Creating Thirdspaces in the Time of COVID


The pandemic that hit our world in 2019 changed our lives, our cities, and our countries. Our lives have been broken by the loss of friends and family; and we have been physically distant from the ones we love. Some of us even survived close encounters with death in the form of COVID-19. Our cities went from buzzing urban landscapes to empty ghost towns in a matter of hours. Our countries faced social, economic, and political turmoil. To make things even worse, when we came out from the lockdowns, we went back to killing each other. We stepped out of our homes more polarized and in rivalry with one another. Those we considered our friends became our enemies, and our enemies became even more monstrous.

All of this, however, did not start with the pandemic. There were forces that led us to rivalry and violence with one another before 2019. The pandemic, however, was apocalyptic in nature–“apocalyptic” in the sense of revelation. The last two years have taken the veil from our eyes to see the disparity, injustice, and oppression that exists in our current systems, not that these things did not already exist. Many of us just turned a blind eye to the suffering of the most vulnerable in our cities. But now, there is no excuse to not see the reality in which we live.

The violence we have perpetrated against each other over the last two to five years became more evident in the last two years. However, this violence did not spring out of thin air. There is a history of violence and rivalry within the urban context. In fact, the very first city founded, according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, resulted from sibling rivalry, violence, and murder (Genesis 4:17). For that reason, it is no surprise that our cities to this day are plagued with violence, rivalry, and injustice.

Violence, like the one that founded the first city, comes from our lack of self-awareness. We do not know how and what we desire. For that reason, we imitate the desires of other people. When we realize that our desires clash with the desires of others for the same object, we enter into rivalry with one another. Consequently, rivalry opens the door for perpetrating violence against each other. When violence is enacted, we turn from imitating each other’s desire to imitating one another’s violence.1

So, if this is the origin of the urban landscape, no wonder we are more polarized two years after the pandemic started. We have a tendency towards violence and rivalry. When violence finds its way into the human heart, it creates a momentum of its own. It acquires its own developmental logic and reciprocity, thus creating a constant clashing and imitation of desires and violent actions.2

In this article, I want to help us reimagine a philosophy and theology that goes beyond violence to create thirdspaces of resistance and positive imitation of one another. For that reason, I will look at the Spatial Turn within postmodern and post-Marxist geographies. Space is a category that we must take beyond the postmodern experience of the urban environment. We experience the space of the city in very specific ways, we have a spatial experience that we need to account for to build peace with our environment and one another. Once we have seen the importance of space within the urban environment, we will turn to explore thirdspace as the creation of spaces that are for people who refuse to take a side within current controversies and polarization. Finally, I will use this reflection to enhance our theological explorations within the urban environment.

The Spatial Turn

One of the biggest challenges for urban contextual theology is the historic-hermeneutical reductionism of the emancipation project as the practice of real socialism.3 This is the result of postmodernism and the development of the idea of democratic capitalism and its expansion through the construction of language as an ontological, methodological, and epistemological point of departure. The deconstruction that postmodern thought brought into the modern worldview melted the social institutions that had been held with utmost regard. As the liquid sociologist announced, a time has arrived when the understanding of social action happens amid a world, reality, and space that has been dismembered. “Abandon all hope of totality, future as well as past, you who enter the world of fluid modernity.”4

More importantly, the categories in postmodern thought that liquefied modern institutions are the catalyzers for modern ways of social construction to embed themselves in the midst of alterity and the plurality of particulars. This is the birthplace for what I call postmodern conservatism. In my perspective, postmodern conservatism strives to preserve the elements of the modern project that benefit the political, social, and cultural elite that sprouted out of the imperial and colonial enterprises of the 15th century. Postmodern conservativism is a constant struggle to hold the power in the spaces that were constructed during the project of modernity, through the right use of language that is consistent with conservative moral framings.5 This can be seen in the contemporary construction of the state, which I believe is still structured along the lines of what Marx understood as the State to be, the tool the dominant class uses to have their interests prevail.6 In a way, postmodern conservativism is the very thing that the modern mentality wanted to fight in postmodernism. The evolution of capitalism as the result of the modern enterprise now uses postmodern tools to legitimize the catastrophic consequences of consumerism and violence as the ethics of capitalism and the production of segregated social spaces.

In this world of language, which is still considered the house-of-being,7 it is imperative that new, renewed, and refreshed conceptual categories come to the front in order to create the much needed linguistified correctives to articulate an urban theology of peacebuilding that responds to the global collective woundedness revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more so, if we want to create safe and peaceful spaces for all in our cities, it needs to consider ways of being and knowing that take contextuality beyond its historicity and sociality, beyond language. For that reason, we ought to enter the meta-philosophically charged world of the production of space. In this process, we will see that space goes beyond its linguistic metaphysical content. It evolves into a way of being in the world that can be a place of resistance and peacebuilding in response to a collective woundedness that has been revealed by the pandemic, with tentacles that reach into the spaces we inhabit and give meaning to.

To create safe and peaceful spaces for all in our cities, we need to consider ways of being and knowing that take contextuality beyond its historicity and sociality, and enter into the world of the production of space. In this process, we will see that space evolves into a way of being in the world that can be a place of resistance and peacebuilding in response to a collective woundedness that has been revealed by the pandemic.

The realm of meta-philosophical thought opens the space as it points beyond philosophy and theology as a way of philosophizing. It takes theological articulation and philosophical assumptions in the fullness of their possibilities and in the breadth of their limitations. This understanding of meta-philosophy comes from the articulations of Edward Soja and Henri Lefebvre.8 For both authors, the preposition meta implies a transgression to the previous establishment, not necessarily the abolition of the institutions.9 This allows for an honest conversation that is not limited by the blind allegiance to a specific philo-theological methodology. In Lefebvre’s case, he made Marxism incomplete. In the case of those of us who engage in urban ministry, we should bring the knowledge of Christian tradition into its fullness and limitations. Borrowing words from Soja’s articulation,10 a truly liberating urban theology is incomplete, endlessly explorable, resistant to resolution, but faithful to Jesus as the lens to interpret the Scriptures and the experience of everyday life.

Rocke and Van Dyke open their book Geography of Grace with a powerful statement, “When it comes to grace, geography matters.”11 We ought to pay close attention to the geography where we serve and how it came to be. We work and serve in specific locations of our cities. We walk specific streets and give and find meaning in different localities of the urban environment. It is important to recognize the reality of our spatial practice as the meta-philosophical implications of such interactions are real and impact the way we practice and experience our faith. Acknowledging spatial practices is imperative because urban contextual theology tends to be focused on how the Christian religious experience is expressed in the cultural and social spheres of a specific context, not necessarily considering space and how it came to be. In Latin America, the Christian experience is intrinsically connected to a message that was translated and imposed into a specific culture via the mode of colonization, which ended up suppressing local religious experiences,12 creating specific spaces of representation. As a result, Latin American Christianity fell prey to the historicism that was part of the process of critical theory’s focus on history over geography in both western Marxism and liberal social science.13

This deterministic view of history omitted space as the place where history unfolded relegating space to a philosophical sub-category at best. Space was referred as an empty receptacle for history as a narration of human interactions.14 However, one needs to keep in mind that the stories that make history happen in specific geographies. They are not isolated from the reality of space and the specificity of geographical locations. Even though this is true, in the middle of the last century, most critical theorists put history as the main container of specific geographies.15 In my opinion, this also happened in western theology. The historical literalist interpretation of scripture did not allow for the problematization of spatial production within the biblical text nor the contemporary context.

In western theology, the historical literalist interpretation of scripture kept theology isolated from the reality of space and geographical locations, and did not allow for the problematization of spatial production within the biblical text nor the contemporary context.

The theological traditions that started in the United States and Europe impacted Latin American evangelical theological development. The progression of the middle of the 20th century religious thought shows that most of the theological locus was placed in the Word, through Barth, Brunner, and Cullman, to then move into the post-liberal perspectives of Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr, the latter ones focusing more on the cultural elements of Christianity and contemporary society and the interactions in between the church and western culture.16 This evolution created an emphasis that did not take space as a theological meta-philosophical category, resulting into the development of existentialist theologians that followed Heidegger and Jaspers’ existential concern of being-in-the-midst-of-time. Though, the later Heidegger came to take space into consideration in his philosophy. Theologians like Bultmann, Gogarten, Buri, and Tillich focused more on the inner workings of Christian existence in light of biblical revelation.17 Tillich especially emphasized the role of faith in contemporary institutions and Christianity.18 However, Tillich did not consider the geographical situatedness of where faith takes place. The 20th century religious thought just shows what was also happening in critical social theory. The historicity and existential concern did not ponder space as the place where existence, history, politics, and economics happened, took identity, and produced a reality, hence creating the need for a spatial turn in the approach to social theory and theology.

