In a volatile global economy, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), represents the longing for a blank slate. Emancipated from national legislations through a “nested exceptionalism” (Bach, 2011) the SEZ seeks to create an autonomous enclave for the accumulation of labor surplus. However, as Keller Easterling has pointed out, the SEZ is also an expansive spatial product, representing the global neoliberal dream of a rational and friction-free urbanism. (Easterling, 2012)
Through the use of fiction this paper speculates on how a tinkered and hacked Special Economic Zone could instigate a suspension of the habits of neoliberalism and generate new “blasphemous” (Haraway, 1991) forms of publicness within the zone. Analyzing the 1972 science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic, the paper dissects the inner-workings of a fictive zone in order to produce a set of concepts to project onto the existing SEZ. The Zone in the novel suspends the physical laws of the universe, but it also short-circuits idiosyncratic interests and egocentric desires, and opens up for altruistic dreams of collective joy beyond. The paper asserts that the use of fiction as an “engaged withdrawal” (Scott, 2003) can produce a strategy for radical inventiveness that is not tied down to the logics of the existing conditions, but on the contrary can disorient and destabilize existing structures.
Following the analysis of the novel, the paper presents three architectural operations for projecting the conditions of the fictional Zone onto the logics of the SEZ: 1. Blurring the boundaries of form, plan and outline in order to destabilize rigid categories of program and behavior within the Zone. 2. Unexpected cross-programming as a way to allow dialectic relationship between social entities and spaces, and contradict the neoliberal idea of friction-free urbanism. 3. A new publicness based on collective desires and architectural form. This generic and reoccurring public space in the SEZ accumulates a surplus of collective delight, incompatible with the logic of capital.
A central point in the paper is that the Zone in the novel engenders an intensification of life, replacing the mundane habits of the outside with an adventurous form of collective existence on the inside. This possible intensification would imply that the SEZ is not only a Zone of rational planning and economic development, but also a space for the formation of politics, where action, contention and creative resistance exists parallel to ‘business as usual’. As such the Zone is also a potential field for a dissensual architecture, setting the physical stage for the admission of the inadmissible voice and a constantly renegotiated publicness.
Istanbul, 2014. 227-236 p.