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space, human geography and

  The production of geographical knowledge has always involved claims to know \'space\' in particular ways. Historically, special importance has been attached to the power to fix the locations of events, places and phenomena on the surface of the earth and to represent these on maps. The extension of these capacities involved a series of instrumental, mathematical and graphical advances, but these innovations were also political technologies that were implicated in the production of particular constellations of power. As such they carried within them highly particular conceptions of space that were always more than purely technical constructions (see also cartography, history of). This recognition of an intricate connection between power, knowledge and geography has transformed the ways in which the contemporary discipline of human geography has conceptualized space. A suite of concepts has been developed to address what Allen (1997, 1999) calls \'spatial assemblages of power\'. These elaborations have significant repercussions for concepts like location, place, region and territory, but in what follows attention is directed towards \'plenary\' concepts of space within which these more specific concepts may be convened.

Richard Hartshorne\'s influential inquiry into The nature of geography (1939) occupies a strange position within modern geographical discourses about space. To Hartshorne areal differentiation was the pivot and pinnacle of geographical inquiry, and he treated geography as a \'correlative discipline\' whose research methodology involved making comparisons between maps in order to disclose \'the functional integration of phenomena\' over space. Yet Hartshorne\'s original text provided little or no systematic discussion of the concept of space on which his prospectus depended, and even his subsequent genealogy of geography as one of the \'spatial sciences\' (with astronomy and geophysics) failed to elucidate the conceptual basis of his claim. What preoccupied Hartshorne (1958) was the recovery of a line of descent from Kant through Humboldt to Hettner, and by implication its culmination in his own work, and yet the ways in which these writers conceptualized space was never allowed to become a problem. Like most of his peers within the discipline, Hartshorne simply took it for granted that space (like time) was a universal of human existence, an external coordinate of reality, an empty grid of mutually exclusive points, \'an unchanging box\' within which objects exist and events occur: all of which is to say that he privileged the concept of absolute space (Smith, 1984, pp. ix, 67-8; see also Kantianism).

While it became commonplace to treat space as \'the basic organizing concept of the geographer\' (Whittlesey, in James and Jones, 1954), in North American and British geography at any rate, Hartshorne\'s critics fastened on the way in which he had taken a specific concept of space and elevated it into a single and supposedly universal concept of space. Although Schaefer (1953) objected to the exceptionalism of Hartshorne\'s views, he none the less agreed that \'spatial relations are the ones that matter in geography and no others\'. The significant difference for most of Hartshorne\'s critics was that \'spatial relations\' were now to be defined between objects and events (not between the fixed points of a coordinate system) and thereby made relative to the objects and events that constituted a spatial system or spatial structure. This substituted a concept of relative space whose elucidation required a more complex geometry, and for this reason spatial analysis — the preferred research methodology of many of Hartshorne\'s critics — involved a process of abstraction in which \'physical space [was] superseded by mathematical space\' (Smith, 1984, pp. 68-73). This intellectual project promised to turn geography into a truly formal spatial science in the prosecution of which many geographers seemed to accept Sigwart\'s claim: \'That there is more order in the world than appears at first sight is not discovered till that order is looked for\' (cited in Haggett, 1965, p. 2). This was used to demarcate a new research frontier — a \'new geography\' — whose explorer-scientists were animated by the conviction that there was an intrinsically and essentially spatial order to the world: that spatial science made it possible to disclose — to make visible — the spatiality of the natural and the social in ways that were literally overlooked by the other sciences. At the limit, some of the principal architects of spatial science held out the tantalizing prospect of an autonomous science of the spatial in which physical geography and human geography would be articulated around the central place of geometry: as Bunge (1962) wrote in his Theoretical geography, \'The science of space [geography] finds the logic of space [geometry] a sharp tool.\'

