Poststructuralism and the Resistance to Place
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The second major strand in contemporary thinking on place that we will be considering comes out of the French poststructuralist movement, which has its origins in the structural anthropology of Lévi-Strauss and the linguistics of Saussure and is also heavily influenced by the psychoanalytic emphasis on the unconscious determinants of conscious behavior and the Marxist theory of mediation. Of particular interest for my purposes are the spatial analyses of Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau and of two of their most important fellow travelers, Maurice Blanchot and Henri Lefebvre. As spatial thinkers, they all share an interest in what has, in the wake of Henri Lefebvre’s work, come to be called “the social production of space” (Soja, Postmodern Geographies 16 and passim). That is to say, they are less interested in phenomenological issues involving the subjective experience of place (often dismissed as epiphenomenal) than in the ways that our spatial practices are simultaneously constitutive of and conditioned by the network of social forces that structure individual existences. They tend to emphasize the usually unperceived power structures and discursive networks that shape our understanding of the world around us and to examine them in terms of ideology, political economy, language, and other social institutions. Science itself is subject to their social critique—a critique that emphasizes the social norms and expectations that govern scientific research and shape the formulation of its laws, making them much more unstable than we are usually led to believe.
KeywordsPower Structure Social Space Human Subjectivity Marxist Theory Discursive Space
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