It is in the midst of the evolution of western thought that Henri Lefebvre and Edward Soja turned their eyes to space as meta-philosophical environment for reflection.19 This created a different approach in the understanding of urban environments and geopolitics. The city was not only the center of the production of capital, but also the production of social life and interactions.20 Space became way too important to be left in the hands of specialized disciplines like geography, architecture, and urban studies. Scholars came to realize that the spatiality of human life infused every discipline and discourse, including theological expressions and religious relations.21 Therefore, urban contextual theologizing ought to take space into account to enhance its theological articulations. Taking space as a part of the theologizing process will bring the practical theologian of liberation into a healing process for the human embodiment of realities. Western thought disincarnated theological and philosophical concepts by betraying the body through a process of metaphorization that abandoned the human agent transforming it into subject and object of metaphysical articulations.22

The city is not only the center of the production of capital, but also the production of social life and interactions. Urban contextual theologizing ought to take space into account. This will bring the practical theologian of liberation into a healing process for the human embodiment of realities.

Nevertheless, it is important to approach space as a meta-philosophical category with caution. The practical urban theologian of liberation that follows Lefebvre’s and Soja’s reflections is in danger of reducing theological reflection into an abstraction. It is imperative that the narratives of urban reality and the complexities of everyday life come into play.23 It is necessary to create a spatial reflection that contemplates the woundedness of particular contexts to incarnate the meta-philosophical reflections and the resistance to contemporary institutions that can come out of it.

Before moving on, however, it is important that I acknowledge the tradition that I come from and its contribution to the understanding of space. I come from Latin America, from Guatemala, to be more specific. Latin American liberation theology and decolonial studies have deepened the ideas of territories, occupied land, embodied theologies, and social practices. These concepts, and many others, have given us the tools to understand the construction of the colonial cities, and the production of spaces within the occupied territories as points of departure for epistemologies of the South.24 Even more so, the development of decolonial ideas and theologies in Latin America has reminded us of the embodied spatial experience of the most vulnerable within our urban environments.

The Concept of Thirdspace

Thirdspace is a term, concept, and metaphor created by the urban philosopher, and postmodern political geographer Edward Soja. Soja’s articulation of thirdspace expands on Henri Lefebvre’s trialectics of spatiality, which sees space as a social product.25 Since thirdspace is the result of theoretical constructions, the concept may seem elusive or even considered as just meta-philosophical jargon. However, the metaphysics behind such an idea are profound and complex. With the use of the term “trialectic” there is a movement beyond the Hegelian, therefore Marxist dialectical systems. The concept of spatial trialectics opens the door for an integrated notion of space. This incorporation allows for a different perspective to read not only urban environments but also history and the forces that have shaped the spaces people inhabit.

The process of trialectics results from the understanding of space as a social product.26 This implies that space is elevated into the same category as money, merchandise, capital, labor, and other elements in the contemporary mode of production. Lefebvre posits that, in reaching this level of categorization, space serves not only as an instrument for thought process and action, but also as an instrument of domination and power. In other words, social space functions as an instrument for the analysis of contemporary society. It is imperative that we understand the trialectics of space as the process of thirding. Thirding opens the epistemological horizon through the process of “othering.” In other words, thirding goes beyond the binary understandings of historical reductionisms and interpretations of class struggle to open the discussion to “additional otherness, to a continuing expansion of spatial knowledge”,27 and also theological knowledge within the specificity of particular spaces. In the words of Soja: “asserting the third-as-Othering begins an expanding chain of heuristic disruptions, strengthening defenses against totalizing closure and all ‘permanent constructions.’”28 The spatial construction of our cities in Latin America is the resulting local impact of the global enterprise of colonialism. The spatial construction of Latin American cities gives expression to racial, socio-economic, and other colonial forms of oppression.

