UCLA to Teach Course on ‘Spatial Injustice,’ Blames Poverty in Los Angeles on Geography and ‘Car Culture’

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 6:22 am, July 4, 2017
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The University of California, Los Angeles is introducing a new 5-credit course this upcoming semester to teach students about “spatial injustice” in Los Angeles. If it sounds like a social justice buzzword, that’s because it is— “spatial injustice” refers to the “production of unjust geographies and the spatial structures of privilege.”

In other words, if you’re impoverished and living in a bad neighborhood, it could be because the city you live in was designed to segregate your block away from everything else. Progressives argue that having the US interstate highway system run through cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston only broadened class divisions in areas “cut off” from the rest of the city.

The new course comes in the wake of the college’s commitment to hire “social justice advocates” to fight against “whiteness” and “patriarchy” on campus.

There’s a lot to explore in the subject, but the syllabus offered by UCLA explores topics like the Internet, film, and pop culture, as contributors to spatial injustice. The course, titled “LA Tech City: Digital Technologies and Spatial Injustice” is offered through the university’s Digital Humanities department by professors Todd Presner and Dana Cuff, according to Campus Reform.

The syllabus is intended to show the correlations between the development of Los Angeles as a city and how it’s “unevenly linked with the history of technologies.”

“Students will investigate spatial justice and injustice in the multi-ethnic city through the lens of three thematic technologies that have literally built and transformed LA into a global metropolis: cars and highways; networking technologies culminating in the internet and World Wide Web; and film and broadcast media,” the syllabus reads.

Pressed on the syllabus by Campus Reform, Prof. Pressner referred to UCLA’s urban planning professor Edward Soja’s definition of “spatial injustice,” who claimed that “unjust geographies” can be “aggravated further by racism, patriarchy, heterosexual bias.”  Soja said that Los Angeles’ city layout favored the rich over the inner-city working poor, who depend largely on bus routes to get around.

Beyond addressing the city’s problems based on the evidence available, the course will also bring up topics of “unequal representation in film, including whitewashing, problematic depictions of individuals of specific races and gender, and stereotyping.” It’s unclear what any of that has to do with city planning.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.