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Felipe Hernández

Decolonising Spatial Histories

Lent 2020-2021

Tuesday, 2 February 2021


This lecture reflects a commitment critically to review spatial histories, and in particular that of the Americas, through decolonial scholarly agendas. Such agendas will take multiple forms: renaming, redefining and relocating. It is also necessary to re-affirm identities and assert epistemological positions. There is a need to question history and challenge curricula. All this may cause discomfort, for as many recent commentators have shown, commitment to a decolonial project implies an insurgency. After all, decoloniality belongs to a tradition of rupture that mobilises multiple positions in order to construct what Catherine Walsh calls ‘an otherwise’. Much have we heard about the absence of race in modern architecture and the need to ‘write race back into architectural history’, analysing how architecture intersects with histories of slavery, colonialism, and inequality. More work has to be done to historicize and theorise urban peripheries, not as sites of aberration, or as obstacles to modernisation and development, but as a constituent part of the urban modernity. However, it is not only about including more histories, or the histories of others. Necessary as it is, including histories does not give substance to a decolonial agenda. Decolonising the spatial history of the Americas denotes a construction, an intervention to transform existing understandings of the spaces we inhabit.


Dr Felipe Hernández is an Architect and Director of the Centre for Latin America Studies at the University of Cambridge (CLAS). He is the first Latin American to have been appointed Director of CLAS and remains the first Colombian to have held a permanent teaching position at Cambridge University.

Felipe teaches architectural and Urban Design, while giving courses and seminars in the Theory and History of architecture and urbanism. Felipe has worked, and published, extensively on Latin America and other areas in the Developing World, including Africa and South East Asia.

Felipe is also Chair of Cities South of Cancer (CSC), an interdisciplinary Research Group whose members work on a wide variety of urban issues in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Bangladesh,and Indonesia. CSC collaborates with academic, institutions in USA, Latin America and Indonesia. The group also offers internships and summer courses abroad, and operates as consultant to governmental, non-gevernmental, and private organisations involved in urban research and development in cities around the world. See

Felipe is the author of Bhabha for Architects (Routledge 2010) and Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary Architecture in Latin America (Birkhauser 2009).

He is also co-editor of Marginal Urbanisms: Informal and Formal Development in Cities of Latin America (CSP 2017), Rethinking the Informal City: Critical Perspectives from Latin America (Berghahn 2009) as well as Transculturation: Cities, Spaces and Architectures in Latin America (Rodopi 2005).

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