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Acta Academica

On-line version ISSN 2415-0479
Print version ISSN 0587-2405

Acta acad. (Bloemfontein, Online) vol.51 n.1 Bloemfontein  2019 



Events, lines and interruptions: the production of university space



Isolde de Villiers

Centre for Human Rights, University of the Free State, 205 Nelson Mandela Dr, Park West, Bloemfontein 9301; E-mail:




During 2015 and 2016 there were wide-spread student protests across campuses in South Africa. This contribution focuses on the protests at the University of Pretoria and in particular the way in which the spatiality of the campus and the city of Tshwane influenced the nature of the protests. In terms of the spatiality of the campus, I consider in particular the neo-brutalist architecture of the campus, the fact that it is fenced-off entirely and also its restrictive events policy. Within the city of Tshwane, the focus falls on a long history of marching to the Union Buildings as well as the Regulation of Gatherings Act, and how that related to the student protests. This contribution contrasts Michel Foucault's notion of heterotopia with Henri Lefebvre's concrete utopia, to call for universities to be concrete utopias. The student protests are framed as lines and as interruptions with reference to the work of Antonia Layard. Even though the student protests at the University of Pretoria can be distinguished from those on other campuses, it is connected and contextualised within the broader student movement through Doreen Massey's concept of geographies of responsibility.

Keywords: student protests, university space, Foucault, heterotopia, Lefebvre, utopia, neo-brutalism




At the height of our people's final march to freedom, they sang a song that rallied all behind a call to go to Pretoria - they sang "Siyaya ePitoli" - "We are going to Pretoria". Theirs was not only an announcement of an eminent arrival in Pretoria - it was also a declaration of their path to power and their state of readiness to govern, and it had to start in Pretoria - the capital of apartheid South Africa.

State of the capital city address by the former executive mayor of Tshwane, councillor Kgosientso Ramokgopa on 3 April 2014 at 1.

The University of Pretoria is situated in the city of Tshwane, the administrative capital of South Africa. The City of Tshwane, because of its place, both geographically and politically speaking, has historically been and continues to be a city of marches and petitions, as illustrated by the words of the former executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa. Siyaya ePitoli is a slogan from the struggle against apartheid meaning "We are marching to Pretoria" and makes reference to all the petitioning marches to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Siyaya means "on the move". In this article, I look at movement in the city and the university. I locate the student protests at the University of Pretoria within the Tshwane urban space by looking at two sets of marches: firstly, a march within the Tshwane city centre to the Union Buildings and secondly, marches on the University of Pretoria campus towards the administration building. Following the theme of the special edition, I consider the university as a public space in relation to the city.

What is the relationality of public space and what are the relations required to produce public space? In answering these questions, I firstly distinguish between interruptions and lines by following Antonia Layard; I ask how the University space is produced and reproduced and if a "public" University exists at all. Layard's understanding of public space, which I employ here, is less concerned with whom the space belongs to and more concerned with who belongs in the space.

In this article I highlight two narrowly focused relational elements, firstly the neo-brutalist architecture on the campus of the University of Pretoria and secondly, its very restrictive Events Policy. I interrogate the place of the administration building (the ship) on the University of Pretoria campus through the lens of Michel Foucault's heterotopic boat and contrast this to Henri Lefebvre's use of heterotopia. One building on one university campus is not only an isolated parochial non-place, instead, with reference to Doreen Massey's geography of responsibility, I think about the role and contribution of the local elements in protests in the production of public space generally speaking.

By contrasting what Foucault means by heterotopic spaces to what Lefebvre has in mind with the same term, I call for the University to rather be modelled on Lefebvre's concrete utopias in order to counter the notion of the University as a non-place. Instead, I call for a public space in terms of the right to the University that is based on an understanding of the right to the city in terms of the right to differ. The student marches to the administration building and to the Union Buildings give structure to this argument. In looking at the Events Policy and the way in which it relates to the Regulation of Gatherings Act, I consider the possibility of both lines and interruptions within and outside the legal confines.


Interruptions and the production of public space

The question of the production of public space is one that concerns the creation of a commons (albeit a fleeting one), rather than a space that is, per definition, the opposite of private space held by private title. It is interested in publicly lived relations of engagement, not exclusion. Layard shows how property that is classically considered to be public space operates in the paradigm of private property and how privately-owned property can sometimes create public space. This is of importance in the context of universities, which increasingly operate as privatised institutions. The question is therefore less who does the University belong to and more who belongs in the University. Who gets to answer this question is determined by shifting power relations. The increasingly prevalent practice of no-platforming shows how complex these power relations can be and also that they can be subverted.

