“Space and power from a gender and intersectional perspective” – A report on an interdisciplinary workshop

16. February 2024

The workshop “Space and Power from a Gender and Intersectional Perspective” was part of the International Participatory Summer School on “Power and Space”, which took place from September 13th to 15th, 2023. As the title suggest, this workshop proposed an analysis of the relations between power and space from a gender and intersectional perspective, offering a space for reflection through an exchange of ideas and experiences.  It started with a brief exposition of Doreen Massey’s conception of space to introduce theoretical tools so that the participants could work on specific topics in smaller groups. The workshop concluded with a joint discussion in which everyone shared their conclusions on the issues.

At first, Doreen Massey’s[1] main contributions to the concept of space were presented in order to understand that space is a product of social interrelations, which opens up the possibility of the existence of multiplicity, heterogeneity and plurality. This concept of space requires the abandonment of explanatory theories that present spatial processes as exclusively temporal, i.e. treating the multiple trajectories that exist today as if they were all heading towards the same destination and therefore characterizing them as more or less advanced depending on this supposition. As Massey points out, this supposedly singular trajectory is, in fact, the one that certain Western societies have followed, and it is a conception centered on a male, cisgender, heterosexual, white and elitist subject. This universalization of a specific subject is challenged by Massey, who affirms that space enables the existence of social interactions and, consequently, of contemporary and coexisting multiplicity. Moreover, since space is constituted by social relations, it is in a constant state of creation, meaning that it is not a finished product and that the construction of said space is open and being built by us, here and now, with our multiplicities. Consequently, there is always room for the unpredictable and for the creation of alternatives to change power relations and spatial practices.

After this brief presentation by the workshop moderator, we worked in groups of no more than five people to analyze some materials (short videos of TED talks, movies, institutional content from social movements and interviews as well as excerpts from books and articles). The topics that we discussed were:

  • Cisgender women and their domestic, child and elder care responsibilities. 
  • Violence experienced by the LGBTQINB+ collective in public spaces and the strategies developed to deal with said violence.  
  • The mobility experience for people with functional diversity. 
  • Maternity and the phenomenon of gentrification.
  • Female-led social movements and strategies to combat marginality.
  • Women’s perception of space at night.

If interested, the content is available at the following link:

Each group identified the main problem of the situation presented by the material, the social actors involved and how intersectional analysis could be used to understand the situation. To do this, the following questions were provided to guide a debate/discussion within the groups:

  • What is the main problem of the situation and who are the social actors involved? 
  • Which commutes within the city do caretakers make? 
  • As we struggle to generate an equitable distribution of caretaking tasks, what measures can be taken to make caretakers’ lives easier? 
  • Do you know of any similar cases in your country or city? 
  • Would you like to share any personal experiences related to the issue? 
  • What are some possible initiatives that could be proposed to change or improve these circumstances?
  • It is important that the analysis we do in academia can be transformed into practices applied in space. Therefore, could you summarize the debates you had in one or two social claims related to the analyzed theme and propose them as demands of a right to the city?

Not all of these questions were answered by the groups. In some cases, they were able to propose possible initiatives to change or improve the current situation. In addition, some participants commented on personal experiences they had had in public spaces where gender privilege or oppression was evident. Finally, each group shared their reflections, initiating a collective debate on possible alternatives towards changing power relations and spatial practices.

Below are the main points of discussion from each group as well as their results.

The group working on cisgender women and their domestic, child, and elder care responsibilities elaborated the following questions for further reflection on the topic: How do we define care and emotional labor? What is visible/visibilized? What is institutionalized? How can we make struggles with care/emotional labor part of our academic work and our cv?

The three demands the group made were summarized in bullet points:

  • To make the diversity and struggles with care/emotional labor more visible.
  • To create spaces that allow us to see each other in our shared humanity.
  • To institutionalize various forms of care/emotional labor.

The second group focused on issues related to queerness and functional diversity. They discussed the right to the city beyond the legal aspect: the right to feel safe, to demand that the city acknowledge chaotic changes in the environment and the economy, the right to navigate a city with an infrastructure that takes into account different needs.

Another group worked on female-led social movements and strategies to combat marginality, by claiming space as a disruption. The main debate on this theme revolved around how to create safe public spaces for what is known in Germans as FLINTA (trans and agender/women, lesbians, intersex, non-binary, trans and agender) by deconstructing power dynamics where men are at the top of the hierarchy. They asked themselves how to break this cycle of oppression: FLINTA are oppressed / create resistance / are restrained within the system.

One small group of two women who are also mothers decided to discuss maternity and the phenomenon of gentrification. After sharing their own experiences, they summarized their ideas, singling out what they considered to be the main problem in exercising their right to the city: gentrification limits the capacity of caregiving. They located the root cause of this issue in capitalism and its driving role in gentrification processes, and therefore proposed to struggle against capitalist structures.

The last group consisted of four cisgender women and two cisgender men. Their topic of discussion was women’s perceptions of space at night. When the women shared their own experiences of fear and insecurity about walking in the city at night, the men realized how different their perception of space is. Together they tried to think about how to change this situation by translating these perceptions of space into claims, but they found it very complicated. This marked only the beginning of a bigger discussion, but they could all agree that the answer is collective.

To conclude, by analyzing the examples, we recognized how multiplicity is a constitutive part of space and that it can be understood through various situations that occur in the same physical space. For example, some participants acknowledge that in society they coexist with different bodies that have needs different than their own, while others realized that women experience gender violence every day just by walking around the city. This led to a more complex kind of awareness of our perceptions and constructions of everyday spaces. 

The workshop allowed us to share how we analyze the relations between power and space from an intersectional perspective, but the most enriching part occurred when the participants took these theoretical tools and used them to modify spatial practices in their everyday lives.


Magdalena Moreno is a PhD candidate (Geography and Gender research group, Autonomous University of Barcelona), a specialist in Comprehensive Sexual Education and Lecturer of Geography (Buenos Aires University). She is co-creator of the Collaborative Map of Geography of Sexualities and co-authored the book “Geography and Comprehensive Sexual Education. Contributions to the teaching of contemporary spaces.” 

[1] Massey, D. et al. (1999) Human Geography Today. Polity Press.