Mouth-pieces of the limit
: Liminal spatial praxis in Israel / Palestine and Northern Ireland

  • Aisling Shannon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research explores the shaping of space within the divided/contested contexts of Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine, exploring ways in which space is being produced that transcend the established boundaries of knowledges, practices and places. It stems from the observation that the production of urban/architectural/public spaces in contested contexts often evinces a disjuncture between those so-called experts who possess a rarefied and theoretical knowledge about space and those who have more lived understanding of a particular place, with the former holding significantly more power and authority. If the primarily theoretical and generalised knowledge of the experts is privileged, then the more visceral and specific knowledges of those who inhabit relevant places are to some degree elided. The experts’ knowledge is, however, inevitably incomplete. This research seeks out other ways of knowing and producing space in these contexts, asking: what if a broader knowledge base could be applied to the shaping of space? Is this possible and what might it mean in divided/contested contexts?

This is an epistemic, feminist exploration of power and resistance, marginality and practice in divided/contested space. The principal research question is: what can we learn from productions of space in divided/contested contexts that transcend the established boundaries of knowledge, practice and place? It is about resisting binaries and eroding boundaries through spatial praxis in these contexts. Theory is developed side-by-side with empirical research throughout the study, with each used to test and inform the other. Critical political, poststructural theory is applied to a broad range of literature across planning, architecture, urbanism and geography and to spatial practice, on the ground. In particular, the conceptual framework draws heavily upon the philosophies of Michel Foucault, Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau and the critical writings of bell hooks to explore how these themes play out in decision-making around deeply contested space.

A multi-tiered rhizomatic methodology has been employed to identify, explore and critique particular instances of such praxes, empirically, in Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland. Seven ‘spatial stories’ are explored, including NGOs, a pedagogic organisation, community organisations, and individuals, all working within challenging, marginal contexts that include borders, interfaces and refugee camps. These praxes are shown to open up other ways of knowing and practising in the vulnerable, changeable space of the margins.

A theory of liminal spatial praxis emerges, which is an agonistic navigation of the multiple thresholds between what is ring-fenced as accepted, privileged or ‘expert’ knowledge and that which is subjugated; between spatial practice in the exclusive, professionalised sense of the word and the all-inclusive Lefebvrian/De Certian understanding; and in the leftover space between distinct places, so rife in divided/contested contexts.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsSpecial EU Programmes Body
SupervisorRuth Morrow (Supervisor) & Gul Kacmaz Erk (Supervisor)


  • Contested space
  • liminality
  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • Northern Ireland
  • power resistance
  • resistance
  • practices of freedom
  • Belfast
  • borders
  • boundaries
  • interfaces
  • margins
  • spatial practice
  • praxis
  • knowledges
  • in-between
  • Foucault
  • feminism
  • Lefebvre
  • de Certeau
  • liminal space praxis

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