H for Heterotopic Space

Maison du Peuple versus Casa dei Fascio _Kohn. M (2001)

Maison du Peuple versus Casa dei Fascio, Kohn. M (2001)

Heterotopia is never something neutral, or static. According to Foucault, heterotopic space ‘has a linguistic and historical dimension which simultaneously impedes and allows various subject formation’ (Foucault,1996). However reading the space as a text would favour the cognitive over the experiential dimension, and blur the real power of the place (Kohn, 2001).

Heterotopic space function in a non hegemonic state and manifest itself in a form of social tension (Foucault,1996). There are two types of heterotopic spaces according to Foucault. Crisis heterotopias like the boarding school, military service, that are privileged or forbidden sites that serve to mark out limits in life, and heterotopias of deviance, places like the prison, psychiatric hospitals, as a way to patrol the borderline between the normality and abnormality (Kohn, 2001:504). In civilizations without heterotopia, dreams dry up and social component is under control (Foucault. M, 1996). In ‘Urban Revolution’ Lefebvre keeps the idea the triology between heterotopia or urban practice performances, isotopia, or the accomplished spatial order of the existing system, and the state and utopia, as an expressive desire. Isotopia is in tension with heterotopia and their coexistence can be understood dynamically. Only the places where social norms and rules are challenged, have the capacity to build the heterotopic spaces (Lefebvre, 2000). In addition, by giving to these spaces a political dimension as Harvey would suggest, the basis for social struggles can be manifested. Hetertopic space is not stationary, and, its social substance is a major resource for transformative actions. A house can be seen as such place or a class room or a thematic bar or a virtual space as well. They provide the meeting point where a variety of social exchange and tension can occur. The political power of place also comes from its unique ability to link the experiential (phenomenal), social and symbolic dimensions of space (Kohn, 2001:508).

Heterotopic space embodied with political meaning can facilitate the change movements by creating distinctive places for new practices that would oppose a given social order where oppression and discontent takes place.

Author’s Note: The reader is invited to revisit the initial image and reflect on Heterotopia as a concept of space.

Foucault, M., (1984) Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias. Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité
Kohn. M., (2001) The Power of Place: The House of the People as Counterpublic.
Palgrave Macmillan Journals
Lefebvre, H., (2000) Writing on cities. Blackwell Publishers

Additional Links
Michael Foucault; Heterotopic Spaces
David Harvey; Spaces of Hope


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