The need for a linguistified corrective such as “thirdspace” is born from the reality that every society and mode of production produce space with all the diversified phenomena that they entail. Even ancient cities cannot be only understood as the constellation of people and things thrown into a space and the production of specific texts or discourse about that space. Ancient cities, just like contemporary ones, developed their own spatial practices that limited social interaction in very specific ways.29 Thirding as othering, therefore, invites for a conversation that opens an epistemological cycle that sees the material world and consciousness as co-creators of actual social spatial reality. This integrative third option is continuously open to new and simultaneous insights that go beyond totalizing dualisms.30

The spatial construction of our cities in Latin America is the result of the global enterprise of colonialism, and it gives expression to racial, socio-economic, and other colonial forms of oppression.

Lefebvre proposed a thematic trialectic that presents three simultaneous moments in the production of space.31 Soja worked in integrating Lefebvre’s descriptions and formulations as there is a constant expansion and reformulation of the trialectics of spatiality through Lefebvre’s thought.32 The first moment is Spatial Practice. This is the process of producing the physical materiality of social spatiality. This space entails the routines of everyday life within the modern understanding of contemporary modes of production. This space takes its concreteness from the “routes, networks, workplaces, private life, and leisure enjoyments of the urban.” It is the materialization of socially produced empirical space. In other words, it is the space that people inhabit through their everyday life expressions; this is firstspace.33 The second moment is in the Representations of Space. This is the space conceived by scientists, urban planners, urbanists, technocrats, social engineers, and so on.34 This is where any society or mode of production contains its epistemological power. As a result, this is the space where language as a social institution is regulated in a way that produces specific texts, ideas, and discourse. This mental space is the representation of power and ideology.35 People take meaning and construct their social identity from the conceptions visualized in the Representations of Space, and by moving through these representations as they develop their Spatial Practice. It is in the secondspace, as Soja calls it, that people who inhabit and belong to the interiorized sectors of our cities and carry their “inferiority” within the totalizing and oppressive discourse of colonial heritage. However, secondspace is also where utopian thought and vision can be developed. It is where the creative imagination resides.

Finally, the third moment is the Spaces of Representation. This is the space lived through the images and symbols that are embodied in it.36 Soja posits, “It overlays (recouvre) physical space, making symbolic use of its ‘objects’ and tends towards ‘more or less coherent systems of non-verbal symbols and signs.’” It is the space where the real and imagined come together, where ideas and concreteness meet. It is the place that fosters the creation of “counterspaces,” spaces of resistance to the hegemonic dominant order that are born out of their marginalized and in many cases rejected positioning. It is thirdspace. As a result, all journeys that embark into its exploration must begin with an ontological restructuring, with the assumption that one’s being-in-the-world is existentially defined through a holistic integration of history, society, and space. “We are first and always historical-social-spacial beings, actively participating individually and collectively in the construction/production–the ‘becoming’–of histories, geographies, societies.”37

Thirdspace is the place that fosters the creation of “counterspaces,” spaces of resistance to the hegemonic dominant order that are born out of their marginalized and in many cases rejected positioning. All journeys that embark into the exploration of thirdspace must begin with an ontological restructuring.

In summary, this process of thirding is focused on the trialectics of being. Thirding-as-Othering involves the recognition of space as part of the being-in-the-world. It is a third way through and against the binary tendencies of western philosophy, theology, and critical social theory that favor the notion of being that is limited by historicity and sociality.38 As a result, the self is interpreted in its historical, social, and spatial context, thus enhancing the exploration of the human experience as an integrated and embodied conjunction of internal and external phenomena.

Consequently, this involves the exploration of different epistemologies that depend on the spatial moments. There are three epistemologies that can lead to different kinds of knowledge constructions. Firstspace epistemologies usually favour objectivity and materiality. They point to a formal science of space. Secondspace epistemologies have had the tendency to be reactionary to firstspace modes of knowledge. This epistemological perspective tends to create an oppositional reality between the arts and sciences, idealism and materialism, and subjective and objective ways of interpreting reality. Thirdspace epistemologies open the conversation between firstspace and secondspace epistemologies in a strategic way. This kind of knowledge construction entails a kind-hearted deconstruction and heuristic reconstruction of the previous dualistic epistemologies. In the words of Soja:

The starting point for this re-opening and rethinking of new possibilities is the provocative shift back from epistemology to ontology and specifically to the ontological trialectic of Spatiality-Historicality-Sociality. This ontological rebalancing introduces a radical scepticism toward all established epistemologies, and all traditional ways of confidently obtaining knowledge of the world.39

In summary, thirdspace is a concept that aligns with Christian spirituality. In Ignatian terms, it is a third way that holds the different tensions of spatial experience. It is in that tension that urban contextual theology can be expanded to articulate God’s movements and invitations in the midst of a production of urban spaces that segregate and exclude the other. It also starts opening the possibilities to see God not only as the creator of thirdspaces, but also as third even fourth spaces that are completely other and different to humanity.