The student protests were commonly referred to as a disruption. The academic programme, classes and examinations were disrupted. I would however like to look at the marches on campus as a form of interruption. What interruptions do is to "disrupt existing use of land creating, even temporarily, a public space where previously there was a more private use" (Layard 2016: 4). Layard argues that "interruptions draw on the dynamism of public space and can be created without alterations in land ownership" (2016: 4). She seems to suggest that property relations are not necessarily the determinant in the production of public space (2016: 4). She uses the term "apparently public space" to describe spaces that are ostensibly public, i.e. belonging to the state or local authorities, but that operate within a private ownership paradigm with restrictions and exclusions. The University, and in this case the University of Pretoria, is such an "apparently public space". Lines are what the ramblers, the walkers and the wayfarers form and trace across space, and lines are also flows, as in highways and public roads (Layard 2016: 21 - 31).

Layard, writing in the context of the United Kingdom and within a paradigm where there is a ius spatiandi (the right to roam at will) that surpasses laws on trespassing and exclusion as long as the wanderer complies with the basic conduct requirements, connects lines to the example of the Kinder Scout ramblers of the 1930s and court cases on the law of highways. Moving and walking means conducting and producing lawful relations (Barr 2016: 3). Lines produce flows rather than fixity and lines are always legal interventions (Layard 2016: 26). As such, Layard argues that lines cannot "by themselves produce a public space as a stage on which the drama of communal life can unfold" and therefore she calls instead for "interruptions for public space" (2016: 29). Sanctum, an installation artwork in the city of Bristol, which was built as a space for encounter, is an example of an interruption that Layard describes. It was not a commissioned artwork and she compares it to skateboarders in the city (2016: 30). The point about interruptions is that they disrupt, whether there is permission or not to do so. Interruptions are "key to creating public spaces, even temporarily" (Layard 2016: 30). Lines are continuous movements and interruptions are slices of time. The student protests of 2015 and 2016 were interruptions that temporarily opened up the University of Pretoria space and forged a public space and a communal space despite the confines of the gates, policies and (neo) brutalism of the buildings and management. I agree with Layard that these interruptions can create public space fleetingly. The more pressing questions on University campuses are how public space is and can be produced through the slow rambling through academic life within the campus confines and through everyday walking-the-line, and how different (more public) relations can be made possible through ordinary, existing lines. During the student protests, those who viewed the 2015 and 2016 events in a positive light, were often labelled as naïve and idealistic as opposed to being realistic, strategic and pragmatic. The language of utopia is therefore not misplaced in this context. But let me return to heterotopia and concrete utopia in arguing that seeing the student protests as something that produced momentary public space through interruptions or showed up the possibility of public place by movement and lines, is not merely wishful thinking. What follows is an analysis of the University of Pretoria through the concept of heterotopia as set out by Foucault.


Heterotopic University of Pretoria: the ship and the events policy

...the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is self-enclosed and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea... The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage replaces adventure, and the police the pirates" (Foucault 2008: 22).

Four sites were central to student protests on the University of Pretoria campus during 2015 and 2016. These were the administration building, where they handed petitions to the vice-chancellor, the amphitheatre, where students gathered and deliberated among one another, the piazza where students rallied, and the student services centre (formerly the client service centre) underneath the humanities building, which students occupied and where they had one of the few successful mass meetings with the vice chancellor in October 2015.

Foucault's 1967 radio lecture, "Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias", is often invoked as one of the beginnings of the spatial turn (Tally 2013: 11). Because it was delivered in the form of an address, and was never published by Foucault himself, there are various translations of the text version of the lecture. In his address, Foucault explains that the view of history as linear and culminating to a climax (ever-accumulating) was the preoccupation of the 19th century and claimed that the "essential mythological resources" of that century were found in thermodynamics' second principle (Foucault 1984: 1). One of the traits of earlier times is that science, philosophy and law used to be much closer and influenced one another more directly as mathematicians and scientists were often also jurists or philosophers and the very strict distinctions did not stand yet. Thermodynamics has four principles of physics that describe how temperature, energy and entropy behave under various circumstances (Foucault 1984: 1). The second principle of thermodynamics, which Foucault refers to, deals with thermal equilibrium or the state of maximum entropy (also referred to as chaos). According to this principle any isolated system that is not in thermal equilibrium, i.e. has not reached maximum entropy, will always naturally evolve towards a condition of thermal equilibrium (or maximum chaos). This law presents a linear understanding of time and embodies the notion of historical progression that was popular especially after the French industrial and scientific revolutions (Tally 2013: 32).

