‘I am like the crawfish and advance sideways’
(Michel Foucault, 31st January 1979)
The site is devoted to Michel Foucault’s ideas on heterotopia. Foucault outlines the notion of heterotopia on three occasions between 1966-67. A talk given to a group of architects is the most well-known explanation of the term. Overall, Foucault attempts to describe certain relational principles and features of a range of cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow ‘different’: disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory and transforming. In a nutshell, heterotopias are worlds within worlds, mirroring and yet upsetting what is outside. Foucault provides examples: ships, cemeteries, brothels, prisons, gardens of antiquity, fairs, Turkish baths and many more.
Foucault 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, producing dozens 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 and the notion has been applied to anything from geo-political conflicts, to queer spaces, to visual and performing art, to liminal spaces, to disciplinary institutions… and continues to find new interpretative twists and turns.
Writers, artists, fim makers, performers, academics and many others have shown an interest in heterotopia. The web seems a particularly apt 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, limitations and dangers.
The site offers thorough on-going bibliographies, background information and resources, which are updated through my blog, a selection of personal reflections and essays and some of my own specific studies of sites related to gardens and cemeteries.
Aiming to be the hub of a network of contributions, please add comments to individual pages and my blog and 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.
Some comments on the site so far:
- eliz says: hi, so happy to find this site, I’m following your site for about 4 months. I am PhD student in fine arts…..
- skateboarder says: hey there, really interesting site, helped me a lot to get what are heterotopias really about.
- Cláudia says I am delighted with the site that I have just discovered. I am a researcher at the University of Fortaleza in Brazil and have been developing research on heterotopias in Canoa Quebrada , a community of coastal zone . What I have seen here on the site are precious information and will soon be offering what I’m writing about it. I hope to exchange many ideas .
- Davies says: Hi Peter, Great site, thank you! I am currently writing my dissertation about play worlds and the importance of play. ..
- Wislaine Carneiro de Oliveira says: hello, I’m glad to find this site, I’m from Brazil and researching cemeteries…..
- Krista says: So happy to find this web site!
- Damian Ruth says: What a wonderful site! Thank you Peter.
- Maida says: Hi Peter, Your blog got me very interested in the concept of heterotopia.
- Ana Grynbaum says: Dear Peter, Thank-you for the so interesting and delightful site you are developing. It was really useful for me to think about what I call erotopia….
- Michael says Hi, I just published an article about heterotopia, cultural activism and space in Hamburg, Germany. Since this website helped me so much, I included a little shoutout within the paper. Thanks again for all your hard work on this blog Peter…
- Chady waked says: Hello there …. Thank you peter for this amazing website. I am currently studying the relation between Heterotopia and Prisons……
- George B says Hi Peter, Thank you for your detailed responses to my questions – they are very helpful. The phrase ‘worlds within worlds’ that you used resonated particularly well; it will become my root definition of the term and inform my usage of it in the future.
- Judy says: Hey Peter, I came across your site by accident and i have been greatly inspired by your thoughts and the resources you have provided
- Late utopian says: Just found your really interesting website. I am currently constructing a sail for my Foundation a Studies Utopian project….
- Mantas says: Hi, I am glad I came across with this website! I am currently studying architecture
- Brian Frederick says: Hallelujah. I have been attempting to deconstruct this concept for quite some time now… on my own, as it were.
- tacey W. says: My profound gratitude to you, Peter, for putting together this wonderful forum…it has proved to be an invaluable tool in assisting my PhD research. Thank you.
- Russell says: Nice to find a ‘different space’ on the web to enjoy.
The site is self-funded, so any financial contributions from individuals or organisations would greatly help to sustain the site and develop its potential.