Yet many human geographers became increasingly uncomfortable at these claims for what some critics called spatial fetishism — treating social relations as purely spatial relations — and what Sack (1974) called a spatial separatism. The subsequent critique of spatial science was many-stranded, but most of the original objections can be made to revolve around Olsson\'s (1974) deceptively simple claim that the statements of spatial science revealed more about the language its protagonists were talking in than the world they were talking about. Criticism of this kind licensed a general retreat from formal language systems like geometry (whose elements have unassigned meanings: in principle the points and lines and surfaces can refer to anything) towards ordinary language systems (whose elements have assigned meanings). This movement involved an interrogation of the substantive processes that were inscribed on and which operated through the production of spatial systems and spatial structures. In this way geography reclaimed its classical etymology — \'earth-writing\' — by exploring the process-domains of (for example) political economy and social theory, and by tracing the marks that these social processes left on the surface of the earth. From such a perspective, concepts of space were not to be adjudicated by appeals to the courts of Philosophy or Science but through the conduct of social practices. As Harvey (1973, p. 14) put it, \'The question “what is space?” is therefore replaced by the question “how is it that different human practices create and make use of distinctive conceptualizations of space?”\' This trades on a somewhat different concept of \'relative space\'. Critical of the objectivism that characterized spatial science, this approach developed what is sometimes called a relational concept of space in which space is \'folded into\' social relations through practical activities (see Harvey, 1996).

Harvey\'s original question admitted no single answer. Some geographers chose to consider the production of \'material, concrete spaces\' while others were more interested in the production of \'imagined, symbolic spaces\' (the reason for those quotation marks will become clear below). For all these differences, however, there was a general convergence on the socialization of spatial analysis and, hard on its heels, the spatialization of social analysis: like simultaneous equations, each was seen to require the other (Gregory and Urry, 1985; see also Cox, 1995; Sheppard, 1995).

Many of the first and formative attempts to reconceptualize space in these terms owed much to a (re)reading of historical materialism which sought to show how Marx\'s political economy of capitalism depended on the production of a space-economy that he himself never explicitly theorized (Harvey, 1982). Harvey described this project as an \'historico-geographical materialism\', which to Soja (1989, p. 78) implied a socio-spatial dialectic between \'the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the mode of production\'. Soja\'s formulations were derived, in part, from Lefebvre\'s theses about the production of space, which were also the inspiration for another dialectic proposed between \'space\' and \'place\' (cf. Tuan, 1977). Following Lefebvre (1991), Merrifield (1993) treated space under capitalism as \'the realm of dispassionate “objects” rationally “ordered in space”\', as \'the realm of flows of capital, money, commodities and information\', which Lefebvre called the realm of the conceived, whereas place under capitalism \'comprises the locus and a sort of stopping of these flows\', which Lefebvre called the realm of the lived (cf. Castells, 1983).

These contributions to a Marxist geography emphasized the importance of constructing a materialist history of space that was capable of grounding specific concepts of space in specific social formations. So, for example:

The emergence of capitalist social relations in Europe brought a very specific set of social and political shifts that established absolute space as the premise of hegemonic social practices. The inauguration of private property as the general basis of the social economy, and the division of land into privately held and demarcated plots; the juridicial assumption of the individual body as the basic social unit; the progressive, outward expansion of European hegemony through the conquest, colonization and defence of new territories; the division of global space into mutually exclusive nation-states: these and other shifts marked the emerging space-economy of capitalism from the sixteenth century onwards and represented a powerful enactment of absolute space as the geographical basis for social intercourse. (Smith and Katz, 1993, p. 75)In his landmark study of uneven development, Smith (1984, pp. 69-90) had described capitalism as a continuous but jagged process of expansion into \'absolute space\' — through the advances of colonialism and imperialism — until those absolute spaces were differentiated and transformed within the production of a larger and highly unstable \'relative space\'. What Smith and Katz (1993) now emphasized was the way in which these material productions were elaborated in ideological registers, thereby forging a powerful connection between \'material\' and \'metaphorical\' spaces.