Enhancing Urban Contextual Theology

We can see that history, culture, and society are important elements in the interpretation and comprehension of the context. However, space does not seem to always be considered for the theologizing process. This omission creates a specific theological output that stays within the boundaries imposed by positivist theologies. The result is a theology that legitimizes the current spatial, economic, and social structures. Even when a theology seems to be counterhegemonic, if it does not take space as a meta-philosophical category, it can fall into historic-hermeneutical reductionisms. For that reason, contextual theology can be enriched by the exploration of religious experience in spatial terms. This search opens a theological dialogue that can seek for spatial justice within the urban environment where we, grassroots leaders, engage our theological praxis.

Space is not always considered for the theologizing process. This omission creates a specific theological output that stays within the boundaries imposed by positivist theologies. The result is a theology that legitimizes the current spatial, economic, and social structures.

Since the theologizing process of urban theology and mission tends to be oriented towards a practical theology of liberation, we need to keep in mind that the acknowledgement of the suffering voices of contemporary society is a vital part of the theological articulation. In this theological endeavor, the spatiality of suffering opens an ontological point of departure that enhances the urban contextual theologizing act. In a way, it takes a step beyond the liberationist epistemology into becoming a liberationist ontology. This ontological beginning recognizes that there is a close relationship between the body and negative lived spaces. Even more so, theology is a spatial, economic, spiritual, and sexual act.40 This connection, also made by Gert Prinsloo through the studies of lament in the book of Psalms, creates new avenues to explore not only the negative lived spatial experience of the authors of the Psalms and other Scriptural data, but also the experiences of contemporary sufferers.41 Suffering and space are related through the trialectics of being-in-time-space. The connection occurs amid the dualism of firstspace and secondspace epistemologies. As a result, thirdspace allows urban contextual theology to explore the negative lived spatial experience of people in specific localities. In Prinsloo’s words: “the individual spatial experience of a sufferer provides a key to a holistic interpretation of individual laments.”42 Prinsloo makes his point through comparing ancient Mesopotamic and biblical texts. However, his statement provides an ontological and hermeneutical key to the interpretation of contemporary suffering in connection to the biblical narrative. This is enhanced even more through following an ontological point of departure to develop hermeneutics of suffering through the eyes of Jesus as the forgiving victim.43

In acknowledging the spatial representations of suffering, the woundedness of our contexts becomes a spatial milieu and point of departure for reflection and resistance. It is important, nonetheless, that we keep in mind that when entering in resistance against hegemonic structures we are dealing with yet another dualism. On one side, there is a traditional approach of resistance that has based its struggle on the affirmation of universal principles of equality, democracy, and so on. On the other hand, there is a more confrontational way of resistance, which is based on the differences and inequalities experienced by specific groups as the basis for community, identity, and struggle against current power structures.44 These modes of resistance are not necessarily oppositional to each other. They can be found working in conjunction depending on the context. Nevertheless, it is clear that these two kinds of counter-hegemonic approaches feed from the mentality of all against one and vice versa. The key of an enhanced urban contextual theology is in finding or creating a thirdspace to inhabit in a non-rivalistic and violent way that is conscious of the contestation between the counter-hegemonic struggles for freedom and acknowledgment. For that reason, occupying thirdspace is a dynamic process.

I want to argue that the embodiment of thirdspace happens in two continuously cycling moments. Firstly, if thirdspace is understood as the process of othering, it must be a space for radical openness that calls for an identity that is not in contraposition and rivalry against the other. This moment is a shift from an epistemological position to an ontologically open space. However, this space is to be embodied and inhabited through the acknowledgment of who one is through the eyes of the other. Secondly, one must choose the space of marginality in a way that does not transform specific spaces into fetishisms of space. This implies that the practical theologian of liberation and urban practitioner must enter and belong to the margins in a way that is not dependent on the reaction of the oppressive other. We cannot expect the legitimization of one’s place within the power structure as oppositional in and of itself. This creative thirdspace must be inhabited “in and for ourselves”.45 Consequently, this moment implies a constant physical and metaphorical movement in and out of the margins. The ontological positioning, however, stays in the margins. This movement back and forth allows for an interaction with the powerful and the powerless in a way that positions the practical theologian of liberation and urban practitioner as a buffer that does not allow the powerful voices to silence the voices that have been muzzled for so long.