Student protests challenge a linear conception of time and the idea of historical progression. The events of 2015 and 2016 do not tell a story of neat development to maximum chaos which resulted in large scale changes. To the contrary, at the University of Pretoria at least, there seems to have been a move back to a more conservative position, one that undoes some of the advances and small victories of the student protests. This is evident in newly installed biometric identification devices at entrance gates and a curriculum transformation process in the faculty of law that is an attempt to return to courses that were discontinued, based on sound transformative principles, during the last curriculum transformation process. Places are always in relation to all other space, but are simultaneously also outside all other spaces. The principle of thermodynamics that Foucault invokes contradicts such a notion of space because it insists on the fact that natural processes cannot be reversed and it leads to an idea of an ultimate state of homogeneity in matter and energy within space. Even though this principle applies to thermal systems, for Foucault it had a mythical quality in terms of space and time. He suggests that during the 19th century space was only seen as a vessel in which history took place (Tally 2013: 30). What marks the epoch of space is that the world is not experienced as "a long life developing through time", but rather that it is seen as a "network that connects points and intersects" (Foucault 1984: 1). Apart from the shift of focus from time to space, Foucault also proposes a specific mode in which time and space interact in this epoch of simultaneity and of interconnectedness.

In this section I look at Foucault's six principles of heterotopias and show that the University is a heterotopic space. Heterotopia as a concept has contributed greatly to the spatial turn, but it has also caused great confusion (De Haene and De Cauter 2008: 4). In a world where institutions of higher learning are increasingly corporatised and securitised into authoritarian microstates (Praeg 2018), the framework of heterotopia is useful to present not only the possibility of critique of University spaces, but also to think about their place in society. The edited volume of De Haene and De Cauter on Heterotopia and the City revisits the concept of heterotopia for its critical potential and gives it more content. In the same vein I look at the University of Pretoria as heterotopic space.

The administration building is colloquially referred to as "the ship" and is the emblem of the university often used in official communications (see figure 1), and as prescribed power point and desktop backgrounds, and I am therefore interested in the way in which this building and its imagery produce (public) space. It was notably used as the icon on the university's website to communicate updates regarding the court procedures of the interdict against students and also appeared throughout the student protests alongside messages relating to shut-down measures and online procedures. It is therefore a signification of the power of the university and plays a key role in the production of the space of the university. Security services operates from "the ship" and it also hosts the offices of the university management.



The buildings on the University of Pretoria campus reflect a variety of styles from different eras. The architecture ranges from the Wilhelmiens style (the Kaya Rosa), neoRomanesque and Cape Dutch Revival (the Old Arts), to buildings in the "Little Brazil" idiom (Geology block) (Fischer 2010: 2). But it is a neo-brutalist aesthetics that dominate the campus. This dates from the years in which Brian Sandrock was the sanctioned architect on the University of Pretoria campus. The administration building, the humanities tower and the engineering tower were all designed by Sandrock and built in the 1970s and 1980s (Fischer 2010: 2). One is greeted by the towering humanities building when you enter at the Lynnwood gate, which used to be the main entrance, and the engineering block is at the University Road entrance, which is the main entrance nowadays. The administration building (the ship) stands on the corner of Lynnwood and University roads.

The neo-brutalist style give expression to the technology of the building and Sandrock was in particular interested in the malleability and plasticity of concrete and the façade of the administration building, with its abstract patterns, illustrates this effectively (Fisher 1999:e2). Brutalism was mainly inspired by the style of Le Corbusier and derives its name from the French "béton brut" or raw concrete. Reyner Banham's 1954 book, The New Brutalism introduced this style and it became popular at American and Canadian universities (Fisher 1991: e2). The way in which the university administration responded to the student protests can in some instances be depicted as brutal: lock-outs, arrests and criminal trials with awaiting trial students detained in Kgosi Mampuru, the city of Tshwane's most brutal prison, expulsions without disciplinary hearings and blank refusals to meet with students as a group. What does this style of architecture say for the production of public space? The built environment is one of the ways in which academics, student, lecturers and administrators are placed in relation to one another. I find the hint at the plasticity of concrete in the neo-brutalist style suggestive for considering the administration building ("the ship") in terms of Foucault's heterotopia and to consider the production of public space in concrete utopian (plastic concrete) terms, following Lefebvre.

Heterotopias are not non-places. They are actual places that can be located in the reality of society. This is how they are distinguished from utopias. Utopias cannot be situated in the reality of society. Even though heterotopias are "real" places, they are also "other" places (Foucault 1984: 3). This means that they function somehow outside, but are interrelated to, the other places of society. There are six principles of heterotopias. I will look at each and consider their value for the University context.