These were all significant ideas, but these theorizations of space were interrupted, extended and reworked through other politico-intellectual traditions. Some thinkers were suspicious of the ways in which accounts deriving from historical materialism seemed to privilege capitalism as their explanatory locus — in particular its economic structures and its grid of class relations — and so failed to properly register the ways in which the production of space was caught up in the production of \'race\', gender and sexuality (see, for example, feminist geographies). Others were critical of classical Marxism\'s reluctance to recognize the significance of cultural formations, cultural practices and cultural politics in the production, interpretation and transformation of space (see cultural geography). For this reason many critics turned to other philosophical traditions to clarify the practical importance of language and meaning, of experience and subjectivity, and the ways in which space is embedded within all of them: that is, the \'spaces of being-in-the-world\' (Strohmayer, 1998; see also Pickles, 1985; Schatzki, 1991; cf. phenomenology). So-called \'western Marxism\' was always much more responsive to these considerations, but its avowed \'westernness\' made theorizations of space conducted under its sign vulnerable to charges of Eurocentrism (Slater, 1992).

Through these intersecting contributions and debates many of the assumptions underwriting both spatial science and its successor projects summarized in the previous paragraphs have been revisited and substantially revised. The international journal Society and Space was founded in 1983 to foster the multiple, interdisciplinary conversations that were emerging in the discursive spaces between the socialization of spatial analysis and the spatialization of social analysis. The most significant contributions to re-theorizing space in these terms have concerned both (a) epistemology and (b) ontology.

(a) Human geographers have become much more interested in the ways in which claims to knowledge about space have been registered.

In the first place, rather than passing over the visual preoccupations and privileges of spatial science (\'looking for order\'), human geographers have returned to them and sought to understand the cultural construction of vision as visuality (see vision and visuality). They have filed nuanced accounts of the connections between claims to knowledge and the metaphorics of vision (\'observation\', for example, or \'evidence\' from the Latin videre, \'to see\'); of the constitution of the grids of power and political technologies through which particular visual practices are socially structured and legitimized (\'scopic regimes\'); and of the ways in which gender, sexuality and desire are implicated in visual appropriations of the world. These contributions have been centrally concerned with the production of spaces within which the world is made visible from specific vantage points in specific ways: with the connections between scopic regimes and the formation of spaces of constructed visibility (Rajchman, 1991) and with the geographies of presence and absence that they make possible (Strohmayer, 1997). Ideas like these have revised traditional conceptions of the ways in which landscape and maps function as representations — as orderings — of space, redescribing their naturalization as the product of cultural practices, and more generally have called into question the systems of power written into the discipline\'s claims to know the world by rendering it as a transparent space. Critics have argued that this epistemology involves human geography in analytical gestures that install — through a particular, highly partial conception of space — both a colonizing \'white mythology\' and a masculinism (see Rose, 1993; Gregory, 1994; cf. situated knowledge).

In the second place, rather than enforcing the radical separation between \'words\' and \'things\' that was central to Olsson\'s critique of spatial science, many human geographers have instead tried to understand the \'object-constituting\' and performative dimensions of discourse. Drawing on the post-structuralism of Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari and others, and on the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan, Irigaray and others, much of this work has sought to show how the production of spaces enters into the co-production of human subjects (see subject formation, geographies of). These themes were not inimical to Lefebvre\'s (1991) theorizations of the production of space — though he was critical of both post-structuralism and psychoanalytic theory (Pile, 1996; Gregory, 1997) — but they have been developed in ways that interrupt and undo the dualisms around which any \'dialectics of space\' revolves. It is perfectly true that constellations of power and knowledge are typically elaborated through a spatial system of inclusions and exclusions: most generally, through the demarcation of a \'space of the Same\' from which \'the Other\' is supposedly excluded (Foucault, 1975; see also Philo, 1992). But a common critical response is now to call these boundary-making and boundary-marking exercises to account — to denaturalize them by disclosing their cultural constitution and consequences — and at the same time to break open (literally to \'delimit\') the \'space of the Same\'. This involves recognizing the presence of the Other within the space of the Same: the ways in which the geographical knowledges brought \'home\' by European explorers relied on and appropriated indigenous knowledges, for example, or the ways in which the racialized, gendered and supposedly \'pure\' spaces of colonialism were routinely disrupted and transgressed (Mills, 1996). But it also involves imagining a \'somewhere else\', what is sometimes called a paradoxical space that somehow \'straddles the space of representation and unrepresentability\' (Rose, 1993, pp. 153-4). For Rose this possibility is central to a feminist imaginary, whereas other writers have drawn attention to the emancipatory recognition of similarly hybrid spaces under the signs of post-colonialism and transculturation. Soja (1996) has convened many of these contributions within a plenary third space, which he describes as a way of thinking about and (crucially) being in the world that values the production of heterogeneous spaces of \'radical openness\' (see also heterotopia; hybridity).

