Uneven development, racialized spatial injustice and the case of (de)segregation – draft paper


Spatial injustice understood as “the spatial dimension of social injustice” is “caused by the power relations and procedures that enable the domination and oppression of certain groups of people, and by the way that space itself is constructed and used”, and it is about an unfair “distribution in space of socially valued resources and the opportunities to use them” (Ali Madanipour, Mark Shucksmith, Hilary Talbot, Jenny Crawford: Conceptual Framework for the ReLocal Project, 2017). The paper proposes the politicization of the concept of spatial injustice in the direction of conceiving it as a manifestation of uneven development that stays at the core of capitalism. It addresses the formation of an informal and systematically underdeveloped housing area in Cluj-Napoca, Romania that illustrates how capitalist development works by transforming the urban space into commodity that – on the one hand – serves capital accumulation and – on the other hand – intensifies the dispossession of labor. Marginal and destitute housing areas formed as a result of these processes are the low-cost locations where the exploited and expropriated cheap labor force is reproduced. Therefore, the interconnectedness of marginal spaces with racialized labor has a productive role in the formation of capitalism in Romania. One may observe that in the due process, both segregation and desegregation practices and discourses are contributing to the racialization of impoverished ethnic Roma and are intermingled with the (re)production of class inequalities.

Vincze_uneven development-racialized spatial injustice

RELOCAL interim report on national policy frames: Administrative organization and territorial development in Romania

During the period of time when the RELOCAL pilot case study in Romania was implemented, we decided to start the investigation of national policy (legal and institutional) frames in what regards territorial development. At the end of the day (by the end of the four case studies), our aim is to produce a study on national level in order to describe how is territorial development, and possibly the issue of spatial (in)justice defined and approached in the policy documents adopted by Romania, and how is it understood by governmental actors at national level. Beyond being a study with a value on its own, this national level study will be used as a background for each and every locally specific case study in order to highlight the shared frames of policies across national level. In the period October 2017 – January 2018, Desire Foundation’s research team started the documentation work in this matter and managed to partially process the gathered materials (offical documents available online, and interviews made with three persons from the Ministry of Regional Developmen, Public Administration and European Funds). This document will be developed further in parallel with the four case studies to be conducted in Romania starting with March 2018 and will be the base of the planned national study.

pilot report_national level-shortened-English


    1. The administrative-territorial organization of Romania

1.1. Administrative-territorial units (localities and counties)

1.2. The development regions as statistical units and units for coordinating regional development

1.3. Regional development policy and institutions

1.4. The Intercommunity Development Associations at the level of Metropolitan Areas

  1. Regional disparities in Romania

2.1. Poverty – from an interregional and intraregional perspective

2.2. The Gross Domestic Product – from a regional perspective

2.3. The population number across regions and localities

2.4. Employment figures across regions

  1. Territorial dimension of EU policies

3.1. From regional policies to territorial policy in the EU

3.2. Regional development and territorial cohesion in Romania in the context of the elaboration of its Partnership Agreement with the EC 2014-2020

3.3. The ideal of polycentric development

  1. THE National Program for Local Development
  3. ANNEXES. Documents related to territorial development 


Desire Foundation takes part in the multi-partner RELOCAL project

The persistence and exacerbation of territorial disparities in the European Union, coupled with the insecurity that the economic crisis and austerity policy have generated, threaten the vision of cohesion underpinning EU policy in the past decade(s). Spatial justice lies at the centre of the RELOCAL project, taking a decidedly bottom-up approach within a multilevel context. It departs from the basic premise that localities and their functional spaces represent the contextual nexus where the relationship between individuals and spatial justice unfolds. Thus, a core rationale of the RELOCAL project is to contribute to conceptually and empirically expanding the knowledge base on spatial justice and territorial inequalities, identifying the policies promoting spatial justice and socio-economic well-being at various levels of governance.


At the onset, the RELOCAL project undertakes a critical review of the literature about spatial justice associated with territorial cohesion, sustainable development and solidarity in order to develop a theoretical framework that includes these concepts and an analysis of the variety of European territorial models. One challenging aspect in this regard is linking the European Cohesion Policy debate more directly to ethical questions that have been raised in political and social theory regarding “fairness” and “justice”. As an element of spatial justice in territorial cohesion, fairness would require greater social understanding, more targeted engagement with different groups and their specific needs, and sensitivity to questions of access, opportunity and local capabilities. An important step in advancing current debate regarding the role of place-based development, local strategies and sustainability within broader understandings of cohesion, would be to elaborate notions of locale and the significance of the local in terms of theoretical conceptualisations, development scenarios and potential policy options.

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