Spatial Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and World-Space in French Cultural Theory

Spatial Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and World-Space in French Cultural Theory

Spatial Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and World-Space in French Cultural Theory

Spatial Ecologies: Urban Sites, State and World-Space in French Cultural Theory

Excerpt

This book moves along the wide arc of the “spatial turn” that critical thinking has taken over the last thirty years. It follows this trajectory in order to see how and where space, something that defies reduction to a simple or stable definition, can now be appreciated for its ecological implications. The principal argument that follows is that, to varying degrees, philosophers born of or nurtured by the ferment of “May 1968” build their work over a spatial crisis that has since broadened to include consideration of the well-being of the planet. When critics and writers take a spatial turn they move from traditionally restricted fields of study, their disciplines as it were, to see where their work stands in view of globalization. The spatial turn now curves toward an ethics of living and working collectively on a planet whose habitability seems to be problematic and whose resources are today less abundant than they had been three decades ago.

Before all else it must be asked: might a prodigiously accumulating critical mass of writing on space be a symptom of a diminishing return? Would the increasing number of reflections on the nature of space betray a sense of its attrition? The questions are posed to underscore the paradox motivating much of what follows. While the space our globe allots to us can seem oddly infinite in its finite measure, our worst fears tell us that it is vanishing. But how do we perceive—how do we experience—space so that we may know what it is and appreciate it for what it may be? Before responding to this second question we realize that its formulation tells us that we must have a physical sense of space prior to seeking a definition of its essence. Contrary to the order of classical philosophy, our apprehension of space, the basis for its epistemology, precedes its ontology. The very being of space can only be discerned by how we sense it and by what we feel we know of it. What we ascertain about it is gauged by the way we feel it dilating, contracting, folding upon itself and

1 Included are a watershed volume edited by Mike Crang and Nigel Thrift, Thinking Space (2000), David Harvey’s numerous books since the Condition of Postmodernity (1991), which have appeared at regular intervals (2000, 2006, 2009a, 2009b), and a host of others, beginning with Edward Soja, that are generally affiliated with Henri Lefebvre.

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