13 September 2012
The special edition of Space and Culture referred to below reminds me of perhaps the very first response to Foucault’s concept of heterotopia by Teyssot in 1980 (four years before the publication of the full text and based on excerpts that had appeared in an Italian journal in 1968 – see below).
The article, later translated as ‘Heterotopias and the history of spaces’ (1998), referred both to the account in the preface to The Order of Things and the original lecture to architects. In an ingenious attempt to marry the two versions, he uses the term to explain the significance of institutions organised around health measures in the eighteenth century as described by the historian Perrot.
Following Perrot, Teyssot formulates the various hospitals and facilities within a grid with eight classifications of patients that seem as bizarre to us today as Borges’ now famous encyclopaedia, for example, one group referring to ‘foundlings above the age of nine, the indigent, bastards and so forth’. For Teyssot such a description of these strangely ordered institutions counters any simple linear or evolutionary history of hospitals; it introduces ‘discontinuity’, which he argues is a key notion in The Order of Things: the ‘disjunctions… between one particular ordering and the next’ (Teyssot, 1998: 300).
Foucault, M. (1968) ‘Des espaces autres’, [Of other spaces] Árcittetura, 13: 822-23.
Teyssot, G. (1998) ‘Heterotopias and the History of Spaces’ in M. Hays (ed.), Architecture Theory since 1968, London: MIT Press, 298- 310.