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Domesticity and colonialism - The space of colonialism

05 November 18:30 - 20:00
Organized by: Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House

Our panel of architects and researchers will examine how colonialism has shaped contemporary domestic space from Iran to Puerto Rico.


In a broad sense, architecture has always been inseparable from politics. It shapes identities and forms behaviours, and is often used in the interests of those in power. However, architecture also has the potential to subvert these intentions and to reappropriate space. In this series of talks, we look at the political potential of architecture through the lens of colonialism.


Despite architecture and colonialism being widely explored in architectural history, the domestic dimension of this connection is often considered marginal or unimportant. Instead, the focus has been on how colonial powers affect cities and urban space. Yet the way these powers operate within the intimate environment of the home can have an immediate impact on perceptions surrounding gender, family relationships and sexuality, both within the societies of the coloniser and the colonised.


Our panel will look at the similarities and differences in domestic space from Iran to Eelam/Sri Lanka and Puerto Rico, exploring how they have been shaped by both post-colonial and colonial conditions.


Speakers:Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia is a Lecturer in Urban Futures at Lancaster University. Her work focuses on the socio-material home as a critical realm of inquiry where historical desires, everyday life and future aspirations intersect.


Samaneh Moafi is an architect and researcher based between the UK and Iran. She holds a PhD from the Architectural Association and is a Research Fellow at Forensic Architecture. Her work examines natural environments and realms of domesticity as apparatuses of governance.


Sinthujan Varatharajah is an essayist, researcher and Phd student in Political Geography at UCL. He is an Open City Fellow of the Open Society Foundation in Berlin, advocating for the inclusion of refugees in policy-making procedures in the EU city level. Varatharajah has immersed himself in the Tamil political scene, working with campaigning organisations seeking a solution to the war in Eelam/Sri Lanka.


Shela Sheikh (chair) is Lecturer in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, where she convenes the MA Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy. Her research interrogates various forms of witnessing, between the human, technological and environmental. She is currently working on a multi-platform research project around colonialism, botany and the politics of planting.





The Space of Colonialism series is guest curated by Léopold Lambert and The Funambulist, a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to the politics of space and bodies.