the age of postmodernity.
It substitutes contingency for necessity, danger for safety, variability forsameness and accepts these as the basis of politics.In his recent book, “Spaces of Hope,” David Harvey challenges this approach to theorizing therelationship between politics and place.
He suggests that a position of alterity vis-à-vis the dominantsocial structure does not, by itself, nurture critique, let alone resistance. Heterotopic spaces can be thebasis of guerilla struggles against normalization but they can also serve as tactical measures forachieving more nuanced forms of social control. This seems obvious when we consider that accordingto Foucault’s definition, the paradigmatic heterotopias of contemporary America could include theshopping mall, gated communities, Disneyland, and militia camps. These are our are “effectivelyenacted utopias.” They are undoubtedly places where some of our culture’s other real sites arerepresented, inverted, sanitized or demonized in order to highlight their mythic properties. Earlier formsof community and icons of history are torn from their time and place and presented for admiration andconsumption. Some of the best recent work in cultural studies has demonstrated how theme parks,shopping malls, world fairs, and new urbanist communities employ architecture, symbols, and stimuli tosell an alternative reality, a place that is broadly accessible yet carefully protected from the outside.
These counter-sites, however, employ their distinctiveness to perfect rather than dismantledominant patterns of consumption and social relations. This seems to be the conclusion that Foucaulthimself reached in his subsequent work on the prison. In
Discipline and Punish
, heterotopias of deviance like the prison, insane asylum, and reform school mobilized their distinctive spatial practices tointensify and refine methods of normalization and, despite their otherness, they presented almost nopotential to attenuate or disrupt the circulation of power.The purpose of this talk is to investigate the relationship between alternative spaces anddominant ideologies. It seems clear that spatial alterity can intensify as well as challenge domination.My argument is that the difference between the dominant ideology and its other spaces can strengthenthe hegemony of the system. The very “otherness” which distinguishes a heterotopia can serve to mask the gap between an ideology’s aspirations and its underlying effects. In order to explain how this
Judith N. Sklar, “What is the Use of Utopia,” in
Hetertopia: Postmodern Utopia and the Body Politic
, ed. Tobin Siebers,(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).
Spaces of Hope
, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 182-189.
See particularly the essays in Michael Sorkins’
Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of PublicSpace
, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992); Keally McBride, “Cosuming Community,” forthcoming in Soc
Counterfeit Community: The Exploitation of Our Londing for Connectedness
, (New York: Rowman and Littlefield,1998). See also the chapter “Egypt at the Exhibition” in Timothy Mitchell’s
, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).