Original Research - Special Collection: Spatial Justice & Reconciliation

Discerning a theological agenda for spatial justice in South Africa: An imperative for sustained reconciliation

Stephan de Beer
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 1 | a3566 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.3566 | © 2016 Stephan de Beer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 June 2016 | Published: 18 November 2016

About the author(s)

Stephan de Beer, Centre for Contextual Ministry, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria South Africa, South Africa


A spatial turn has occurred in various disciplines over the past decades. This article holds that it has not occurred in a similar decisive manner in theological discourse and not in South Africa in particular. After considering the necessity of a spatial turn and spatial consciousness, the article examines the concept of spatial justice against the backdrop of how injustice was and is spatially expressed in South African cities. Considering the way in which South African cities have evolved since the Native Land Act of 1913 – the segregated and apartheid city and the (post)apartheid city – the article then argues that deep and sustained reconciliation will be impossible should current spatial patterns of segregation, exclusion and injustice continue. It advocates theological and ecclesial participation in a national agenda for spatial transformation, to be fleshed out in relation to four interconnected challenges: land, landlessness, housing and home; the ‘creative destruction’ of neighbourhoods, gentrification and the displacement of the poor; participation in city-making (from below) and transformative spatial interventions; and close collaboration with social movements working for spatial justice. It concludes by asserting that such a trans- and/or postdisciplinary agenda for spatial justice would participate with the Spirit to mend the oikos of God.


spatial turn; spatial consciousness; spatial (in)justice; reconciliation; spatial transformation; socio-spatial strategies


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