January 29, 2008

Coming to terms with Lefebvre's spaces

It is not the easiest thing in the world, coming to terms with Henri Lefebvre. I'm finding his take on perceived, conceived and lived space quite intriguing. He points out, over and over again, the necessity of understanding the different spatial domains he discusses as overlapping, traversing, mediating each other's operations. This, however, does not mitigate his rigorous commitment to classification as a crucial stage in the process of generalizing a unified theory of spatial production. While the different classificatory stages in the process are very lucid and insightful as to the complex dynamics of spatial relations in the arena of social practice and representation, they serve, I believe, to underscore the irreducibly fragmentary nature of spatial ensembles, rendering his teleological forma mentis almost absurdly self-contradictory at times. I did identify, however, with his critique of philosophico-epistemological thought, and how such a tradition essentialized a 'mental' spatiality at the expense of material relations and an elaboration of the concrete subject. 

 Off to rest. A presto! 

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Charlotte Mathieson

    Hi Norbert
    have you come across Edward Soja yet? His “Thirdspace” is a critical reinterpretation of Lefebvre, offering a lucid clarification of “The Production of Space” (although I confess I haven’t read the original yet…), and positing a spatial trialectic, the concept of “thirdspace”, that overcomes the dialectic that privileges mental over material space. Definitely worth a read, both in its own right and as a reappropriation of Lefebvre.

    29 Jan 2008, 10:23

  2. Norbert Bugeja

    Hi Cha,

    I have his ‘Thirdspace’ and ‘Postmodern Geographies’ and plan to go through them soon. While I still haven’t read him, and therefore can only go by preliminary impression, it seems to me he speaks from a tradition that still privileges discursivity over materialist concerns. Lefebvre’s ‘dialectic triad’ of perceived, conceived and practiced space is already quite obfuscatory in itself and does not, to my knowledge, provide a strong enough aticulation of the “product” in terms of spatial representation, of this triadic dialectic. I am, in fact, hoping to find some answers in Soja. I am hoping that his spatial trialectic will offer – in terms of clarifying Lefebvre – more than another discursive abstraction that tastes of Bhabha’s poststructuralist/postmodern Third Space, or Pratt’s equally turgid ‘contact zone’. Does Soja succeed in ‘grounding’ his Thirdspace, in giving it an unassailable definition? What do you think?

    29 Jan 2008, 12:54

  3. Allison Hui

    Hi Norbert,

    Something else you might be interested in looking at is Rob Shields’ book on Lefebvre – he provides some interesting context to Lefebvre’s work. He also examines ‘spatialization’ in interesting ways in some of his other work, including Places on the Margin. The concept of spatialization for me provides a way of mediating and grounding the abstract and discursive in material, embodied practices.


    07 Feb 2008, 11:01

  4. Charlotte Mathieson

    Hmm, well I have to begin by saying that I don’t know enough about Bhabha or Pratt’s theorisations so I can’t compare Soja’s “grounding” of thirdspace to theirs, also I’ve only read Part 1 of Thirdspace and I think you may find some answers in Part II in which Soja contextually applies the ideas of Part I to readings of LA, Amsterdam etc, so focusing on the contemporary application of 3rdspace ideas. But I would say from what I’ve read that the concept of 3rdspace is “grounded” in that it is concerned with the direct, lived experience of space, theorising the coming together of material and representational spaces into a concept of “real-and-imagined” spaces, the idea of which is to posit a theory that is practiceable. Also Soja’s intepretation of Lefebvre is that this critical “thirding” is not fully realised in L’s work, that L’s work is structure really around a dialectic in which there is the opening up of the possibility of an “other”/ thirdspace, but that this needs critical reappropriation to become fully conceptualised.
    ...Not sure if that answers your question enough, I have to say I read this stuff within a very different theoretical context to you so it would be interesting to get your more theoretically informed opinions sometime…

    07 Feb 2008, 13:45

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