All societies have heterotopias. This is its first principle. Heterotopology can be described as "simultaneously mythic and real contestatio[s] of the space in which we live" (Foucault 1984: 4). Foucault distinguishes between crisis heterotopias (honeymoons and boarding schools - for individuals in "crisis") and deviation heterotopias (prisons, old age homes, psychiatric institutions) (1984: 6). The University is a heterotopia of crisis. For students it is a time of individuation and stretching their minds and beings to the limits. Foucault argues that the heterotopia of deviation increasingly replaces the heterotopia of crisis.

The second principle of heterotopias is they can function differently and play a different role in society over time. The cemetery is such an example. It is the cemetery along with the ship, of all Foucault's examples, that resonates most strongly with the University space; the place where knowledge is buried. Whereas the cemetery used to be in the heart of the city, either next to or even inside the church until the late 18th century, the cemetery then moved to the outskirts and to the suburbs and became the other city (Foucault 1984: 5). Foucault shows how the very disappearance of a belief in the afterlife lead to the removal of bodily remains away from society's sacred spaces and everyday lives. This view, and the cemetery as such, represents a westernised view of life and death that stands in contrast to an African view of the tri-ontic of being: the not-yet born, the living and the living dead. That is however not of the essence in this piece. The shifting position of the cemetery and the differing role it has played in the societies that Foucault refers to, corresponds with the shift in the University space. The University of Pretoria is not located in the city centre. It is situated in the suburb of Hatfield unlike the University of the Witwatersrand, which lies in the heart of Johannesburg's city centre. Thinking about the administration building as cemetery, we see that it is in one of the furthest corners of the campus. The law building (another heterotopia) is in the far north-east corner, while the administration building is right on the other side in the south-west corner. As a heterotopia of power, the administration building as cemetery was the place where dissent was buried during the student protests.

Heterotopias, as the third principle listed by Foucault, are juxtaposed with several other spaces with which they are incompatible. They simultaneously bring these spaces together, but also contradict them. Here he refers to the Oriental garden that brought together the four corners of the world. The cinema and the theatre are such heterotopic places. They can be found in society, but they bring together different and opposing worlds, without ever containing those worlds entirely. There is great diversity and difference within the university community. This is not only among students, but definitely also among academic staff: ideologies, politics and epistemologies. This difference builds dissent and in an attempt to minimise the dissent that is a threat to the authoritarian University, campuses are increasingly becoming homogenous spaces. Foucault uses the term heterotopia also in the introduction to The order of things. He uses it there in the context of language and in particular the manner in which language as a non-place heterotopia can bring together incongruous concepts that can never exist together in reality (Foucault 1970: xvii). I return to this later in the call for the right to the University to be linked to the right to the city as understood as the right to differ(ence).

The fourth principle in Foucault's address entails that heterotopias are usually linked to slices in time, which slices in time he calls heterochronies (Foucault 1984: 4). This "slice in time" view of space also resonates with Layard's interruptions that I have touched on. These heterotopias open on to heterochronies, time that works differently than in ordinary places. Museums and libraries are examples of "heterotopias of indefinitely accumulating time" with the concept of gathering or accumulating time in one place a distinct feature of modernity. Heterotopias are not aimed at the eternal, but are rather temporal links to "time in its most flowing, transitory, precarious aspect, to time in the mode of the festival" (Foucault 1984: 7). This links with Layard's ideas on flows, interruptions and lines and the question of whether the student protests produced public space. Was it a time (only) of flows and flux, or was it an interruption that disrupted existing power relations and cemented or concretised a different public emplacement at the University of Pretoria? The student protests in many ways "yanked us all out of the political closet. We no longer have a choice but to make visible, not just our whiteness, but our academic and intellectual choices; to articulate the politics of those choices and to acknowledge the reality of a nexus of colonially determined power relations that continue to be reproduced in our institutions of higher learning" (Praeg 2018: 6). Universities as libraries and museums gather together history in them. The walls of the administration building are lined with names of former rectors and registrars, cabinets with documentation accumulated over years hide in corners of offices. The ship in the corner of the University of Pretoria's campus is a slice of time moving through space.

Furthermore, the administration building is supposedly the place where the entire university is run, where it takes place, but very few ever enter there. Students and staff seldom go there. During the student protests of 2015 and 2016 there were talks about occupying the administration building and to have a sit-in; this, however, never materialised. The security offices and CCTV camera screens are located in the administration building. Students and staff appear on these screens in the building, but almost never otherwise. As systems that continuously open and close in particular ways, the fifth principle of heterotopias dictate that they are not freely accessible like a public place (Foucault 1984: 8). Heterotopias require cleansing rituals or purification procedures before entry is permitted. Either this, or entry is compulsory, as in the case of the prison (Foucault 1984: 7). Here Foucault has in mind Turkish hammams or saunas. In the aftermath of the student protests, the University of Pretoria implemented even more security measures than before. A new head of security was appointed and fingerprint scanners were installed at all entrance gates. Apart from these physical entry requirements specific to the University of Pretoria, universities in general have strict access requirements, such as marks, performance, and, of course, important in the student protests, the payment of prescribed fees.