(b) Human geographers have also called into question the ways in which space has been conceptualized, and they have done so by destabilizing three sets of oppositions that formed the axis around which spatial science and its early critiques were articulated:

The dualism of \'time\' and \'space\'. Conventional social science privileged the first term — so that time was seen as the source of change, movement and history — and marginalized the second, so that space was identified as the site of a lack of these \'ordering\' processes. Massey (1993) argued that this dualism effectively masculinized the concept of time and feminized the concept of space, but Gregory (1994) suggests that this is unduly restrictive: colonial productions of space typically feminized \'nature\', for example, and sought to establish a mappable, transparent space whose planning and production were identified with a masculinist Reason. Even so, Massey\'s central point remains a sharp one, and while she develops it through an explicitly feminist critique it plainly also owes much to her continuing interest in historical materialism. In Massey\'s view, and that of many others, an effective human geography must abandon the project of an autonomous science of the spatial by deploying a concept of space-time capable of elucidating the production of what she calls a power-geometry, that is, uneven and asymmetric constellations of power that are constituted through their \'binding together\' of space and time in differential ways (see also regions and regional geography).

The dualism of \'absolute space\' and \'relative space\'. According to Gibson-Graham (1996) the concept of absolute space presupposes a stable spatial ontology within which \'objects are fixed at an absolute location\', whereas the concept of relative space requires a fluid spatial ontology, \'continually under construction by the force-fields established between objects\'. Gibson-Graham argues that both concepts invoke the image of space as \'ground\' which relies in its turn on a metaphysics of presence, the bête-noire of post-structuralism, and seeks to contest this through a rhizomatics derived from the work of Deleuze and Guattari (see also Doel, 1996; cf. rhizome).

The dualism between \'real, material, concrete space\' and \'non-real, imagined, symbolic space\'. Rose (1996) claims that these oppositions constitute the performances of normative power within a masculinist geographical imaginary:

[Real space] is simultaneously concrete and dynamic, yet both these qualities signify the masculine; the non-real is simultaneously fluid and imprisoning, but always engendered as feminine. Material real space could thus be re-described as the effect of masculinist power, its very materiality also its particular masculinity; but non-real space is also the effect of masculinist power, its lack of reality the sign of its feminization. … [T]he distinction is a dualism which reiterates the constitutive relation between the masculine Same and the feminine Other. Through trying to fix difference, they fix the same. (p. 59)Three basic propositions have emerged from these intertwined reformulations (all of which owe much to feminist theory and feminist geography).

First, space and time (or space-time) are now seen as being \'produced\' or \'constituted\' through action and interaction. According to this view, space and time are not neutral, canonical grids that exist \'on the outside\', separate from and so enframing and containing everyday life, but are instead folded into the ongoing flows and forms of the world in which we find ourselves. This is the central motif of any contextual approach. These ideas are focal to historico-geographical materialism, but they have also been developed in other ways through other theoretical vocabularies. Thus Thrift (1996, 1999) draws on actor-network theory to talk of spatial formations, thereby seeking to figure a sensuous ontology of practices and encounters between diverse, distributed bodies and things (see also Hetherington, 1997). This is a thoroughly materialist account, but one which operates through an analytics of the surface rather than the \'depth models\' of mainstream Marxism, and which refuses the oppositions between \'culture\' and \'nature\' on which historical materialism is predicated. Similarly, but not identically, Rose (1999) draws on feminist theory to think of space as \'a doing\'. In contradistinction to concepts of time-space compression or time-space distanciation, she insists that space is not a pre-existent void or a terrain \'to be filled or spanned or constructed\' but is instead practised and performed (see performance).

Secondly, space and time cannot be held fast in fixed compartments, measured intervals or regular geometries. Both spatial science and conventional social theory are now seen to have made too much of pattern and systematicity, labouring to solve what they usually called \'the problem of order\', without recognizing the multiple ways in which life on earth evades and exceeds those orders. This is a much more radical claim than — for example — de Certeau\'s (1981) distinction between the strategies of dominant powers (which inhere within productions of space that seek to confine \'others\' to their \'proper\' places) and the tactics of those who seek to resist such enclosures \'on the wing\' through their \'insurgent\' and \'guerrilla\' consumptions of space. To be sure, space is not infinitely plastic: \'certain forms of space tend to recur, their repetition a sign of the power that saturates the spatial\' (Rose, 1999). And yet, while modalities of power often work to condense particular spatialities as \'natural\' outcomes — and thus to sanction \'strategies\' — Massey (1999) insists that space is not a coherent system of discriminations and interconnections, a grid of \'proper places\'. It is important to understand that this argument does not turn on reducing spatial structures to some central generating mechanism that provides for both \'surface\' variability and \'deep\' systematicity, because this is where Massey departs most substantially from historico-geographical materialism. On the contrary: insofar as space is formed and transformed through countless productions, practices and performances, Massey suggests that space necessarily entails plurality and multiplicity. It follows that spatial formations involve (and invite) \'happenstance juxtapositions\' and \'accidental separations\', so that space ought to be conceived as a turbulent field of constellations and configurations: a world of structures and solidarities, disruptions and dislocations that provides for \'the possibility of the emergence of genuine novelty\'. Far from space being the fixed and frozen — the \'dead\', as one of Foucault\'s astringent critics once claimed — it is now more usually and more constructively theorized as being fully involved in the modulations of tension and transformation.

Thirdly, productions of space are inseparable from productions of nature(Smith, 1984). Spatial science had supposed that \'space\' and \'nature\' could be reconciled through their geometries, but there is now a gathering stream of important work that seeks to show how these productions are folded into one another through practices. This was an important theorem of historico-geographical materialism, but some of the most imaginative contributions to the delimitation of these mobile, fluid \'hybrid geographies\' have been made by actor-network theory (see, e.g. Whatmore, 1999; see also geographical imagination). (DG)

References Allen, J. 1997: Economies of power and space. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies. London and New York: Edward Arnold, 59-70. Allen, J. 1999: Spatial assemblages of power: from domination to empowerment. In D. Massey, J. Allen, and P. Sarre, eds, Human geography today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 194-218. Bunge, W. 1962: Theoretical geography. Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup. Castells, M. 1983: The city and the grassroots. London: Edward Arnold. Cox, K. 1995: Concepts of space, understanding in human geography, and spatial analysis. Urban Geography 16: 304-26. De Certeau, M. 1981: The practices of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press. Doel, M.A. 1996: A hundred thousand lines of flight: a machinic introduction to the nomad thought and scrumpled geography of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14: 421-39. Foucault, M. 1975: Discipline and punish. London: Penguin. Gibson-Graham, J.K. 1996: The end of capitalism (as we knew it). Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Gregory, D. 1994: Geographical imaginations. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Gregory, D. 1997: Lacan and geography: the production of space revisited. In G. Benko and U. Strohmayer, eds, Space and social theory: interpreting modernity and postmodernity. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 203-31. Gregory, D. and Urry, J., eds, 1985: Social relations and spatial structures. London: Macmillan; Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Haggett, P. 1965: Locational analysis in human geography. London: Edward Arnold. Hartshorne, R. 1939: The nature of geography: a critical survey of current thought in the light of the past. Lancaster, PA: Association of American Geographers. Hartshorne, R. 1958: The concept of geography as a science of space from Kant and Humboldt to Hettner. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 48: 97-108. Harvey, D. 1973: Social justice and the city. London: Arnold (new edition, Oxford and Cambridge MA: Blackwell). Harvey, D. 1982: The limits to capital. Oxford: Blackwell. Harvey, D. 1996: Justice, nature and the geography of difference. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Hetherington, K. 1997: In place of geometry: the materiality of place. In K. Hetherington and R. Munro, eds, Ideas of difference: social spaces and the labour of division. Oxford: Blackwell, The Sociological Review, 183-99. James, P.E. and Jones, C.F., eds, 1954: American geography: inventory and prospect. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Lefebvre, H. 1991: The production of space. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Massey, D. 1993: Politics and space/time. In M. Keith and S. Pile, eds, Place and the politics of identity. London: Routledge, 141-61 [and in New Left Review 196: 65-84]. Massey, D. 1999: Spaces of politics. In D. Massey, J. Allen and P. Sarre, eds, Human geography today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 279-94. Merrifield, A. 1993: Place and space: a Lefebvrian reconciliation. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 18: 516-31. Mills, S. 1996: Gender and colonial space. Gender, place and culture 3: 125-47. Olsson, G. 1974: The dialectics of spatial analysis. Antipode 6 (3): 50-62. Philo, C. 1992: Foucault\'s geography. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10: 137-62. Pickles, J. 1985: Phenomenology, science and geography: spatiality and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pile, S. 1996: The body and the city: psychoanalysis, space and subjectivity. London and New York: Routledge. Rajchman, J. 1991: Foucault\'s art of seeing. In his Philosophical events: essays of the 80s. New York: Columbia University Press, 68-102. Rose, G. 1993: Feminism and geography: the limits of geographical knowledge. Cambridge: Polity Press; Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Rose, G. 1996: As if the mirrors had bled: masculine dwelling, masculinist theory and feminist masquerade. In N. Duncan, ed., Bodyspace: destabilizing geographies of gender and sexuality. London and New York: Routledge, 56-75. Rose, G. 1999: Performing space. In D. Massey, J. Allen and P. Sarre, eds, Human geography today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 247-59. Sack, R.D. 1974: The spatial separatist theme in geography. Economic Geography 50: 1-19. Sack, R.S. 1980: Conceptions of space in social thought. London: Macmillan; Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Schaefer, F.K. 1953: Exceptionalism in geography: a methodological examination. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 43: 226-49. Schatzki, T. 1991: Spatial ontology and explanation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 81: 650-70. Sheppard, E. 1995: Dissenting from spatial analysis. Urban Geographer 16: 283-303. Slater, D. 1992: On the borders of social theory: learning from other regions. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 10: 307-27. Smith, N. 1984: Uneven development: nature, capital and the production of space. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell (2nd edn, 1990). Smith, N. and Katz, C. 1993: Grounding metaphor: towards a spatialized politics. In M. Keith and S. Pile, eds, Place and the politics of culture. London: Routledge, 67-83. Soja, E. 1989: Postmodern geographies: the reassertion of space in critical social theory. London: Verso. Soja, E. 1996: Thirdspace: journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Strohmayer, U. 1997: Technology, modernity and the restructuring of the present in historical geographies. Geografiska Annaler 79B: 155-69. Strohmayer, U. 1998: The event of space: geographic allusions in the phenomenological tradition. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 16: 105-21. Thrift, N. 1996: Spatial formations. London: Sage. Thrift, N. 1999: Steps to an ecology of place. In D. Massey, J. Allen and P. Sarre, eds, Human geography today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 295-322. Tuan, Y.-F. 1977: Space and place: the perspective of experience. London: Edward Arnold. Whatmore, S. 1999: Hybrid geographies: rethinking the \'human\' in human geography. In D. Massey, J. Allen and P. Sarre, eds, Human geography today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 22-39.

Suggested Reading Allen (1997). Massey (1999). Sheppard (1995).



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