“Universal Representation Is Utopian”: Erica Malunguinho Talks About Urban Equity

“Universal Representation Is Utopian”: Erica Malunguinho Talks About Urban Equity

When crossing a space, a body carries within it many meanings. The reading that translates into this person-architecture dialogue, and the sensations that arise from it, demonstrate much of the social inequality and violent structures intrinsic to the Western imagination, which privileges the same standard: the white man. Finding a place of rebalancing in which it is possible to create an alternation of power —in race and gender - is a commitment by Erica Malunguinho.

Born and raised in Pernambuco, in 2018 she was elected the first trans deputy in Brazil by the state of São Paulo. As a parliamentarian, she is responsible for creating and changing laws, and overseeing the government representing the population. Confronting structural racism and defending more vulnerable populations is not an exercise that takes place only in the Legislative Assembly, where it is dedicated to the "reintegration of ownership". Erica is also an artist and educator. In 2016, she createdAparelha Luzia, an urban quilombo in which she unravels and confronts the ramifications of the colonialist project, bringing "blackness as a continuation of a coherent narrative for confronting the issues and resolutions of structural violence". Here, we talked with the deputy about how urban space can act directly in the construction of social equity.

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Downtown Recife, Brazil. Photo Datingjungle on Unsplash

Victor Delaqua (VD): In order to talk about equity, it is first necessary to point out the cases of inequality. We know that a body is read in different ways when circulating in public spaces and that the same space can be safe or violent, depending mainly on the person's race or gender. Could you share your views on this topic?

Erica Malunguinho (EM): Violence, especially that determined by race and gender grounds, acts in an institutional, explicit, but also silent, way, in a symbolic and very powerful way.

The first step to be taken in combating this violence lies in the true repossession of the historical legacies that were taken from historically excluded communities. The oppression lies in the concealment of the heritage of blacks and indigenous peoples, as well as in the media dehumanization of individuals who are part of these groups – which is seen daily in dealing with homosexuals and transgenders.

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Mexico City, Mexico. Photo © Johnny Miller Photography

VD: The public space will always be a space of conflict, meeting the different and the unexpected. From the point of view of building the built environment, is it possible to think of a way in which it provides greater equity for people? Or, can an architectural design face issues such as racism and LGBTQIAphobia per se?

EM: I believe in the city as an educational space, which updates history according to its revisions. To exalt the movements and people who were part of history without being 'romanticized' the figures of the oppressors, including the great names of historically marginalized cultures. I usually say that history has other sides, and that's where that term that many hate comes in: representation. This is the word that sums up the construction of an environment based on equity, as it is possible to draw a design that encourages the production of self-esteem and recognition, which for centuries has been usurped by excluded populations.

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Erica Malunguinho. Photo © Nego Júnior

VD: "It is because our corporeal territories are not worthy of existence in the space-city that new epistemologies and social imaginaries must surface, so that we can, finally, remain". This statement by Maria Léo Araruna is quoted in the text by the same author: "The right to the city from a transvestite perspective". In this, based on an autoethnography, she discusses how the construction of her transvestite identity takes place amidst the failures to protect the right to urban life. In a society structured on cisnormativity, how to make this space-city dignified and safe for transgenders?

EM: Building this space-city can and should take place through public policies, but the aforementioned symbolic dimension also needs to be taken into account. This is expressed when we analyze the way society reads our bodies, including which (physical) places are arbitrarily assigned to our bodies. During the period of the civil-military dictatorship, transvestites did not travel in daylight in many urban centers due to the possibility of being arrested for “vagrancy”. As a society, there needs to be a collective reflection on what we are doing to break these compulsions. This concerns not only parliamentarians, as we are talking about everyday micro-policies.

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Statue of General Baquedano in Santiago, Chile. Photo © pslachevsky on VisualHunt 2

VD: In 2020, you filed Bill 404/2020, which prohibits tributes to slavers and to historical events linked to the exercise of slavery within the state administration. This PL meets the theme of the demolition of monuments, which discusses the memory that prevails in society. If the city can be read as an educating space through the images it shows, how to think about a remodeling that makes it more equitable? Is it possible to represent all the ideas that exist in a city in its public space?

EM: A striking observation about PL 404 is the allocation of these tributes – with regard to the sculptures – in public museums, with due credit for their real performances. This would be part of an educating process, which would also include the inclusion of tributes to representatives of all races and genders that were the founders of our ancestry.

The city, like history, is a construction to be revised and revisited from time to time. We cannot only deal with the information imputed according to the perspective of the group that remains in power, as this is the key to maintaining the status quo based on racism.

Universal representation is utopian, and it is from utopia that improvements, historical repairs and, in view of the horizon, true equity emerge.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Equity. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

About this author
Cite: Delaqua, Victor. "“Universal Representation Is Utopian”: Erica Malunguinho Talks About Urban Equity" ["A representação universal é utópica": Erica Malunguinho fala sobre equidade urbana] 26 Oct 2021. ArchDaily. (Trans. Valencia, Nicolás) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/970296/universal-representation-is-utopian-erica-malunguinho-talks-about-urban-equity> ISSN 0719-8884

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