In addition to the increased security measure, the University of Pretoria has an extensive "Events Policy", which regulates the hosting of anything from the annual open day to academic conferences. It is a very restrictive policy and during the time of the student protests the events committee acted as a gatekeeping body that prevented many events from taking place on campus during that time. One such an example was when the management refused to have a Reconciliation Day event on the Mamelodi campus in December 2016. The policy covers a broad spectrum. It paints with a broad brush "all events at the university, all campuses and properties, and all staff and students" (section 2). Leonhard Praeg at his recent inaugural address as the new head of department of Philosophy (an event incidentally hosted in the ship itself) argues that the university has, through the events policy, reconstituted itself as a micro-state (2018: 2).

Whether the events policy that was in operation in 2016 is still in place is uncertain. The university intranet still contains a link to the policy, but this only delivers a "Error 404 - Not found" message. The policy was in place at the time of the conference1 and played a significant role, not only in the decision to host the conference off campus, but also on several occasions where staff planned a meeting and held it off campus. Sometimes these meetings were not held at all because of the administrative burden of applying through the events committee, not least because of a fear that the application would be denied. The policy defines an "event" as "any assembly of people for a specific common purpose with a predetermined duration and time frame at a specific venue/place at a UP-owned or controlled property" (clause 5.1). From the definition is excluded all "scheduled academic, educational, teaching, learning, sport and cultural activities and other normal university business (e.g. meetings such as Council meetings)" but includes everything that is not pre-scheduled and not considered "normal business". The terminology used, effectively conveys the message that the university is an exclusionary space, and a privatised and corporatised space, instead of a public one. Whether it was organising a conference or the screening of Miners Shot Down, a film on the Marikana massacre that formed part of the curriculum of first-year law students, there were many discussions that took place around the events policy. The question was usually whether to request official permission from the events committee or just to proceed with meetings and gatherings. This question can be framed with reference to the distinction between lines and interruptions. Whereas lines are interventions that comply with law, interruptions are not necessarily legal.

The last and sixth principle of heterotopias is that they function in relation to all the spaces that remain (Foucault 1984: 8). The university stands in relation to households from which students come, but also the city of Tshwane and its history.


City of Tshwane: Siyaya ePitoli, the Union Buildings and the Gatherings Act

A very early version of this article was presented as a paper in November 2016. At this time, alongside the student protests calling for fees to fall, decolonisation of the curriculum and an end to outsourcing at universities across South Africa, there were also various protests calling for former President Jacob Zuma to be held accountable for various acts that contributed to what became known as "state capture". Two of these marches took place in the city of Tshwane on the morning of the conference (November 2 2016). The city of Tshwane/ Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa and the high concentration of government officials, state functionaries and bureaucratic bodies powerfully shapes its lawscape. This spirit of place of the administrative capital also plays into the culture of the University of Pretoria.

I look at the production of public space by drawing on the basic idea of radical geographers that space is actively produced by relations and space, in turn, produces relations (Massey 2005, Soja 2010). The underlying idea of the argument that space is produced by relationships, entails that space is not neutral or a priori, but that space exists because of and through relations. This means that space is also be reproduced by social relations. With social relations, I do not have in mind comfortable or close relations, but instead embedded practices and the power relations arranged around the politics that constitute identities and entities (Massey 2005: 10). In the context of universities, this correlates with the inertia of institutional culture, which is an aspect that students on university campuses all across South Africa drew attention to through their protests in 2015 and 2016. It also accounts for the fact that though statues were removed and names of buildings changed, the underlying relations that produced these spaces in the first place were left intact, so the (albeit new) spaces reproduce the same hegemonic interrelations.

In thinking about the student protests and the production of public space on university campuses, I find poignant Massey's concept of geographies of responsibility. This notion is based on problematising the strict distinctions between space and place. In much of the academic literature, place is presented as being more significant than space, with words such as "real", "grounded", "everyday", "lived" often associated with place (2004: 8). It is intended to suggest "earthiness, authenticity, meaning" (Massey 2004: 8). Space on the other hand is contrasted to this and presented as somehow abstract. Massey shows that this distinction between place and space is both intellectually unsound and politically questionable (2004: 5). This does not mean that place is not meaningful or concrete or real, but instead that space is also imbued with meaning and equally grounded (Massey 2004: 7). If space is relational, then the local, the here and now, is always already implicated and in relation to the global. The administrative ship is implicated in the University of Pretoria, which in turn is implicated in the administrative capital of the city of Tshwane, South Africa.

