Published in: International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education

Full Title: Free spaces: Excavating race, class, and gender among urban schools and communities

This article introduces the concept of ‘free spaces’ as an important site for the development of theory and practice around youth activism, teacher development, and the transformation of public and private space in urban schools and communities. Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Evans and Boyte (1986) introduced the concept of ‘free spaces’ in their book: Free spaces: the sources of democratic change in America. Their goal was to highlight the invisible ways in which ordinary people organize themselves and democratize their communities. The authors in this special issue implicitly and explicitly use the concept of ‘free spaces’ to chronicle how lives unfold in contested spaces—not flat, seemingly ‘neutral’ spaces—but socially produced spaces, spaces imbued with racialized, gendered, and hetero-normative values and the hidden agenda of our society (Lefebvre, 1974; Hayden, 1995). Specifically, the authors seek to broaden our understanding of the social forces impacting on education inside and outside schools, with a focus on the role of agency to respond in transformative ways to these conditions.