An urban theology that is contextually articulate is relevant not only through inhabiting and embodying thirdspaces, but also through the creation of such spaces. If Marx, Lefebvre, and Soja are right in saying that all humans actively participate in the creation of history and space, then grassroots leaders, practical theologians of liberation, and urban practitioners have the capacity to intervene in the history and spaces around them to create thirdspaces for the sake of those who have been marginalized by the current production of urban spaces. These spaces can be open to the creation of new rituals that subvert the triad of archaic religion which is still present in contemporary society. New rituals would open the thirdspace for new narratives that could subvert the myths that sustain and nurture exclusion and oppression in the current modes of social and religious production. As a result, an urban contextual practical theology of liberation would produce spatial faith practices that would improve the lived spatial experience of those who enter in relationship with those of us who commit ourselves to serve, awaken, and liberate in community those who are under the bondage of the consumeristic, violent, and exclusionary ethics of late capitalism.

Nevertheless, we ought to stay conscious of our privilege in making the decision to inhabit and embody specific marginal spaces. We need to be constantly remember that, for the vast majority of people, dwelling in marginal spaces is not an option, but the intentional outcome of social interaction through the social production of space. With this in mind, part of the joy of urban contextual theologizing lies in the process of awakening those who inhabit, embody, and belong to both interiorized sectors and the elites to the consecrated truth and reality of being human, children of God, despite of the alienation created by the current modes of production. In the words of bell hooks:

I am located in the margin. I make a definite distinction between that marginality which is imposed by oppressive structures and that marginality one chooses as site of resistance—as location of radical openness and possibility. This site of resistance is continually formed in that segregated culture of opposition that is our critical response to domination. We come to this space through suffering and pain, through struggle. We know struggle to be that which pleasures, delights, and fulfils desire.46

One example of thirdspacing is the cemetery reflection tours that I have helped create and led for the last 10 years. The Cementerio General (General Cemetery) in Guatemala City is a space that the CMT Guatemala network has reclaimed to allow the voicing of the pain caused by the different representations of the Guatemalan collective woundedness. The tours have become rituals of pain acknowledgment. The space of the Cementerio General creates an interesting dynamic as presidents of old, writers, and poets are buried there, amidst known locations that were used as execution grounds and clandestine graves for the eradication of the subversive movements, workers’ union leaders, and student leaders. In addition, the cemetery backs to Guatemala City’s garbage dump, where approximately seven thousand people work to sustain their lives. In this place, with my community, we named the Guatemalan collective woundedness through the socio-economic division, the racial wound, the religious disunion, and the wound of the internal armed conflict. A thirdspace and a new subversive ritual is created as groups, contemporary student leaders, community leaders, businessmen and women, members of the Guatemalan-European elite, grassroots leaders, and college students have come together to give and ask for forgiveness, voice their pains, and find ways to move forward together.

I believe that it is the work of the church and those who work for the peace of our cities to be creative agents. If we are to find a way forward amid the times we live, we ought to create spaces that allow for the encounter of those who are in opposition to one another. The gospel invites us to always find a third way forward, a thirdspace between a binary society is one of the gifts of the incarnation.

Space as a meta-philosophical category has the capacity to enhance urban contextual theology through providing the linguistified corrective of thirdspace. In using this concept and metaphor, we can explore the urban landscape as an oppressive structure in and of itself. In doing so, the interaction with our communities and networks acknowledges not only our cultural and social experience, but also our negative spatial experience. Thus, the conversation opens to take suffering, pain, and violence beyond their historicity and sociality. It creates access to the recognition of marginalized communities as sources for theological reflection and articulation. Even more so, space gives permission to explore how other marginalized groups experience their spatial practice within a society that rejects them and sees them as polluting and corrupting agents, as in the case of the LGTBQI community, indigenous peoples, and black and brown communities. I can only hope that more thirdspaces are opened so we all can come together with the other we exclude.


