Concepts- Space

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1. What is space?
Is space an objective property of the world? Or is it a social construct?
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Essentialism –
characteristics are seen to be innate and unchanging – the essence
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Space as a self-evident unit of analysis
via which we can understand the world ( an essentailism view)
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Social constructionism –
characteristics are socially produced and not natural
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Culturally specific way of viewing and understanding the world
can decode biases and blind spots (aka social constructionism)
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Euclidean space – deals with
Points Lines Areas Volumes
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Distance between two points are
quantifiable and un-questionable
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Take miles/km for granted
BUT, the mapping of spaces is a social construction
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(Pickles 2012: 76-77)
in what world are you mapping, with what belief systems, by which rules, and for what purposes?’
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Space is important to geographers
because we can look at the representations of space made by a society/culture and it can tell us about that society/culture…( this is a humanities perspective)
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Why do we need theory?
helps us to see things clearly - tries to impose some order on the complexity of the world
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What does theory influence?
What to study - topic. what to include ? MEthods? and How do we present our research?
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(Cresswell 2013: 4)
all geographical enquiry, even that which pretends otherwise, is always shaped by theory and philosophy … those who say they don’t like theory mean that they don’t like someone else’s theory and are unaware of their own’
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Organised ways of thinking Lens through which we interpret the world Abstract conceptual ideas about areas of life Have a collective and enduring quality
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b) Absolute space
‘pre-existing space in which things are embedded … a container within which the world proceeds(Thrift 2000: 96)’
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b) Absolute space – regional geographies (1900’s on)
Space as pre-existing – as a container within which human life can happen Something to be investigated, mapped and classified Characteristics of human settlement were determined by environment and, therefore, environment determined culture
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b) Absolute space – spatial revolution (1960’s -)
Privilege of space/location over place Focus – modelling interaction over space At crudest, people seen to maximise the efficiency with which they ‘overcame’ space
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b) Absolute space – spatial revolution (1960’s -)Critiques
Humans treated as rational spatial actors who unquestioningly follow spatial laws Space treated as a neutral grid (which underemphasises difference) Emphasis on scientific universality tended to undermine the importance of space
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Another citique of absolute space is known as spatial fetishism -
treating space as autonomous to social process (Smith 1981: 112)
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c) Relational space
‘space is constituted through interactions … it is always in the process of being made. It is never finished, never closed’( Massey 2005)
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b) Relational space – Postmodern geographers (1980’s on)
Postmodernist thought: Against metanarratives – call to turn against large theories that attempt to explain everything, towards multiple local knowledges Against foundations and essences – questioning of the ‘bedrock truths’ that theory had been bu
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b) Relational space – Postmodern geographers (1980’s on)
Soja describes a Los Angeles of splintered and fractured spaces arranged in a way that makes little sense for those who have thought of urban spatial arrangement as a series of rings around a CDB … In Los Angeles, Soja tells us, we have a new kind of
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Los Angeles – mesocosm of postmodernism
(Soja 1989; Dear 2000)
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‘space still tends to be treated as fixed, dead, undialectical’
(Soja 1989: 11)
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A distinctively postmodern and critical human geography is taking shape, brashly reasserting the interpretative significance of space in the historically privileged confines of contemporary critical thought '
(Soja 1989: 11)
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one which rings with significantly different ways of seeing time and space together’ (
Soja 1989: 11)
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Arguing for the reinvigoration of space Emphasis on the social production of space
Questioning metanarratives that seek to explain what space is…
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What is structuralism? ‘…
‘…belief that structures lie beneath any particular instance in the world and can be used to explain all the variety in experience as we lead our lives’ (Cresswell 2012: 198)
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... ‘don’t believe that it is possible to identify deep, generative structures beneath the infinite variety of the surface of life’ (Cresswell 2012: 207)
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e.g. Non-representational theory: (thift 2009)
abandon the idea of any pre-existing space in which things are embedded for an idea of space as undergoing continual construction exactly through the agency of things encountering each other in more or less organized. This is a relational view
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(Anderson 2008: 230)
Any space is a ‘precarious achievement made up of relations between multiple entities. Spaces have to, in other words, be made and remade because relations are processual. A named space, such as London or Newcastle, does not have a permanent essence’
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Space is seen as produced, lively, enacted, It is never closed or fixed (so is open to the possibility of progressive change) –
this is quite an optimistic version of space It is heterogeneous and multiple
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Card 2


Essentialism –


characteristics are seen to be innate and unchanging – the essence

Card 3


Space as a self-evident unit of analysis


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Card 4


Social constructionism –


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


Culturally specific way of viewing and understanding the world


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