Lecture of the doctoral thesis: “El espacio como agente coeducador. Participación y transformación feminista de patios escolares en Santa Coloma de Gramenet” by Dafne Saldaña

On 12 February 2021 Dafne Saldaña presented her doctoral thesis to the UAB: “El espacio como agente coeducador. Participación y transformación feminista de patios escolares en Santa Coloma de Gramenet”. Inter-University Doctoral Programme in Gender Studies: Culture, Societies and Politics, Inter-University Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies. Thesis supervised by Anna Ortiz Guitart.

Spaces are the physical environment where social interactions take place. Its design determines our lifestyles, our opportunities and life experiences. The configuration of the spaces is not neutral, it depends on who takes decisions and how, on the experiences and bodies that are taken as reference and on the needs that are prioritized to satisfy. From feminist architecture and urban planning, the androcentric and capitalist design of cities has been criticized, a model that generates hierarchical and exclusive spaces that reinforce social inequalities. Among all urban spaces, the schoolyard is a place where gender inequalities are daily territorialized since childhood. Its normalization and justification constitute an invisible learning that gets internalized by boys and girls. This reinforces a sexist education in which women (and people who do not comply with gender mandates) occupy subordinate and peripheral positions in the social structure and, consequently, their access to central and visible spaces is restricted while they are relegated to the least valued places. Considering space as an educational (co-educational or dis-educational) agent, it is essential to take into account the spatial dimension for, as critical and feminist pedagogies defend, making education a way to achieve emancipation and greater social justice. These pedagogical models are committed to social change, promoting learning through localized and contextualized collective processes of reflection and action. For this reason, the Participatory Action Research methodology has been considered as the most indicated to develop the case study of this thesis, a community process in which the analysis and transformation of a daily space of children, the schoolyard, serves as a pretext to visibilize gender inequalities, to recognize them specifically in their spatial dimension and to seek solutions based on resources from the community and their surroundings. This work aims to promote awareness and visibilization of gender inequalities and collective action of educational communities around the schoolyard, using methodologies and techniques for socio-spatial analysis as educational tools and providing technical solutions capable of materializing collective ideas. In addition, tools and resources have been generated that allow replicating and scaling this process in other contexts. This thesis seeks to highlight the potential of feminist spatial education to achieve societies free from gender inequalities and violence.