The notion of responsibility for the past has led to a spate of "apologies" for it. Apologising does not always amount to the same thing as taking responsibility. But were the "distance" to be spatial, and in the here and now rather than imagined as only temporal, the element of responsibility - the requirement to do something about it - would assert itself with far greater force. (Massey 2004: 10)

Massey argues that thinking about place in terms of relations means to intervene in an arena that is politically charged (Massey 2004: 7). This way of thinking about place was initially aimed at opposing a nationalist claims to place which had its roots in essentialist and exclusionary ideas of belonging. Insisting on the importance of place is to appreciate the particular without embracing the parochial (Massey 2004: 7).

A geography of responsibility views the university as part of the city of Tshwane and also as part of global phenomena at universities worldwide.

Marching to the Union Buildings, in the city of Tshwane, means marching to the symbolic seat of power. For a similar reason, students marched to the administration building on campus. Despite the difference in typology of these buildings, they symbolise the same thing: power and authority. Marching to these buildings constitute acts of difference aimed at symbols of authority and as a challenge to authoritarianism. Students from various universities and colleges marched to the Union Buildings on October 23 2015 to demand free higher education. Wessel le Roux, in considering the symbolism of the architecture of the Constitutional Court, contrasts it to that of the Union Buildings (2001). The Union Buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker to celebrate and serve as official structure of the Union of South Africa in 1910, is displayed on Meintjies Kop and resembles an acropolis on a hill (Le Roux, 161). These buildings are still the home of the executive branch of the government of South Africa, but on October 23 students waited the whole day for the president to make his appearance. A march on November 2 was arranged by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a political party, and was called a "Day of Action". It started in Church Square, where the statue of Paul Kruger (still) stands. Church Square is also the site of the palace of justice where (parts of) the Rivonia trial took place. The other march on November 2 was arranged by an organisation called Save South Africa, and they marched under slogans such as "No to State Capture", "Yes to Leaders with Integrity" and "Hands off our treasury". This march started a few blocks away on the corners of Francis Baard and Bosman streets. Frances Baard was an ANC Women's League organiser during the defiance campaign of 1952 and she was central in the 1965 women's march to the Union Buildings against the carrying of passes. She also played a role in the drafting of the Freedom Charter and was detained, sentenced and imprisoned for her political activities under the Suppression of Communism Act. After five years of being imprisoned, she was released and 'banned' to Mabopane in 1969. Bosman, the other street name of the corner where the second march started, refers to Hermanus Stephanus Bosman, a moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church at the start of the 1900s and also an education superintendent until 1881. The University of South Africa, another Tshwane emplacement, awarded him an honorary doctorate in divinity in 1920. These marches traversed the palimpsest that is the Tshwane landscape. All of these marches had to obtain permission to march in accordance with the Regulation of Gatherings Act. In terms of the act, convenors of gatherings and demonstrations must give notice of the planned gathering or march. Section 7 in particular governs demonstrations and gatherings in the vicinity of courts, buildings of parliament and the Union Buildings. In terms of this section, all demonstrations and gatherings in any building with a courtroom or within 100 metres of such building are prohibited, with some exceptions. The exceptions include instances where permission has been granted by a magistrate and where it takes place over a weekend or on public holidays. Permission for gathering or demonstrating at courts must be granted by a magistrate of that district, at parliament must be granted by the chief magistrate of Cape Town and at the Union Buildings by the state president. The technical requirements of the act are often used as a way to prevent marches from taking place. It is a powerful piece of legislation that produces a diminished public space (or what Layard calls "apparently public" space). As regards the EFF march, Isaac Mahamba, a metro police spokesperson, said that permission for the march was denied because no information had been given about who would be accepting the protesters' memorandum, and that Church Square could not accommodate the buses that were coming from "all the provinces". These two separate marches, organised by the Save South Africa campaign and the Economic Freedom Fighters respectively, took place in the city on the day of the conference where an early version of this paper was delivered. Just like the marchers in the city had to obtain permission to march form the city authorities, the organisers of the conference would have been required to obtain permission from the campus authorities to host the conference on campus.