We have been immersed in the pandemic for almost two years. The divisions between the different political ideologies, theologies and economics have increased. However, I believe that it is the work of the church and those who work for the peace of our cities to be creative agents. If we are to find a way forward amid the times we live, we ought to create spaces that allow for the encounter of those who are in opposition to one another. Those of us who have the access and capacity to be on seemingly conflicting sides of our cities have the responsibility to create spaces that foster encounters. However, these spaces have to be for the real “I” to meet with the real “You”.47 The gospel invites us to always find a third way forward, a thirdspace between a binary society is one of the gifts of the incarnation.


1 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred (Baltimore, MD: Hopkins University Press, 1979).
2 Joel Aguilar, “Guatemalan Grassroots Theology as Resistance to Global Sacrificial Theology,” ed. Stéphan de Beer, Just Faith: Glocal Responses to Planetary Urbanisation (Durbanville, South Africa: AOSIS, 2018), 103–133,
3 Manuel J. Mejido Costoya, “The Postmodern: Liberation or Language?” in Handbook of Latina/o Theologies, ed. Edwin David Aponte and Miguel A. De La Torre (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2006), 276–283.
4 Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge, UK: Malden, MA: Polity Press; Blackwell, 2000), 22.
5 George Lakoff, Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, 10th anniversary ed. (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014).
6 Carlos Marx & Federico Engels, Escritos Económicos Varios, 2nd ed. (San Ángel, Mexico: Editorial Grijalvo, 1966).
7 Johann-Albrecht Meylahn, “Postfoundational Practical Theology as Public Christology,” Verbum et Ecclesia 35, no. 2 (August 6, 2014): 1-12,; Slavoj Žižek, Violence (London, UK: Picador, 2008).
8 Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996);
Henri Lefebvre, La Producción del Espacio (Madrid, Spain: Capitán Swing, 2013). (The date of this book is for the Spanish version, which I deemed closer to the Lefebvre’s articulation as Spanish shares a lot of its metaphysical construction with French as both are romance languages.)
9 Soja, Thirdspace.
10 Ibid.
11 Kris Rocke and Joel Van Dyke, Geography of Grace: Doing Theology from Below (Tacoma, WA.: Street Psalms Press, 2012), 17.
12 Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992).
13 Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London; New York: Verso, 1989), 13.
14 Lefebvre, La Producción.
15 Soja, Postmodern Geographies.
16 John Macquarrie, Twentieth-Century Religious Thought, 6th ed. (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002).
17 Ibid.
18 Paul Tillich, The Dynamics of Faith (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1957).
19 Lefebvre, La Producción; Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies, Thirdspace, Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000).
20 Soja, Postmetropolis.
21 Soja, Thirdspace.
22 Ibid.
23 Chris Shannahan, Voices from the Borderland: Re-Imagining Cross-Cultural Urban Theology in the Twenty-First Century, Cross Cultural Theologies (London; New York: Routledge, 2010).
24 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice against Epistemicide (London; New York: Routledge, 2014).
25 Lefebvre, La Producción.
26 Ibid.
27 Soja, Thirdspace, 61.
28 Ibid.
29 Lefebvre, La Producción.
30 Soja, Thirdspace.
31 Lefebvre, La Producción.
32 Soja, Thirdspace.
33 Ibid.
34 Lefebvre, La Producción.
35 Soja, Thirdspace.
36 Lefebvre, La Producción.
37 Soja, Thirdspace, 73.
38 Ibid.
39 Ibid., 81.
40 Marcella Althaus-Reid, La Teología Indecente: Perversiones Teológicas en Sexo, Género y Política (Barcelona, Spain: Edicions Bellaterra, 2005).
41 Gert Prinsloo, “Suffering Bodies – Divine Absence: Towards a Spatial Reading of Ancient Near Eastern Laments with Reference to Psalm 13 and an Assyrian Elegy. Old Testament Essays 26, no. 3 (2013): 773–803.
42 Ibid., 784.
43 James Alison, Jesus The Forgiving Victim (Glenview, IL: Doer Publishing, 2013).
44 Soja, Thirdspace.
45 Ibid., 97.
46 Cited in Soja, Thirdspace, 105.
47 Martín Buber, Yo y Tú (Barcelona: Herder Editorial, 1974).

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