{ queering space }


“The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.”[1]

I often find myself occupying in-between spaces, whether they be spaces of conflict, negotiation, or reconciliation. Urban planning is one such space; while it has been historically complicit in segregating cities and leaving entire neighborhoods without proper infrastructure, amenities, or access to economic opportunity, planning seeks to be the middle ground in negotiating spatial needs of inhabitants with municipal government and private actors, in pursuit of a balance that can yield a better world—a seemingly impossible task in an urban landscape of increased polarization and economic disparity. But can the master’s tools of urban planning ever renovate the master’s house? Or will they simply reproduce problematic spatial configurations and materializations of power and capitalism, despite positive intentions? Can a new version of urban planning and party politics forge a space of reconciliation that is accountable to communities rather than the state, or do we need to abandon the system entirely? When is an in-between space not enough?

Occupying an in-between space can sometimes mean the coexistence of conflicting or mutually exclusive ideals, or the obliteration of binary notions altogether. I am several parts anarchist and some parts party politician; I am somewhere between an urban planner and urban designer, perhaps a combination of both (or maybe neither of the two); I am both Swedish and a foreigner, and while I can speak Swedish rather fluently, it will never be my mother tongue (and most will always be able to tell); I am a girl who is also nonbinary. I am seeking a threshold, a queered space of negotiation, contradiction, and perpetual fluctuation, that can find symbiosis in mutual exclusivity and oscillate between or obliterate the binaries imposed by ideals and identities deemed to be contradictory to one another. This “queer space” of negotiation has been proposed as a counter-architecture that appropriates, subverts, mirrors, and choreographs the orders of everyday life in new and liberating ways.[2] While there are many systems that I would like to eradicate altogether, urban planning and party politics are two systems and spaces that I will first try to queer, exploring the potential for a practice of dismantling and reconfiguring, appropriating and subverting from within. But if the master’s tools will in fact never dismantle the master’s house, can the master’s house be renovated in the meantime or must we sit helplessly with the master’s tools while we wait for better ones? What new tools are needed, and how do we go about finding them so that these new ones aren’t just as harmful as those of the master? Does my practice of Politics undermine my politics? Can urban planning be reformed, or does urban planning as we know it need to be abolished entirely? Can anarchism and state governments synchronize, or maybe even collaborate, in their shared quest towards a better world? What spaces of conflict and contradiction can be queered and negotiated to allow for these collaborations and synchronicities to occur?


[1] Audre Lorde. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. 1984

[2] Aaron Betsky. Queer Space: Architecture and Same Sex Desire. 1997.


Mikaela Karlsson