Layard connects her writing to a geography of hope, but notes that this might be a bit too optimistic a concept (2016: 24). It is in this vein that I return to the notion of emplacement and connect it to a geography of responsibility instead. The geography of hope is derived from an article by Kevin Gray, which relies mainly on the scenic natural environment and draws in particular on Wallace Stegner's "Coda: Wilderness Letter" (December 3 1960). Gray makes the argument that natural landscape is not ethically neutral, but it has a deeply moral dimension. A geography of hope is a tempting concept in a University and global context that provides very little hope, but since the idea is so closely tied to scenic nature, it leaves one to wonder what the possibility of hope is within an urban environment, or on a university campus with buildings in a neo-brutalist style. Having been an academic at a South African University in 2015 and 2016 left me thinking about space and protest in terms of a "geography of responsibility".

An important concept from Foucault's heterotopias is the notion of "emplacement" which resonates with Massey's geographies of responsibility. Emplacement for Foucault comes in the place of extension, which itself had substituted localisation. "Emplacement is defined by relations of proximity between points or elements" (Foucault 2008: 15). Emplacements and the relations between them is what marks our epoch as one in which space is relational. In French "emplacement" means site and location (for example, parking space) or the setting of a city, but it can also refer to support (as in, emplacement publicitaire:

a billboard). The meaning of "emplacement" is more specific in English. It occurs commonly in geology and is more readily used as a military term that shows the position (support) of a semi-stationary weapon. Michiel Dehaene and Lieven De Cauter argues that in Foucault's text, emplacement "should be considered a technical term, that is space or rather place in the era of the network as opposed to extension" (2008: n6). Emplacement as a space is one that materialises as a discrete space. This means that where various positions are possible, emplacement is the one that exists. The way in which a geography of hope corresponds to a geography of responsibility is underlined by the distinction between utopia and heterotopia. When one looks into a mirror, the mirror is a utopia, a place without place, because you can see yourself in a place where you are not, a place from which you are absent. Foucault describes utopias as "sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society" (Foucault 1984: 4). But, he continues, the mirror is also heterotopic in the sense that the mirror really exists and reconstitutes oneself in a different place (Foucault 1984: 4). Foucault attempted to debunk utopian thinking as idealist rhetoric about a world beyond. This corresponds with Ernst Bloch's concrete utopia, on which Lefebvre relied heavily, and which influenced the spatial turn, particularly in law. I turn to a discussion of this concept and show how concrete utopia is linked to understanding the right to the University in terms of the right to the city that embraces difference.


Concrete utopia and the right to the University

Lefebvre also uses the term "heterotopia". His understanding and use of it is different to the way Foucault uses it. For Lefebvre, places that are opposed to or resemble or complement one another can be placed in a grid on the basis of "topias". This includes isotopías as places that are analogous, utopias as places that are absolute or have no place and lastly, heterotopias as contrasting places (Lefebvre 1991: 163). Later in The Production of Space, Lefebvre again refers to heterotopical places as "places of sorcery and madness, places inhabited by demonic forces - places which were fascinating but tabooed" (Lefebvre 1991: 263). The concept is however not further developed. I therefore rely on Lefebvre's notion of concrete utopia and how this concept along with the right to differ are important in understanding the right to the (University) city. The right to difference is connected to and dependent on the right to differ; to contest and to challenge and the right to difference is much more than just another human right. For Lefebvre:

The "right to difference" is a formal designation for something that may be achieved through practical action, through effective struggle - namely, concrete differences. The right to difference implies no entitlements that do not have to be bitterly fought for. This is a "right" whose only justification lies in its content; it is thus diametrically opposed to the right of property, which is given validity by its logical and legal form as the basic code of relationship under the capitalist mode of production. (Lefebvre 1991: 396-397)

Lefebvre's concrete utopia is an idea that emanates from the work of Bloch, who, like Lefebvre, followed a humanist version of Marxism. Concrete utopia stands in contrast to abstract utopia. Abstract utopia is mere fantasy or wishful thinking.

