This article uses a fictionalised encounter as the basis for an autoethnographic exploration of
the intersections between the South African social value of ubuntu and the notion of spatial
justice. Ubuntu describes the interconnectedness of human lives. It asserts that a person is only
a person through other people, a recognition that calls for deep respect, empathy and kindness.
Ubuntu is expressed in selfless generosity and sharing. The spatial turn in the social sciences
and humanities has resulted in a concern with the relationship between space and justice. It
recognises that space is not simply an empty container in which people live and act, but is
something that is constructed by social relations – and simultaneously constitutive of them.
While this recognition gives rise to spatial perspectives on justice, what constitutes spatial,
justice, as distinct from other notions of justice, and how such justice is to be achieved are
contested. Building on the work of legal scholar, Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, on
spatial justice, I argue that the notion of ubuntu is able to shape our understanding of spatial
justice, and when practised, it is able to disrupt space and challenge dominant spatial
This article emanates from a joint Consultation on Spatial Justice and Reconciliation, co-hosted as part of the Social Justice and
Reconciliation Research Theme in the Centre for Contextual Ministry, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, led by Dr Stephan de
Beer, and the Theological Cluster of the Ubuntu Research Project in the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria,
led by Prof Julian Müller.