‘Do you remember the telegram that gave us such a laugh, where an architect said he glimpsed a new conception of urbanism? But it wasn’t in the book; it was in a talk on the radio about utopia. They want me to give it again…’
(Defert, 1997: 274).
In the first essay I trace the history of the concept. I introduce each of Foucault’s three accounts of heterotopia, exploring in particular the lecture he gave to architects which has sparked most attention, criticism, interpretations and applications. I provide a detailed summary of the lecture, highlighting some difficulties with the English translations and teasing out underlying themes and references.
In the second essay, I look at the reception of Foucault’s idea of heterotopia. I provide a critical summary of the main interpretations and applications of the concept. In particular, I highlight some limitations of the notion, the use made of it in the theory of architecture and the various re-workings of the concept across many other disciplines and professions.
Download pdf: History of concept
Download pdf: Interpretations and applications
Opening video clip from French documentary on Foucault (Arte France and BFC Production) by Phillipe Calderon: Michel Foucault par lui-même. The opening includes the beginning of Foucault’s (1966) radio talk on heterotopia ( see Defert’s quotation above) as well as striking images of ‘different spaces’.
Radio talk also available as a CD and text:
Foucault, M. (2004)  Utopies et heterotopias [Utopias and heterotopias], CD: INA, Mémoire Vive.
Foucault, M. (2009)  Le Corps Utopique – Les Hétérotopies. Paris: Éditions Lignes.
After you have read the essay, feel free to leave comments below.