‘I am like the crawfish and advance sideways’
(Michel Foucault, 31st January 1979)
This web site is devoted to Michel Foucault’s ideas on heterotopia. Foucault outlines the notion of heterotopia on three occasions between 1966-67. He attempts to explain certain principles and features of a range of cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow ‘different’: disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory and transforming. His thoughts about heterotopia are marginal and yet provoke interesting connections with his wider projects concerned with, for example, discipline, aesthetics and ethics.
Foucault simply presents a few thumb-nail sketches which he never develops into a coherent idea. And yet his tantalisingly brief words on the subject have provoked a cottage industry of interpretations and applications from many disciplines and professions throughout the world.
Over the years a dazzling variety of spaces has been explored as illustrations of heterotopia, including: Arab-Islamic architecture, environmental installations, libraries, museums, Masonic lodges, early factories, gardens, performance prototypes, women’s colleges, landscapes, gated communities, Buddhist sites, bandrooms, pornographic sites, cybercafés, shopping malls, burial sites and the body of the vampire. The notion has been applied to anything from geo-political conflicts, to queer spaces, to fascist sites, to places of transgression, to disciplinary institutions… and continues to find new interpretative twists and turns.
Writers, artists, academics and many others have shown an interest in heterotopia. The web seems a particularly suitable place to explore Foucault’s diverse notion of ‘different spaces’. Rather than trying to draw together a definitive understanding of this curious spatial concept, the site will explore its possibilities (warts and all!).
This site aims to be the hub of a network of contributions. Please add comments to individual pages and my blogand send in your own text and suggested links. If you have written essays, dissertations or theses on different spaces, heterotopia or any linked concept and would like them published on the website, do send in a copy. It is a chance to get your work read by others with a similar interest and research focus.
The site is self-funded, so any financial contributions from individuals or organisations would greatly help to sustain the site and develop its potential.
About the author
I teach in further and higher education in the UK. Publications have included four peer reviewed articles on Foucault, space and heterotopia: