Public Space as a Border Space: Social Contention and Street Art in Santiago Post-18/O
In October 2019, massive demonstrations took place in the streets of Santiago, Chile. The demands were varied, addressing several aspects of the acute social inequalities that characterise Chilean society. Protests were met with a brutally violent response by the police forces deployed to control them. What was more difficult to regulate was the explosion of graffiti and street art that accompanied the social unrest. These mobilisations speak of the repolitisation of the civil sphere through the occupation of public spaces. In this article, I propose to look at the role public spaces have played in these events not only from the perspective of public spaces as sites of political encounter and counter-hegemonic mobilisations, but mostly as borders. I contend that public spaces act as material and symbolic borders where the struggles over practices of ordering and othering take place. By looking at the history of a square in Santiago’s city center—Plaza de la Dignidad—and a selection of the graffiti in its surroundings, I explore how the square acts as a border and, in doing so, enables an alternative spatial imagination that feeds new possible political and social orders.