‘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. Bernhard Sigert puts it well:
‘heterotopias exceed topos, image, or summary..’
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, including: Arab-Islamic architecture, environmental installations, libraries, museums, Masonic lodges, gardens, performance prototypes, women’s colleges, landscapes, gated communities, Buddhist sites, bandrooms, pornographic sites, cybercafés, burial sites and many more. The notion has been applied to anything from geo-political conflicts, to queer spaces, to visual art, to marginal places, 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.
This 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.
The site is self-funded, so any financial contributions from individuals or organisations would greatly help to sustain the site and develop its potential.