The Abject Heterotopia

New article:

Xiaofan, A. L. (2016) ‘ The Abject Heterotopia: Le Città Invisibili and Junkspace’, Modern Language Studies 52 (1): 70-80.


This article explores and compares the spaces of abjection in Italo Calvino’s Le città invisibili and the ‘Junkspace’ of contemporary cities, as theorized by the architect Rem Koolhaas. Depicted as being simultaneously devastating and scatological as well as exhilarating and aesthetic, abject space is revealed to be paradoxical and disturbing, a formlessness that puts place and identity into suspense. Here, Foucault’s notion of heterotopia serves as a perspective from which the nature of this abject space can be better understood. The characteristics of heterotopia – such as heterogeneity, disorientation, fragmentation – are reflected in both the fictional space of Le città invisibili and the concretely lived space of Koolhaasian architecture. But in addition, the abject heterotopias in Calvino and Koolhaas rethink and challenge the Foucauldian heterotopia, for they break down Foucault’s oppositions between heterotopia and utopia, offering greater critical potentiality and even utopian implications.



11 February 2016