Spatial Capital

— Elisa Iori (ORCID 0000-0003-2840-4843)

The notion of ‘spatial capital’ expands on the Bourdieu’s theory of capital, by identifying space as another type of resource that can be mobilised by social actors. The notion finds its roots in social geography and urban studies, and it based on the observation that geographical space, and the ability to master it, is a capital in its own that can be accumulated, exchanged, and transformed into other forms of capital (Lévy 2000, 2014:46–48). According to this approach, firstly outline by the geographer Jacques Lévy, the capacity of individuals to be mobile across and fixed into geographical spaces may impact the spatial distribution of social, cultural, and economic capital and create social inequality. The concept is open to several levels of abstraction. For instance, a city or a group of people can take advantage of their favourable location or residential area to develop spatial strategies that can directly or indirectly influence economic and social patterns. Also, the capability of an actor to make use of the immediateness of digital communication allows the overcoming of geographical and social distance, thus increasing the individual’s spatial and social resources.

Major applications of the concept are in the field of contemporary urban studies that consider the relation between fixed places, spatial and social mobility. In particular, the concept has been used in the study of dynamics of gentrification and resource’s accessibility in contemporary cities (Kaufmann et al. 2004; Barthon and Monfroy 2010; Rérat and Lees 2011).

Within the KFG, the concept of spatial capital has been used in the context of the 2021 annual conference ‘Blurring Boundaries’ to analyse how Gandharan Buddhist monks in concert with urban elites (merchants, political actors, and other types of donors), managed to capitalize the ‘non-urban’ space to enter urban dynamics thus shaping the economic, social, political and religious assets of the city. The notion of spatial capital used in this case stems directly from its re-elaboration as ‘motility’ by Kaufmann et al. (2004) who described it as an asset depending on three main elements: accessibility, competence, and appropriation (Kaufmann et al. 2004:750). Access refers to possible mobilities that depend on spatial distribution of infrastructure (e.g., means of transportation and communication) and socio-economic position within a hierarchical or social network; competence is related to the capability to make use of accessibility and to move across distance with greater speed, thus to compress distances and relativize the concept of proximity. This ability can be physical, acquired (e.g., driving licence, linguistic skills) or organizational (the ability to plan and coordinate activities); lastly, appropriation refers to strategies (how) and values (why) attributed by the actors to their access and skills.

UrbRel Bibliography
Iori, Elisa. 2023. Releasing Urban Religion beyond the City Wall: The Spatial Capital of Early Buddhist Monasticism in NW South Asia, Numen, 70(2-3): 184-219. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685276-20231691


General References
Barthon, Catherine, Monfroy, Brigitte. 2010. Sociospatial schooling practices: a spatial capital approach. Educational Research and Evaluation. 16(2):177–196.
Kaufmann, Vincent. 2002. Re-thinking mobility: contemporary sociology. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Kaufmann, Vincent, Bergman Manfred M., and Dominique Joye. 2004. ‘Motility: mobility as capital.’ International Journal of Urban and Regional research 28(4):745–756. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351058759-4

Lévy, Jacques. 2000. ‘Les nouveaux espaces de la mobilité.’ In Les territoires de la mobilite edited by Michel Bonnet and Dominique Desjeux. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 155–70.

Lévy, Jacques. 2014. ‘Inhabiting.’ In The SAGE Handbook of Human Geography 1 edited by Roger Lee, Noel Castree, Rob Kitchin, Vicky Lawson, Anssi Paasi, Chris Philo, Sarah Radcliffe, Susan M. Roberts and Charles Withers. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 45–68.

Rérat, Patrick, and Loretta Lees. 2011. ‘Spatial capital, gentrification and mobility: evidence from Swiss core cities.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36:126–142. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23020845


Cite this entry

Iori, Elisa. “Spatial Capital”. Religion and Urbanity Blog. KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” (FOR 2779). 12/05/2022.  https://urbrel.hypotheses.org/glossary/spatial-capital

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