Heterotopia and ‘desiring differently’

Three new publications consider heterotopia in relation to desiring differently:

Fritsch, K. (2015) ‘Desiring Disability Differently: Neoliberalism, Heterotopic Imagination and Intra‐corporeal Reconfigurations’, Foucault Studies 19: 310-327.


Challenging the undesirability of disability is a shared responsibility that re‐ quires us to imagine disability differently. In order to imagine disability differently, we need to understand how the neoliberal hegemonic social imagination—key to processes that create good disabled and able‐bodied neoliberal subjects—works to curtail who is per‐ ceived to have a desirable body. In order to desire disability differently, we must begin with marginal, heterotopic imaginations whereby disability is not something to overcome, but rather is part of a life worth living. In this article, I build on Foucault’s concepts of heteroto‐ pia (1998), milieu, and the government of things (2007), and Karen Barad’s agential realism (2007), as well as draw on the work of Mel Chen (2012) and Rod Michalko (1999) in order to argue that the heterotopic imagination reconfigures how we consider disability to emerge, with whom, and where. By mobilising the heterotopic imagination, we can come to recog‐ nise that disability does not emerge as an individualised human body, but rather is an in‐ tracorporeal, non‐anthropocentric multiplicity. To desire disability differently through the heterotopic imagination is not simply to allow the current formulation of disability to be‐ come desirable, but rather to radically alter how we desire disability, in addition to altering what disability is, how it is practised, and what it can be.


Gourlay, L. (2015) ‘Open education as a “heterotopia of desire”’, Learning, Media and Technology 40 (3) 310-327.


The movement towards ‘openness’ in education has tended to position itself as inherently democratising, radical, egalitarian and critical of powerful gatekeepers to learning. While ‘openness’ is often positioned as a critique, I will argue that its mainstream discourses – while appearing to oppose large-scale operations of power – in fact reinforce a fantasy of an all-powerful, panoptic institutional apparatus. The human subject is idealised as capable of generating higher order knowledge without recourse to expertise, a canon of knowledge or scaffolded development. This highlights an inherent contradiction between this movement and critical educational theory which opposes narratives of potential utopian futures, offering theoretical counterpositions and data which reveal diversity and complexity and resisting attempts at definition, typology and fixity. This argument will be advanced by referring to a one-year longitudinal qualitative multimodal journaling and interview study of student day-to-day entanglements with technologies in higher education, which was combined with a shorter study focused on academic staff engagement. Drawing on sociomaterial perspectives, I will conclude that allegedly ‘radical’ claims of the ‘openness’ movement in education may in fact serve to reinforce rather than challenge utopic thinking, fantasies of the human, and monolithic social categories, fixity and power, and as such may be seen as indicative of a ‘heterotopia of desire’. 


Pattison, H. (2015) ‘How to Desire Differently: Home Education as a Heterotopia’, Journal of Philosophy of Education (pre-published online: 24 MAR 2015)


This article explores the co-existence of, and relationship between, alternative education in the form of home education and mainstream schooling. Home education is conceptually subordinate to schooling, relying on schooling for its status as alternative, but also being tied to schooling through the dominant discourse that forms our understandings of education. Practitioners and other defenders frequently justify home education by running an implicit or explicit comparison with school; a comparison which expresses the desire to do ‘better’ than school whilst simultaneously encompassing the desire to do things differently. These twin aims, however, are not easy to reconcile, meaning that the challenge to schooling and the submission to norms and beliefs that underlie schooling are frequently inseparable. This article explores the trajectories of ‘better than’ and ‘different from’ school as representing ideas of utopia and heterotopia respectively. In particular I consider Foucault’s notion of the heterotopia as a means of approaching the relationship between school and other forms of education. Whilst it will be argued that, according to Derrida’s ideas of discursive deconstruction, alternative education has to be expressed through (and is therefore limited by) the dominant educational discourse, it will also be suggested that employing the idea of the heterotopia is a strategy which can help us explore the alternative in education.


19 August 2015