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Critical historiographies in educational theory: retemporalizing experience 'after' the spatial turn.

O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

--Shakespeare, Hamlet 2.2.258-60

Recourse to history is meaningful to the extent that history serves to show how that which is has not always been; that is, the things which seem most evident to us are always formed in the confluence of encounters and chances, during the course of a precarious and fragile history. What reason perceives as its necessity, or rather what different forms of rationality offer as their necessary being, can perfectly well be shown to have a history; and the network of contingencies from which it emerges can be traced. Which is not to say that these forms of rationality were irrational, it means that they reside on a base of human practice and human history and that since these things have been made, they can be unmade, as long as we know how it was that they were made.

--Michel Foucault, "Critical Theory/Intellectual History," in Recasting the Foucault/Habermas Debate, (ed.) Michael Kelly, Boston: MIT Press, 1994, p. 127.


1. Introduction: Space Also Has a History

Spatialization has almost become as synonym for globalization nowadays, except the discussions are more nuanced and alert to the ways in which different processes of spatialization overlap and help define types of globalization. Contemporary analyses are now more aware of the past obsession with temporal logics from the invention of time-pieces and regulation of daily life to the birth of the novel and the aestheticization of time portrayed in the life-history as the basis for a kind of historical self reflection. Theorists now also understand that social sciences discourses appearing in the nineteenth century were shaped by a preoccupation with the temporal scales and logics of development considered as natural processes, whether cosmological, geological, evolutionary, or historical--as of civilizations, the nation-state, individuals and, even, concepts.

The concept of time that grounded these common conceptions was largely a product of the prevailing technology or the instruments with which we came to measure time with greater scientific precision. This 'technology of time' opened the way towards a naturalization of time intervals--the minute, hour, day, year, and decade intervals, and later, that of the second and nanosecond. To fully understand the current reassertion of space in social theory, to use Edward Soja's (1989) handy characterization, we need to know more precisely the governing conceptions of space and time, both the logics and scales, the measurement systems and their applications that developed during the course of the European Enlightenment and came to dominate German historiography in the nineteenth century and political theory after Kant. These idealist conceptions are still highly influential, defining as they do, notions of both modernization and modernity, and, indeed, together, the future of liberal culture, education and society.

At an AERA (American Education Research Association) symposium 'The Assertion of Space in Educational Theory and Policy' in 2006 I made a series of remarks under the title "'Space' Also Has a History: Spatial Turns in Contemporary Social Theory" where I argued that there have been many spatial turns in social theory since the beginning of the 20th century and that the recent spatial turn should take account of these turns, for in each case the turn was different--it proceeded from different motivations, different methodological and philosophical considerations and that only if we become aware of the historical nature of the spatial turns can we really be self-reflexive. I would now add that these histories of the spatial turn should take the form of critical historiographies. By this term I mean to draw attention to the paradox of being forced to pursue a historical narrative in order to tell a story about spatial turns as an aspect of the intellectual history of Western formalism--of an increasing formalization and mathematicization of conceptions of space and time--that influences and reconstitutes the very practice of history and philosophy of history.

In this context I identified a number of spatial turns in the history of the twentieth century:

1. In linguistic theory with the rise of structuralism and European formalism, beginning in pre-revolutionary Russia 1914-15 with Jacobson, Saussure in Geneva and Pierce in the US (Jacobson coins the term 'structuralism' in 1939 at the first Slavic congress in Prague);

2. In philosophy in different ways with Heidegger in 1930s & '40s (who concentrates on time in relation to being but also space), then Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Beauvoir who theorize 'the body' in terms of 'lived space' (later through various strands this line of phenomenology influences the social sciences);

3. In Marxism scholarship through the work of Lefebvre and Althusser (among others);

4. In history with the Annales school that with Bloch and Braudel takes a comprehensive approach to history introducing space and geography into historical method;

5. In mathematics, through the Bourbaki group who beginning in the 1930s specialized in questions of topography and new vector spaces with the intention of basing mathematics on set theory; (1)

6. In architecture new sense of space generated by the 'international style' and challenges to its geometric universalism through postmodernism and critical regionalism;

7. In poststructuralism, especially with Michel Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard, strongly influenced by Heidegger and the contemporary French tradition;

8. In critical geographies and urban planning (Lefebvre, Harvey, Soja, Massey) space and spatial analysis has become the new desideratum;

9. In globalization studies that theorize the ways in which time, knowledge and capital are spatialized and the effects of new technologies and digitalization in promoting 'time-space' compression;

I argued that if we accept these as specific 'spatial turns' in 20th century social theory--and I think I can make a good case for each of them--then we need to be aware what their respective object of study was--what kind of 'space' and how it was theorized.

In the formation of the social sciences the obsession with time played a significant role in relation to establishing and maintaining disciplinary boundaries. Generally the notion of time tended to be treated as separate from questions of space, although discussion recognized congruity of the concepts of space and time especially in relation to motion. The concept of time as the single notion of 'space-time' only received its scientific statement in mathematics and physics at the turn of the century with Albert Einstein. Up until then the dominant conceptions, especially as they informed philosophy, the humanities and the social sciences, tended to regard time and space as separate and interdependent. In the 'natural philosophy' of the times, from Descartes to Newton, time and space were posited as absolute entities. Only with Einstein's theories of relativity in 1905 and 1916 does the common perception based on his work begin to understand that space and time are relative to the observer.

The German mathematician Hermann Minkowski posited a four-dimensional space in 1907, with time as the fourth dimension, thus defining 'spacetime' as a single independent phenomenon and elegantly expressing the theory of special relativity worked out by Einstein and Lorenz. (2) Minkowski spacetime is the mathematical means by which Einstein's theory of special relativity is generally formulated. Formally speaking the structure of space-time is expressed as a four-dimensional real vector space (a set of four mutually orthogonal vectors) which describes physical systems in terms of causal time-like or space-like structures (see Nabor, 1992). 'Spacetimes' are environments in which physical events take place. Minkowski essentially formulates a conception of space that went beyond the then ruling conception of Euclidean geometric space. Euclidian geometry is based on a generalization of Euclid's concept of distance and related concepts of length and angle that coordinate a system in any dimension, enabling an investigation of its topological qualities. Metric space in mathematics is understood as a set where distance is defined as a relationship between elements. Indeed, one of the prime movers behind developments in concepts of space in the social sciences are developments in mathematics at the turn of the century and, in particular, the field known as topology, which studies properties of spaces such as connectedness, convergence, compactness, and continuity.

Einstein's and Minkowski's conceptions of space radically transformed the landscape of modernism especially the media of visual arts and literature. While Einstein is associated with modernism yet its leading developments in diverse fields with Pablo Picasso, James Joyce and Arnold Schoenberg took place before the popularization of Einstein's views and Einstein himself denied the relationship between his ideas and those current in the arts (Galison, 2008). Yet Linda Henderson (1983) notes in The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, modernist movements in the visual arts became concerned with the representation of four-dimensional spatial realities as determined by time. From Cubism, which still maintained a figurative approach, to the abstractions of Russian suprematism and De Stijl, modern art attempted to depict and form changing spatial and temporal realities. Henderson (1983) argues that Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity (1905) 'invalidate[s] the linear perspective system' of Euclid's assertion that all motion is three-dimensional.

The fourth dimension was a highly popular concept in the early 20th century and figured in the theoretical underpinnings of nearly every Modern art movement functioning as a new code name for the sublime. After Minkowski's mathematization of Einstein's theory, the fourth dimension was not thought of as 'time' itself but rather a higher geometric dimension signifying the evolution of 'cosmic consciousness,' prompting the need for new forms of language in art, music, literature and philosophy to transcend the traditional Euclidean world. Cubism became dedicated to eradicating the limitations of the one-view perspective and Apollinaire argued for an artistic fourth dimension in his 1911 Paris lecture 'La peinture moderne' published in April and May issues of Les Soirees de Paris (1912), speaking of a dimension that 'represents the immensity of space eternalizing itself in all directions at any given moment. It is space itself, the dimension of the infinite; the fourth dimension endows objects with plasticity.' (3)

The spatial turn in contemporary social theory has gone through a number of theoretical manifestations largely emanating from the increasing mathematization, abstraction and formalization of space and time in everyday life, due to the conception of 'spacetime' and its filtered cultural adoption and adaptation in aesthetics and the succession of avant-gardes, and in the humanities, arts and social sciences. The relation between the science of linguistics, mathematics and topology is one of the driving logics for the development of structuralism as an aspect of European formalism beginning in pre-revolutionary Russia (see Peters, 1996, Ch. 1) and spreading across the disciplines in physics, mathematics (especially, the Bourbaki group), biology, linguistics, poetics, art, cultural theory and epistemology (see Piaget, 1970). Spatial turns can also be witnessed in phenomenology with its focus on the body (e.g., Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre), in the geography-centered Annales school (Bloch, Febvre, Braudel), and in revitalized traditionally spatial disciplines such as architecture, urban planning and geography (Lefebvre, Harvey, Soja, Massey).

The connecting links between the Bourbaki group in mathematics and structuralism, including thinkers like Levi-Strauss and Piaget deserve special mention. Bourbaki (1950: 231) described 'The Architecture of Mathematics' in terms of mathematical structures:
   From the axiomatic point of view, mathematics appears thus as a
   storehouse of abstract forms--the mathematical structures; and
   it so happens--without our knowing how--that certain aspects
   of empirical reality fit themselves into these forms, as if through
   a kind of preadaptation.

David Aubin (1997), a French cultural historian of science and mathematics, writing of the confluence of mathematics and structuralism in France documents how Andre Weil, one of the founders of Bourbaki, wrote an appendix for Levi-Strauss' Elementary Structures of Kinship and how Queneau's experimental literary group Oulipo explored the possibility of language directly inspired by Bourbaki.

After the publication of Levi-Strauss' Structural Anthropology in 1958 'two interdisciplinary conferences were held in 1959 with the explicit aim of mapping out the meaning of "structure"' where 'notions of mathematical structure, especially Bourbaki's, figured prominently' (p. 314). Even though the notion of structure for Bourbaki as an axiomatized collection of relationships between elements of a set Bourbaki's influence on 1960s French structuralism slipped back into folklore. Unlike the French structuralists Jean Piaget the Swiss 'genetic epistemologist' took Bourbaki and mathematical structures seriously commenting in his Structuralism (1968, 1970: 17): 'A critical account of structuralism must begin with a consideration of mathematic structures'. Piaget's own reflections on the importance of mathematical structure in children's thinking were directly influenced by a conversation he had with Einstein. As he says in his series of lectures on Genetic Epistemology (1968) the field tries to explain knowledge 'on the basis of its history, its sociogenesis, and especially the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based.' (4) In the course of this lecture Piaget mentions Bourbaki in the following terms:
   A few years ago the Bourbaki group of mathematicians attempted to
   isolate the fundamental structures of all mathematics. They
   established three mother structures: an algebraic structure, a
   structure of ordering, and a topological structure, on which the
   structuralist school of mathematics came to be based, and which was
   seen as the foundation of all mathematical structures, from which
   all others were derived.


In the course of the lecture he suggests that the history of knowledge is inseparable from the body of knowledge consider in terms of continual transformation and reorganization which implies that imply that historical and psychological factors are relevant to understanding the nature of scientific knowledge. In offering examples to illustrate this thesis he mentions Russell and Whitehead's notion that number is the class of equivalent classes and also Einstein's definition of simultaneity at a distance. In this context he recounts
   Einstein himself recognized the relevance of psychological factors,
   and when I had the good chance to meet him for the first time in
   1928, he suggested to me that is would be of interest to study the
   origins in children of notions of time and in particular of notions
   of simultaneity. (ibid)

Educationalist will recognize that Piaget's fundamental hypothesis of genetic epistemology that there is a parallelism between the logical and rational organization of knowledge and the corresponding formative psychological processes and that we can study this ontogenesis in the development of children's thinking. On the basis of forty year of experimentation he came to believe that thought processes in children's thinking were highly structured, modeled on ideal logico-mathematical structures including different types of transformation driven by propositional calculus. Piaget had made such claims as early as 1950 and publicized these claims at a series of conference held in Paris in 1959. After he met Jean Dieudonne, one of the founders of the Bourbaki group, and studied 'The Architecture of Mathematics' as Aubin's notes, 'Piaget realized that the structures that he had been talking about could be equated with Bourbaki's mother structures' (p. 319). He also realized as he put it in Structuralism (Piaget, 1970) commending Bourbaki, all mathematics was subordinated to the idea of structure.

As the influence of Bourbaki's structuralism began to wane ironically it was Rene Thom and Benoit Mandlebrot who, responding to Levi-Strauss' call for genuine two-way collaboration, drew on the resources of structural linguistics in order to oppose Bourbaki and to theorize new morphogenetic dynamic structures characterizing fractal geometry and, chaos and catastrophe theory (Aubin, 1998). Yet while Bourbaki also clearly influenced Michel Serres' early work, Thom's 'catastrophes' and Mandlebrot's 'fractals' would replace Bourbaki's 'structures' in the work of the later Serres and Jean-Francois Lyotard. To Lyotard, as Audin notes, Thom and Mandlebrot was used to characterize 'postmodern science'. Remember Lyotard (1984: 3) first suggests that for the
   last forty years the 'leading' sciences and technologies have had
   to do with language: phonology and theories of linguistics,
   problems of communication and cybernetics, modern theories of
   algebra and informatics, computers and their languages, problems of
   translation and the search for areas of compatibility among
   computer languages, problems of information storage and data banks,
   telematics and the perfection of intelligent terminals, to

Later he uses Thom and Mandlebrot to point to 'postmodern science [that] ... by concerning itself with such things as undecidables, the limits of precise control, conflicts characterized by incomplete information, "fracta", catastrophes, and pragmatic paradoxes--is theorizing its own evolution as discontinuous, catastrophic, nonrectifiable, and paradoxical' (p. 60).

Lyotard (orig. 1979, 1984) combined the analysis of postmodernism with postindustrialism, reviving all the sociological theory of (post)industrialism that can be traced back to the first critiques of industrial political economy around the concept of alienated labor (Marx), ecology, arts and crafts (Morris), technology (Heidegger) and at the same time he projected it into the future, anticipating discourses of the knowledge and creative economies that make higher education and research central 'industries' or leading economic sectors. His poststructuralism driven more by Thom's and Mandlebrot's 'postmodern science' also provided the grounds for the critique of the knowledge/information economies at least in its neoliberal forms in terms of 'perfomativity' which was essential a second generation systems analysis based on an understanding of the spatialization of knowledge.

It was Ilya Prigogine's (1961, 1977, 1984) work on dissipative structures which led to progress on self-organizing systems and later his work on the mathematical role of determinism in linear systems represented a departure from classical mechanics of Einstein to insist that determinism in physics denies the 'arrow of time.' With the introduction of irreversibility such as occurs in processes of diffusion or in weather systems Prigogine argues the arrow of time becomes relevant again. Prigogine's work on the discovery of self-organization of non-equilibrium systems showed the constructive role played by irreversible processes in the physical world indicating the unidirectional time of a wide range of phenomena are accompanied by self-organization. His work thus provides a bridge for a dialogue between science and understanding of cultural and technological phenomena like information technology, the 'networked society' and globalization. (5)

Geographers such as David Harvey (1990) have been to the forefront, in particular, in examining and explaining 'time-space compression' as part of the postmodern condition. The change in the human experience of space and time is for Harvey the most important cultural change in the transformation from Fordism to flexible accumulation--and from modernity to postmodernity. His analysis of time-space compression is linked to an analysis of the capitalist system and he argues that with the advent of the speed of faster telecommunications the production of real commodities ceased to be essential to the system and the financial system simultaneously became global at the same time as becoming de-linked to the production of real commodities.

2. New Geographies of Space

Spatial analysis is a pressing set of theoretical and empirical issues for educational theory because it has been dominated by temporal logics and metaphors since its inception--from the staged development of children's cognition to the educational modernization of the State. (6) Recently, work in educational policy has employed sophisticated theorizations of space to understand the spatial politics of education emphasizing the importance of the local, place and the significance of developments in specific sites. This work reflects both the influence of poststructuralism and the 'new geography' in their investigations of the dimensions of 'neoliberal spatial technologies, geographies of school exclusion, spatial readings of disability, and the spatial politics of educational privatization in the form of the US home schooling movement. (7)

There is a latent tension between a humanist phenomenological time-oriented Marxism and poststructuralism that reflect a larger set of differences not only within geography but social theory itself. The old divisions between structuralism and phenomenology reappear with humanist Marxist approaches indebted to Lefebvre, among others, emphasizing space as a lived experience and a notion of agency, while 'poststructuralist' thought tends to emphasize larger system-like arrangements, cybernetics and even the influence of biological and evolutionary models, drawing on chaos and complexity theory to depict non-linear dynamical and self-organizing systems. (8) To understand these developments and their effects in education we need to turn to influence of new geographies as the sciences of human space and the inherent tensions between phenomenological and poststructuralist versions.

Deborah Dixon and John Paul Jones III (2005) in their introduction to 'Derridean Geographies' in an issue of Antipode (advertised as 'A Radical Journal of Geography' (9)) begin by noting
   the decidedly awkward introduction of Derridean thought to
   geography in the 1990s, when work that labeled itself as
   'poststructuralist' or 'post-modern,' as well as a host of concepts
   and methods under the heading of 'social theory' and 'literary
   theory,' were increasingly deployed as a means of critiquing the
   ontological presumptions and claims to scientific rigor of what
   were then considered to be the dominant 'paradigms' within the
   discipline, namely spatial science, critical realist/Marxist, and
   humanist geographies (p. 242).

Clive Barnett in 'Life after Derrida' in the same issue argues:
   Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a persistent complaint about
   Derrida concerned the absence in his work of any substantive
   engagement with Marx or Marxism. When he finally relented in the
   1990s, the puzzlement set off by Specters of Marx (a book all about
   ghosts), only made it clear that the demand that Derrida 'do' Marx
   was never really an invitation to engage, but always more of a
   demand to conform (p. 239).

Harvey himself is part of the problem even though he drew on Foucault and Certeau in his wonderfully rich descriptions of the experience of space and time in his Condition of Postmodernity, he had really returned to Lefebvre and Bourdieu to pit a humanist Marxist conception against 'postmodern' accounts which, for him, were already defined as part of the problem--postmodern reality as a kind of 'disruptive spatiality' that destroys the coherence of perspective, the unity of daily life and fragments identity. There is no disputing the power of Harvey's analyses of the experience of space: the emphasis on space by modern aesthetic theory; the relation between spatialization and representation; individual spaces and different spatial approaches to our social existence; symbolic orderings of time and space; time and space as sources of social power; the time and space of the Enlightenment project; and time-space compression, the rise of modernism as a cultural force, and the postmodern condition. Yet Harvey falsely polarizes Marxist humanism and phenomenology on the one hand and poststructuralist accounts of space of the other, without acknowledging the intricacies of the debate.

It is necessary to return to Henri Lefebvre's (1991 [1974]) The Production of Space to witness its magnetic influence on a generation of architects, geographers and urban planners, including Harvey. (10) Lefebvre developed a radical phenomenology of space within a humanist Marxist framework that emphasized a critique of 'spatial alienation' (Guy Debord's term) that comes about as a result of the creation and administration of capitalist abstract space that imposes and reinforces a social homogeneity. He begins his magnum opus with exactly this thought: 'Not so many years ago space had a strictly geometrical meaning: the idea it evoked was simply that of an empty space.' As he goes on to say, space became purely a mathematical concept and 'to speak of "social space" would, therefore, sounded strange' (p. 1).

Lefebvre discusses the philosophy of space in the work of Descartes and Kant and the concept's gradual emancipation from traditional metaphysics, (where it was regarded as absolute and one of the categories), to its modern mathematical and scientific forms, and also its status as a 'mental thing' in contemporary epistemology. He criticizes Foucault (together with Kristeva, Derrida and Barthes) for his concept of space that never bridges the gap between the theoretical and the practical, the mental and the social, and the space between philosophers and people. He complains that the idea of 'man' is conspicuous by its absence and, by contrast, goes on to develop a concept of 'lived space' that must be reappropriated and won back from capitalist control and domination.

It is helpful to locate Lefebvre within the Situationist International and in terms of the triangle of influence consisting of Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche. (11) In interview with Kristine Ross, Lefebvre (1997) explains that the Situationist (based on 'situations' like 'moments' in English) started with COBRA, a Nordic group of architects, including Constant Nieuwenhuys and Asger Jorn, who wanted to 'renew the action of art of life' through the production of utopian spaces. It was this stimulus and the idea that architecture could transform daily life that led Lefebvre to write Critique of Everyday Life developing a core Marxist humanism that critiques the alienation and celebrates spontaneity, play and self-expression inspired by readings of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. (12) This is the basis of Lefebvre's 'rights to space' and 'rights to the city' that has inspired the UNESCO-led World Charter on the Right to the City which 'seeks to (1) promote equal access to the potential benefits of the city for all urban dwellers, (2) encourage the democratic participation of all urban dwellers in decision-making processes, notably on the municipal level, so that (3) urban inhabitants may fully realize their fundamental rights and liberties.' (13) Rob Shields (2002) explains:
   the 'perceived space' ('le percu') of everyday social life and
   commonsensical perception blends popular action and outlook but is
   often ignored in the professional, and theoretical 'conceived
   space' ('le concu') of cartographers, urban planners, or property
   speculators. Nonetheless, the person who is fully human (l'homme
   totale) also dwells in a 'lived space' ('le vecu') of the
   imagination and moments which has been kept alive and accessible by
   the arts and literature. This 'third' space not only transcends but
   has the power to refigure the balance of popular 'perceived space'
   and the 'conceived space' of arrogant professionals and greedy
   capitalists. (

As Shields also explains the true coordinates of Lefebvre's thought thus are the contemporary avant-garde, not only Dada and Dadaism but also the Surrealists and particularly the work of Rene Magritte which Lefebvre believed had the power the call forth new, creative and potentially revolutionary spatializations. The problem was that Lefebvre did not reconceptualize the body but remained within an unreconstructed phenomenology of the body that did not take account of either the poststructuralist critique of humanism (inspired by Heidegger's (1949) 'Letter on Humanism') or the gendered, cultural and socially situated spaces of bodies. (14)

Harvey, strongly influenced by Jameson's (1991) Marxist account of postmodernism as the culture of late capitalism, reads postmodernism back onto the latest round of time-space compression as the condition for flexible accumulation. This very popular Marxist reading that refused to draw distinctions between postmodernism and poststructuralism, or, in its crudest versions, did not differentiate postmodernism in the arts from postmodernism in architecture or literature, tended to tell a story that privileged Marxism as the superior master discourse especially in its spatial register that provided an all-embracing analysis of everything, including the theorists labeled poststructuralist whom were often lumped together and treated as postmodern ephemera. This polarization had already taken place between Habermas and Lyotard, and Habermas and Foucault and Derrida. It was a damaging debate for the humanities and social sciences that presented itself in rhetorical terms and the force of which petered out as the 1980s and 1990s rolled by. Habermas (1983) who regarded modernity as an incomplete project and likened 'poststructuralists' to the young conservatives of the Weimar Republic, considerably soften his position as time went by so much so that he could concede in an obituary to Foucault (once critiqued as 'presentistic, relativistic, and cryptonormative') that praised his genealogical thinking (Habermas, 1987) and a decade later contribute to a book with his arch-rival Derrida entitled Philosophy in an Age of Terror (Borradori et al, 2003).

While Harvey (1999) could write with irony of his own constructive reading of Marx he, nevertheless, in some ways misses the point regarding contemporary French theorists, focusing on their 'fashionability' rather than on the potency of their ideas and, in particular, their distinctive contribution to an analysis of the power relations constituting the production of social space:
   Each generation cultivates its particular set of intellectual
   heroines and heroes. It would be churlish of me to begrudge the
   younger generation their choice of such figures. Did I not
   construct Marx in such a role? And while there is a certain
   lemming-like fashion ability these days in the rush to embrace the
   likes of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Butler, Lacan et
   al., it would be equally churlish of me to suggest that there is
   nothing to be gained from the study of such eminent thinkers (p.

This barely suppressed anti-poststructuralist attitude which was more pronounced and even institutionalized in the British than in the American academy during the 1970s and 1980s, and stronger in some disciplines than others, has postponed the formal analysis at the expense of rhetoric and denied the active engagement and dialogue between poststructuralism and radical Marxist humanist geography on the question of space. (15) Any casual reading of French structuralism would pick up the significance of the question of space which served to emphasize the synchronic reading of structures even at the expense of the diachronic and later insisted on the transformation of structures, their flexibility, mutability, and family resemblances. (16) What is more, contemporaneously, French theory at once spatial and structuralist in epistemological terms came to view cultural, social, national and political structures in relation to the self and the body, providing a relational view that acted as a counterpoint to the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger, and the existentialism of Sartre. Poststructuralism, as part of the development of European formalism, displays certain affinities with structuralism in extending the critique of the Cartesian-Kantian self, first critiquing 'human nature', denaturalizing its essence, temporalizing its form, and, finally, spatializing the self by focusing on the embodied self (see Peters 2004a; 2006a). (17) There is also another aspect of the spatialization of the 'distributed self' (or 'networked self') which brings together in the new digital media environment concepts of networks, practices and textuality in ways that emphasize multimodal literacies and the radical concordance of image, text and sound.

3. Retemporalizing Experience 'After' the Spatial Turn

By 'retemporalizing experience' I mean to refer to the paradox of critical historiographies I mentioned briefly above and to witness and contemplate the influence of structuralism on historical narrative--dare I say, the 'spatialization of history.' I can think of no better explanation of this paradox than that of Roland Barthes (orig. 1967, 1989) who writes at the end of his celebrated 'The Discourse of History':
   History's refusal to assume the real as signified (or again, to
   detach the referent from its mere assertion) led it, as we
   understand, at the privileged point when it attempted to form
   itself into a genre in the nineteenth century, to see in the 'pure
   and simple' relation of the facts the best proof of those facts,
   and to institute narration as the privileged signifier of the real.
   Augustin Thierry became the theoretician of this narrative style of
   history, which draws its 'truth' from the careful attention to
   narration, the architecture of articulations and the abundance of
   expanded elements (known, in this case, as 'concrete details'). So
   the circle of paradox is complete. Narrative structure, which was
   originally developed within the cauldron of fiction (in myths and
   the first epics) becomes at once the sign and the proof of reality.
   In this connection, we can also understand how the relative lack of
   prominence (if not complete disappearance) of narration in the
   historical science of the present day, which seeks to talk of
   structures and not of chronologies, implies much more than a mere
   change in schools of thought. Historical narration is dying because
   the sign of History from now on is no longer the real, but the

Barthes begins his account with a linguistic analysis of Jacobson's shifters and their role in the act of uttering in distinction to signifieds in the utterance and in history enabling him to identify two forms of history: the metaphorical form that borders upon the lyrical and symbolic; and the metonymic form resemble the epic. In addition, he identifies 'strategic history' 'tries to reproduce in the structure of the discourse the structure of the choices lived through by the protagonists of the process described', a history where reasoning is dominant and reflexive.

In 'objective history', Barthes writes, the 'real' is nothing but an unformulated concept (signified), sheltering behind the omnipotent words that express it (referent). This is 'the reality effect': by constantly asserting this happened, historical discourse satisfies our civilization's taste for the 'reality effect' evident in documentaries, realistic novels, photography, and museums. In this occasional essay Barthes is applying Jakobson's concepts of structural linguistics--'shifters'--to conditions of 'utterance' that characterize historical narrative. It is an attempt to introduce his semiotics and linguistics first developed in Elements de semiologie into historical discourse. History as Paul Veyne, Michel de Certeau and Michel Foucault in France and Hayden White in the US, demonstrate is a 'kind of writing' that cannot grant history a status that differentiates it from fiction to abolish 'mythic time'.


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University of Waikato

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


(1.) See Aczel's (2006) book on the story of the Bourbaki group based on the fictional character Nicholas Bourbaki who was responsible for the 'new math' that sweep American education and other education systems around the world. Aczel links the Bourbaki program of abstraction with the rise of abstract art and with the contemporary structuralist movements in linguistics, as exemplified by the ideas of Claude Levi-Strauss, Roman Jakobson, and Roland Barthes, and of the structuralist movement that went on to invade the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and economics. Piaget (1973) was very influenced by Boubaki and suggests that those patterns of thought used to explain cognitive development were modeled on the mathematical "mother structures" found by Bourbaki.

(2.) In a lecture delivered before the Naturforscher Versammlung (Congress of Natural Philosophers) at Cologne on the 21st September, 1908 Minkowski begins 'The conceptions about time and space, which I hope to develop before you to-day, has grown on experimental physical grounds. Herein lies its strength. The tendency is radical. Henceforth, the old conception of space for itself, and time for itself shall reduce to a mere shadow, and some sort of union of the two will be found consistent with facts.' He shows how we can arrive at a change conception of space and time in mechanics from 'purely mathematical considerations alone', see Scott Walter (1999) provides a history of the reception of Minkowski's Cologne paper and the 'audacious attempt' to change the way scientists understood the principle of relativity expressing itself in a mathematic principle that 'lent itself to a geometric conception, in terms of the intersections of worldliness in spacetime'.

(3.) Later published as chapters in Apollinaire's (1913) Lespeintres cubists.

(4.) This quote comes from the first lecture available at reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/piaget.htm.

(5.) See the YouTube video on globalization and complexity at

(6.) I first commented on these matters in a chapter entitled 'Architecture of Resistance: Education and the "Politics of Space,"' written over ten years ago for a book entitled Poststructuralism, Politics and Education (Peters, 1996) where I investigated the poststructuralist critique of subject-centered reason, both historically and theoretically, against the background of the modernity/postmodernity and 'information society' debates and the rise of neoliberalism. Then, strongly influenced by Foucault's essays on space, I was concerned to look at both architecture and geography as providing two disciplinary models for examining the 'politics of space'. See also my essay Peters (2004) 'Critical Spaces: Geographies of Resistance in Critical Pedagogic Practices' in Richard Edwards & Robin Usher (Eds.), Spatiality, Curriculum and Learning.

(7.) 'The Assertion of Space in Educational Theory and Policy', AERA 2006: 'Education, Policy, and Governance: The Spacing and Placing of Difference', Felicity Armstrong (Institute of Education-London); Neoliberal Spatial Technologies in the Inner City: Absent Middle Classes, Education Markets, and Urban Renewal, Kalervo N. Gulson (Charles Sturt University); The Spatial Politics of Educational Privatization: Constructing the U.S. Homeschooling Movement, Claudia Hanson Thiem (University of Wisconsin-Madison); The Power-Geometries of the Modern English School, Pat Lorna Thomson (The University of Nottingham); 'Space' Also Has a History: Spatial Turns in Contemporary Social Theory, Michael Peters (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).

(8.) The advocacy of biology in relation to poststructuralism may seem strange. Lyotard (1984) talked of 'local determinism', complexity theory etc; Foucault explicitly uses conceptions like 'bio-power'; Derrida draws on cybernetics and biological analogies.

(9.) Antipode has consistently introduced and themes of the 'new cultural geography' foregrounding issues in geographies of exclusions, gender, race based around poststructuralism, postmodernism and postcolonialism. See http://www.envplan. com/epd/epd_current.html.

(10.) Harvey writes the 'Afterword' for the English translation by the one-time Situationist Donald Nicholson-Smith, who also translated Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle and Anselm Jappe's Guy Debord.

(11.) See Eldon (2001; 2004).

(12.) Lefebvre publishes an anti-fascist reading of Nietzsche in 1939 and later emphasizes the revolutionary potential of play that parallels both Lyotard's 'libidinal economy,' and Deleuze and Guattari's account of 'desiring machines'. Lefebvre (1991) writes 'only Nietzsche, since Hegel, has maintained the primordiality of space and concerned himself with the spatial problematic' and 'Nietzschean space preserves not a single feature of the Hegelian view of space as product and residue of historical time.'

(13.) See the UNESCO discussion paper 'Urban Policies and the Right to the City' at _SECTION=201.html

(14.) Edward Soja's 'Thirdspace' is a conception borrowed from Lefebvre which consists in projects that combine the material, sociological or ethnographic analysis of actual lived spaces and built environments with textual analyses of imagined or figurative spaces. In this light and with similar motivations I suggest 'edutopologies/edutopographies' as the disciplinary matrix that provides some lines for radical interdisciplinarity that characterize the papers in this symposium: 1. Textual spaces/ spaces of representation (Literary Studies); 2. Embodied and gendered spaces--spaces of identity (Philosophy; Feminism; Anthropology); 3. Institutional and dwelling spaces (Architecture); 4. The city, the region, the country (Geography; Urban Planning); 5. Globalization and transnational spaces (Economics; Cultural Studies); 6. Spaces of history--colonial spaces (History); 7. Imaginary spaces (Utopian Studies); 8. Topological spaces (Discrete Mathematics); 9. The space of migrations, diasporas, flows (Migration studies); 10. The technologies of networked spaces (Information studies).

(15.) In Poststructuralism, Marxism and Neoliberalism (Peters, 2001) I argued that poststructuralism is neither anti-structuralist nor anti-Marxist and demonstrated this through an engagement with specific texts to illustrate the relation of Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida and Deleuze to Marxism.

(16.) One only has to read the French epistemologists Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem who theorized 'the spatialization of knowledge' long before Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and strongly influenced Foucault. A number of works are canonical texts on space in the poststructuralist tradition, including: Bachelard's Poetics of Space which was first published in 1957 (translated in 1964) and was specifically concerned with understanding the psychodynamics of existential space; Maurice Merleau-Ponty's The Phenomenology of Perception (original French, 1945); and Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (German, 1927) and his essay 'Building Dwelling Thinking' (German, 1954).

(17.) Relatively late in the development of body theory, writing an editorial devoted to an issue on the body in Antipode, Felicity J. Callard (1998) suggested that 'Geographers are now taking the problematic of corporeality seriously. "The body" is becoming a preoccupation in the geographical literature, and is a central figure around which to base political demands, social analyses, and theoretical investigations.' This issue also contained David Harvey's (1998) essay 'The body as an accumulation strategy' which outlines a Marxist theory of body formation under capitalism.
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Author:Peters, Michael A.
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Date:Jul 1, 2011
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