Guest editors:

Deniz Ay | Vrije Universiteit Brussel | Department of Geography Pleinlaan 2 BE-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Ceren Sezer  |  RWTH Aachen University |  Institute for Urban Design and European Urbanism | Wüllnerstraße 5b | D-52062 Aachen, Germany


The broad concept of spatial justice has emerged as a critical theme in urban studies with an active link to the promotion of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Spatial justice is a quest to challenge the deepening inequalities inherently attached to space (Fainstein 2014, Soja 2010, Young 1990). Spatial justice is not a new concept, yet it remains pressingly relevant due to global capitalism characterized by profit-oriented economic models shaping (re)development policies and practices. On the one hand, the city continues to serve as the playground for global competition and economic growth at different levels, often directed by the priorities of the capital at the cost of the wellbeing of the socially and economically disadvantaged urban populations. Some examples of these global trends include privatisation of public space (i.e., privately-owned public spaces, “POPs” in London ) (Niksic and Sezer, 2017), gentrification (Lees et al. 2016), and concentration of poverty especially in ethnic enclaves (Musterd 2016, Lichter et al. 2012). On the other hand, spatial justice is relevant beyond the city, given the rising inequalities concerning the use of environmental resources and access to a healthy environment. Therefore, the geography of spatial injustice surpasses conceptual divides between the urban and the rural. Spatial justice has widespread use and value both for the social theory and the political agenda (Williams 2018: 10-11).

Several national and international organizations have recognized the critical need to take action to improve spatial justice standards. UN-Habitat, in its New Urban Agenda, includes ‘just cities for all’ as a part of its ‘vision of cities for all (…) without discrimination of any kind (…) to foster prosperity and quality of life for all’ while reaffirming its commitment to sustainable urban development (2017: 4-5). More recently, the American Planning Association (APA) has published a ‘Planning for Equity Policy Guide’ to ‘reaffirm [its] commitment to promote equity and explicitly remove barriers in policies and regulations that perpetuate inequity in the United States’ (2019: 3). APA defines equity as ‘just and fair inclusion into a society’, and its policy guide outlines ‘recommended policy actions’ for planners’ toolboxes ‘to implement policies that result in fair, equitable communities’ (2019: 3,5).   

There are persistent calls from scholars across disciplines, including geography, political science, and sociology, to use the justice perspective to explore the growing inequalities across space to confront the conditions of spatial inequality. However, the pedagogical approaches in social sciences to disseminate the knowledge on key ideas and principles of spatial justice and its practical implementation remain underexplored (see Blaisdell 2019, Carrillo and Mendez 2019, Rubel et al. 2016a, Rubel et al. 2016b). To address this gap in the literature, this special issue aims to bring together an interdisciplinary and international group of contributors to discuss and explore the state-of-the-art approaches and strategies to advance the comprehension of spatial justice in academic, policy, and practical realms. Some of the questions the contributions may address include, but are not limited to: 

1.    What is the place of spatial justice in education for urban studies? Do we need ‘spatial justice pedagogy’?

2.    How, or to what extent, are urban designers and planners prepared through their formal education to stand on the side of spatial justice in their practice? 

3.    What are the opportunities beyond the conventional forms of teaching (i.e., digital humanities, digital ethnographies, multimedia) to promote spatial justice-oriented education in the context of the complex roles and futures of cities and regions? 

4.    What are the pedagogical pitfalls in planning curriculums, teaching methods, and materials used for advancing students’ understanding of spatial justice?

5.    What are the alternative educational platforms beyond the academia for advancing the collective knowledge on spatial justice to connect directly with communities and grassroots? 

In this special issue, we call for contributions from scholars from urban studies, planning and related fields in social sciences and humanities, activists, independent researchers, and advocacy groups with explicit interests in space, to address opportunities and challenges of advancing the practically applicable knowledge on spatial justice as a process and a quest to reimagining space. 

Interested contributors for this special issue are invited to submit a 500-word abstract to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The abstract should include: 

-    Title and keywords;
-    Author(s)’ name, current affiliation and e-mail address;
-    Research questions, methodology, and major findings of the research;
-    Five key references;
-    Short bio and a list of recent publications by the author(s); and
-    If applicable, two related images at a proper resolution (min. 200dpi).

The deadline for abstract submission is May 4, 2020. After preliminary review by the guest editors, the selected authors will be invited by June 8, 2020 to submit a full paper. The deadline for submitting full papers is October 12, 2020. The selected full papers will proceed for the review process with Planning Practice and Research. 


APA (2019).      Planning for Equity Policy Guide.

Blaisdell, B. (2019). Right to the classroom: seeking spatial justice in kindergarten. The Urban Review.

Carrillo, J. and Mendez, J. (2019). Inner work, public acts: making a case for public pedagogy and spatial justice within Latinx communities, The Urban Review, 51: 444-456.

Fainstein, S.  (2014). The just city, International Journal of Urban Sciences, 18:1, 1-18.

Lees, L., Shin, H. B., & López-Morales, E. (2016). Planetary gentrification. John Wiley & Sons.

Lichter, D.T., Parisi, D., Taquino, M.C. (2012). The geography of exclusion: race, segregation, and concentrated poverty, Social Problems, 59:3, 364-388. 

Musterd, S. (2005) Social and Ethnic Segregation in Europe: Levels, Causes, and Effects, Journal of Urban Affairs, 27:3, 331-348, DOI: 10.1111/j.0735-2166.2005.00239.x

Niksic, M. and Sezer, C. (ed) (2017) ‘Special issue: Public spaces and urban justice’, Built Environment, 43(2), 161-304. 

Rubel, L., Hall-Wieckert, M., Lim, V. (2016a). Teaching mathematics for spatial justice: Beyond a victory narrative. Harvard Educational Review: Winter 2016, 86:4. 556-579.

Rubel, L., Lim, V., Hall-Wieckert, M., Katz, S. (2016b). Cash across the city: Participatory mapping and teaching for spatial justice, Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research, 12, 4-14.

Soja, E. (2010). Seeking Spatial Justice, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

UN Habitat (2017) New Urban Agenda.

Williams, J. (2018). Spatial justice as analytic framework. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan.

Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

About guest editors: 

Deniz Ay is an urban scholar specialized in transnational planning, urban governance, and displacement. She joined the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies at the VUB as a research fellow in 2019. Deniz completed her doctoral studies in Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and she taught courses on international development and transnational planning at the University of Bern- Institute of Geography and The Ohio State University- City and Regional Planning Section. 

Ceren Sezer is a research fellow at RWTH Aachen University. Her research interests cover the issues of liveability and sustainability of public spaces, urban form and social life in the city, and urban regeneration and renewal processes. She is a joint editor of Marketplaces as an Urban Development Strategy (2013), Public Space and Urban Justice (2017), and The Politics of Visibility in Public Space (forthcoming). She is co-founder and coordinator of an international research group Public Spaces, and Urban Cultures established under the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP).