Violent Spaces:The Necessity of Alterity for the City
Thesis DisciplineReligious Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Abstract The city is a complex space, comprised of a multitude of cultures, languages, and influences that interact, clash, and communicate, resulting in a space of dynamic violence. It is through this violent interaction of different forces that the city attains its potential as a space offering hope and opportunity. Such fragmentary and rapidly changing influences do, however, present problems for the investigation and interpretation of the city, in that conclusions seem only fleeting and provisional. For this reason, it is important to write towards a universal hope for the city; a hope that can never truly apply in practice, but nonetheless extends an inextinguishable hermeneutical possibility to all cities. In the Western, Judeo-Christian framework, the intersection of universalism, hermeneutics, and the city begins with the collapse of the Tower of Babel. Through violent rupture, humanity’s differences are revealed and thus a Fall into a schema of translation occurs, where humanity must exist side-by-side with each other in the absence of divine presence. Subsequently, cities are necessarily diverse and violent, for it is alterity that allows for cities to contain hope for something other than what is. To prevent the city from becoming totalitarian and without hope, alterity must be consciously maintained in both the physical environments of the suburb and the city-centre, and in the idea of the city: what the city could be. Achieving alterity in the suburb and city-centre requires hospitality toward the other, an openness to the other that coincides with a schema of justice. The maintenance of alterity in the idea of the city requires a messianic conception of hope that cannot be called forth, and remains perpetually as a possibility that is no possibility, violently rupturing all claims of completion in the present. With the extension of hospitality and justice, combined with the conscious maintenance of alterity, the violence inherent in the interaction of different forces in the city is put to its most positive and regenerative applications.