Sunday, September 18, 2011

universal separation

Re-reading old notes on Henri Lefebvre I came across a passage that seemed so multi-applicable, not just to space, but all objects of analysis across time. Here are a couple lines of it:

"A comparable approach is called for today, an approach which would analyse not things in space, but space itself, with a view to uncovering the social relationship embedded in it. The dominant tendency fragments space and cuts it up into pieces. It enumerates the things, the various objects, that space contains. [. . . ]" (page 90, The Production of Space, 1974)

Someone could say this is naive or obvious because the ideas on social division have been re-worked and re-published over the last 4 decades, but we only have to look around, look at our institutions, the organization of our neighborhoods, our personal work environments, and local ways of political representation to see that the divided conditions Lefebvre assume are overwhelmingly present today, and so his proposal to disclose them is still urgent and worthwhile.

This continuity also evokes the unoriginal and generalized question as to why we have not come very far (this could be measured at least in terms of humans killed per yer) after decades of progressive discourse. I think a main cause lies in the fact that our centers of knowledge and education are still too spatially, geographically and socially isolated, "cut up into pieces." An epitome could be the typical American college campus, separated from the rest of society and the diversity of the nearest city by approximately 30 miles of flat cement and thousands of dollars in tuition fees. In spite of the internet and freer access to information, the reworking and republishing of ideas on social division have ocurred predominantly within these isolated campuses.

The opposite of separation/division would be the lack of any at all, which would be like spatial relativity and chaos. But he's not calling for chaos. I can't prove it right now, but I imagine he's calling for a more public recognition and more democratic dealing with division.

I'll end this post on a related tangent. Lefebvre's passage links me to another spatial and multi-applicable passage I came across the other day in Fernando Arrabal's Carta al General Franco, which was written three years before The Production of Space and reflects on the violence and hatred of the Franco regime:

"España no era sino un cárcel compuesta de pequeñas cárceles que se precipitaban hacia el infierno." (42) ["Spain was a prison composed of little prisons, which precipitated towards hell."]

(I'd be grateful if you could leave feedback because I am currently isolated!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really like this! - Justin