics that is afraid of the political. The exception is not an anomaly, neither the rupture of a normative state, but the articulation of a relationship of inclusive exclusion: exclusion of the political from the political community, through a subjection that internalizes it. It is a device with a marked spatial nature. It works on the constant re-articulation of interiors, exteriors, thresholds and overlays, thus producing a diagram that, far from remaining static throughout the centuries, is subject to a constant process of recomposition, precisely because it is involved in a never-ending dance with the political (the Spinozist and impossible to determine “what a body can do”). Within this body, the expression of the immanent self-production of the real, lies the common ontological foundation of both the political—the power of the body in the interweaving of our being in common—, and the architectural—the power of that same body to situate itself and produce complex forms of spatiality. Consequently, every single body which—through its rebellion—, enters into conflict with the effects of the exception, does so by deploying an open set of practices and knowledge founded on its own corporeity: what we have called “minor architecture.” At its basis we find two fundamental concepts, the body’s individual spatiality and the common spatiality of the multitude. While the former is defined by the affects that extend the reach of the body and involve it with the world beyond itself, producing a realm of relationships that is its own; the latter requires us to recognize the role of the multitude as a multiple body, and its common spatiality as the composition of the individual spatialities that constitute it. This affective foundation of spatiality transforms some of the architectural discipline’s traditional core concepts such as the idea of the limit, the role of geometry, form, the project or the diagram. After developing these instruments in the first part of the thesis, in the second part we begin a fragmentary genealogy of the conflict between exception and rebellious body through a series of significant historical situations: the spatial forms of the Grand Renfermement as illustrated by the Hôpital Général de Paris and the mobile geography represented by the Cours des Miracles during the 17th century; the clandestine spatial production that rose before the construction of the biopolitical “grille” and the police field in 18th century France, as well as the latter’s genesis in the forms of medieval pastoral power; and finally, the affirmation of the body’s own spatiality that destabilized the duplicated reality produced by segregation in United States’ South during the 20th century. Advances in the history of this conflict allow us to enrich the concepts and tools initially proposed, the political and the architectural, as well as their common base in a body that is confirmed as the foundation of a minor architecture.



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