For Lefebvre, the Paris commune of 1871 and the May uprisings of 1968 encompassed concrete utopia. Through a discussion of the importance of the "everyday" in Lefebvre's work, Chris Butler highlights the fact that Lefebvre situates the everyday in the centre of the ethical and aesthetic aspects of Marx's project of social transformation (2012: 132-134). He points out the similarities between the thoughts of Lefebvre on utopia and Bloch's philosophy of hope (Butler 2012; Bloch 1995). Two elements mark Bloch's philosophy of hope: firstly the "not yet" and secondly "concrete utopia" (Butler 2012: 132). The "not yet" presents the real possibility of revolution and rupture. Concrete utopia has in mind the transformation of existing social tendencies by simultaneously anticipating while also affecting the future. Lefebvre's engagement with the situationist international, and in particular his exposure to the Dutch artist architect Constant Nieuwenhuys's "New Babylon" project, awakened him to concrete utopia. New Babylon envisioned a city in the air. In this city, there are mega structures suspended in the heavens. Although this vision received a lot of critique (the adverse ecological implications, its resemblance to Le Corbusier and modernism, the architectural determinism of the project) Lefebvre took from New Babylon the potential alternatives (other spaces) and, importantly, the city as a work of creative interaction between its inhabitants; the city as "the oeuvre of its citizens" (Lefebvre 1991: 117). The city is a work of art that is continuously in the process of being remade. The focus is on differential space and the politics of autogestion. Because of contradictions, abstract space can never reach absolute dominance and therefore there is a possibility for differential space (Butler 2012: 140-143). Abstract space is governed by the logic of habitat, illustrated in suburbia. As a challenge to abstract space, differential space firstly is against homogeneity and fragmentation of abstract space, secondly it emphasises appropriation instead of domination and thus the role of the body becomes central and thirdly the appropriation of space happens through social and political forms that are aimed at autogestion (or self-management) (Butler 2012: 142). This distinction stands central to an understanding of the right to the city, or, by extension, the right to the University. In its starkest form, the right to the (University) city is a renewed right to urban life, in other words it is the right to inhabit the (University) city and not to be expelled from the metropolitan to the margins of the city. Segregation is a market driven process for Lefebvre. These processes are devised so they lead to social division and polarisation. It is because of urban regeneration that marginalised groups are forced to relocate into the ghettos on the periphery around the city (Butler 2012: 146). The same applies to the University's neoliberal regeneration trends.



The years of 2015 and 2016 were marked by national protests across campuses in South Africa. The protests had many things in common and they all ultimately centred around the cost of tertiary education. They also called for curriculum transformation (in many cases articulated as a call for decolonising the curriculum) and the transformation of institutional cultures, which included the way in which these cultures were expressed in symbols, statues, names of buildings and residence and classroom practices. Some things distinguished the University of Pretoria protests from protests on other campuses: the students who participated in, lead the protests and stayed at home, their convictions, affiliations and dynamics, the built environment in terms of fences, gates, paths and buildings, the historical relations of power, and its emplacement within the Tshwane lawscape, to mention a few of the entangled relations that produced the space during that time. But to insist on its particularity, is not, following a geography of responsibility, to disconnect it from other protests happening in South Africa, at other campuses, in the world at that and other times. It stands in relation to a broader geography and contributes to the production of a global space.

The central problem of this article concerns the University as heterotopia in a Foucauldian sense. I argue that the University is an "other space" with reference to Foucault's six principles of heterotopias. While heterotopias, such as Foucault's ship, carry hope and dreams, the same ship also asserts power and facilitates colonisation. I therefore contrast Foucault's heterotopias with Lefebvre's heterotopia, but ultimately turn to Lefebvre's concrete utopia instead to think about the University as a public space.

Starting with the work of Layard, this piece looks at the production of public space through lines and interruptions. Marches can be lines or interruptions; lines always have permission while interruptions go ahead whether there is legal permission or not. The permissive frameworks I discuss are the events policy in the University of Pretoria context and the Regulation of Gatherings Act in a city of Tshwane and national context. The student protests marched toward the administration building on campus (the ship) and also to the Union Buildings.

The University's administration building, the ship, is of neo-brutalist typology. It fulfils broadly the same function as the Union Building in the city of Tshwane. It is a symbol of authority, and it is towards the administration building, just as in the case of the Union Buildings, that students marched. The events policy regulates nearly all activities on campus and fulfils a prohibiting and gate-keeping role. Massey's geographies of responsibility connect the events policy to the Regulation of Gatherings Act and the ship to the Union Buildings.

Though many would not classify the student protests necessarily as "effective" it was a slice in time that had a radical impact on the relations that constitute the university space. Unfortunately, reflecting back on it two years later, it seems that at the University of Pretoria it concretised or cemented existing power relations instead of opening up a radical possibility of difference.



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First submission: 31 January 2018
Acceptance: 13 November 2018



1 An early version of this article was presented as a paper at the "Conference on cities represented, 'emapped, lived and revisioned: Reflections on and engagement with spatial (in)justice", which was held on 2 and 3 November 2016. The conference was supposed to take place on the University of Pretoria campus, but had to be moved to a church hall next door. The campus was entirely shut down during the time of the conference. During that time, the lecturers who were supportive of the student protests saw their role as mainly one of bearing witness. No students were allowed on campus (except with special permission granted by security through lists submitted and approved in advance) examinations were written online and at home and the conference was held in a church hall right opposite campus. Holding the conference on campus would have required permission from the events committee. I herewith express my gratitude to all the participants for valuable input. In particular to Karin van Marle for persisting with the arrangements of the conference and Christ Butler for the keynote address, which influenced the argument in this article greatly.

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