Emergent Christianity

Soja’s Thirdspace, Foucault’s Heterotopia and de Certeau’s Practice: Time-Space and Social Geography in Emergent Christianity

AUTHOR: Maier, Harry O.

PUB: December 2013

SOURCE: Historical Social Research. Vol. 38 Issue 4, pp 76-92.


This essay uses analytical tools developed by Edward Soja, Michel Foucault, and Michel de Certeau to investigate time-space configurations in the religious movements inaugurated by Jesus and promoted by Paul. The article begins with an account of the domination of time as a conceptual tool for analyzing both figures and their teachings to establish the context for an alternative space-time reading of the data represented in the New Testament and extra-canonical sources. Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God is placed in the context of the monetization and hence disruption of traditional kinship and social structures. His parables, sayings, and the traditions associated with him represent thirdspace performances of his rural world. His proclamation of the Kingdom of God coheres with Foucault’s notion of heterotopia in that it places listeners in places outside of place. His articulation of behaviours coincides with de Certeau’s notion of tactics inserted within dominant social strategies. Through a reading of Paul’s message against the backdrop of urban poverty Paul’s motif of the church as body is seen as a thirdspace articulation of social groups, heterotopic place outside of place, and communal solidarity within the urban context of the Roman Empire.


25 March 2014