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Cultures, Communities and Design

Ethics in the Outside between Transpacific Coastal Centres and Hinterlands
F. Chan


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Real estate developments in Pacific Coastal hubs not only bear on human and non-human ecologies in the hubs’ connected hinterlands, but fuel urban-rural antagonisms and racism across the Pacific. Complicated with COVID and colonialism, disputes on (in)authentic belonging emerge. A quick corrective is an appeal to a transpacific U.N.-type plan to regulate land/waterbodies use. However, a totalising blueprint is near impossible, given the transpacific is beyond the sum of all its cities, waterbodies, islands and inlands. Nevertheless, the impossibility of totalisation can be an enabling force for spatial designers to explore ethics emerging from the new relations forming between coastal hubs and hinterlands; specifically spatial relations that increase marginalised peoples’ capacities to act against the intolerable. To articulate this ethics-making, this paper moves through two unfolding ideas: • The notion of the “Outside” as developed by Blanchot, Foucault and Deleuze as a mode of thinking which pushes thinking itself outside the act of recognition and toward a more experimental line. Building from this, how can designing push thinking and acting on the relations between coast hubs and hinterlands toward an experimental line? • Pushing thinking and designing outside themselves may mean going outside established spatial design’s canons, habits and media. Capacities rise from strange partners paired in unlikely geographies: What new capacities may form when Singapore’s “heartlanders”, whose labour are captured for economic growth, stand with Pacific Indigenous struggles against prolonged theft of land/water rights? Minding these connections is to design a plan which form represents less a determined future and more a diagram, which spurs spatial thinking and actions to constantly reinvent themselves to counter capture by colonialist property-valuation. Ethics is liberation/liberated through inventing new capacities to act and transform despite the intolerable. Between coastal hubs and hinterlands is an Outside, which is their relationship’s utmost interiority where ethical spacing begins.



Since completing a PhD at RMIT University’s School of Architecture, Chan has researched, taught, written and designed in lands stolen and transformed by British Imperialism. (E.g. Australia, Singapore and Canada). Most recently, Chan is an urban designer at the Vancouver Planning Department and a mentor for Masters of Planning students at UBC. Chan’s focus is on counter-colonial/ nationalist narratives within an expanded architecture/urban design practice; including explorations on how theoretical writing is a spatial practice.