Edward Soja (1940 – 2 Nov 2015): On ‘Thirdspace’

One of the ideas that I greatly value from Edward Soja is the concept of Thirdspace.

Soja uses ‘Thirdspace’ to describe ‘a constantly shifting and changing milieu of ideas, events, appearances, and meanings’ that provides new alternatives, opportunities and possibilities for openness and diversity (Soja 1996: 2, 99). Building on Lefebvre’s ‘lived space or social space’, Soja’s Thirdspace, is arguably more future-oriented and offers broader scope for intervention. Lefebvre’s ‘social space’ describes how social hierarchies are prescribed according to one’s age and gender, maintained through relationships of employment and transaction within the ‘space of society’ (Lefebvre [1974] 1991: 35). Soja’s Thirdspace acknowledges how the lived experience of a particular location can vary according to one’s gender, race and social status, but reaches beyond one’s lived experience to include one’s aspiration for this particular location, and one’s lived experience within it (11). This conception of Thirdspace goes further than Lefebvre’s ‘social space’ or ‘lived space’ which focussed primarily on the shifting simultaneity of present meanings created through one’s social interactions with others within a site. In the context of Singapore, Thirdspace could be conceived as all futures possible and the multiplicity of places possible within it.

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