Notes on Space and Place, Feminist Geography, and Related Texts


Richard J Tilley

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Contact: rtilley4-AT-alumni-DOT-jh-DOT-edu 

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In Hortense J. Spillers essay, “Notes on an Alternative Model – Neither/Nor,” from Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, she surveys William Faulkner in a study of negation of the Other and gender. Spillers states, “[t]he exterior other in positive identity is, for Faulkner, a female, and in the Faulknerian situation of the female, we gain good insight into the process of gender-making as a special outcome of modes of dominance” (2003, 305). At the heart of Spillers’s context, as with so many other literary critics, is concern with the negation of history, of reality, of gender and race. Ralph Ellison also noted Faulkner’s problematic dualism with African American identity, which combined with the specter of female subjugation, does not outright endorse Faulkner despite notedly being highly influenced by his craft. Ellison offers in “Twentieth-Century Fiction and the Mask of Humanity” from The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison that “Faulkner [is] and example of a writer who has confronted Negroes with such mixed motives that he presented them in terms of both the ‘good n*****’ and the ‘bad n*****’ stereotypes, and who yet has explored perhaps more successfully than anyone else, either white or black, certain forms of Negro humanity” (1964 1995, 86). Of course, Ellison was a doctrinal universalist and would not utterly push aside what positive embellishment Faulkner could endorse of African American culture and individualism. While feminist criticism would not completely abandon such modes of acknowledgement, there are more axis points from which to critique than style or sociological outcomes of the times, which was disputed in its sense of productivity by James Baldwin.  

Case logic is not without its delegation into symbiotic parts. Spillers expands on Faulkner’s two-fold psychoanalytical play of gender and even as an admirer Ellison notes Faulkner’s situational stance on good or bad fitting form. With voluble diction such analysis arises in which the creator is equally at the mercy of the characterizations. Spillers notes Tzvetan Todorov in her ontological-behavioral case study, which I find value in quoting at length: 

In his Conquest of America, Tzvetan Todorov distinguishes three dimensions of the problematics of alterity: (1) the axiological level – “the other is good or bad, I love or do not love him, or ….he is my equal or my inferior (for these is usually no question that I am good that I esteem myself”); (2) the praxeological level – the placing of distance or proximity between oneself and an imagined other – “I embrace the other’s values, I identify myself with him; or else I identify the other with myself, I impose my own image upon him; between submission to the other and the other’s submission, there is also a third term, which is neutrality, or indifference”; (3) the epistemic level – “I know or am ignorant of the other’s identity….of course, there is no absolute here, but an endless gradation between the lower or higher states of knowledge.” (2003, 305)  

As stated above, Ellison clearly notes the axiological level while Spillers contrasts the latter half of the praxeological level from the context of feminist scholarship. Of course, both are concerned with the epistemic level. Elsewhere in Conquest of America, Todorov comments on the praxeological imposition of religion that “to impose one’s will on others implies that one does not concede to that other the same humanity one grants to oneself” (1982, 179). The absence of an Emmanuel Levinas psycho-spiritual emphasis of the emptying of oneself to make room for the Other from within – at the cost of oneself – is notable. A constructive post-colonialist assessment does not disdain the ontological or the situational. Todorov continues, “a thing is not imposed when one can choose another thing instead, and knows one can so choose. The relation of knowledge to power, as we were able to observe on the occasion of the conquest, is not contingent but constitutive” (1982, 180). The formation of power steals representation. It locks and withholds varied forms of the multitudes of play and expression from all who do not identify with the, ultimately inert, placement of that perceived self. Power is stationary. It withholds those in its proximity from unifying principles of the plasticity of form.  

At the risk of contradicting myself on the node of self-importance, to quote myself, “if we were to have a good governance model that emphasized the importance of self-value over inflated self-importance, individual actors would be less in the way of things and this alone would do wonders for communal perceptions of what it means to live together, in this shared space, localized and global” (2020). As Walter Benjamin noted, power exists to impose its own territorial existence. It does so at the expense of cross-cultural expression or matters of shared bonds and shared collectivity of authorization of form. It is worth pointing out that Tzvetan Todorov’s writings have been utilized by other scholars in explicating Octavia Butler’s Kindred (Sarah Eden Schiff) and Toni Morrison’s Beloved (Steven V. Daniels). Toni Morrison cites Tzvetan Todorov herself in her seminal essay “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: Afro-American Presence in American Literature.” So, too, have critical authors Roland Barthes, Paul de Man, and Frederic Jameson expounded from Todorov.  

Feminist scholar, Susan S. Lanser, in “Feminist Literary Criticism: How Feminist? How Literary? How Critical?” cites Todorov at length from his essay in Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s edited 1985 collection, “Race,” Writing, and Difference, (a collection from which I cite Sandra L. Gilman in my post, “Representation and Echoes of Exuberant Liberation in the Word ‘Juba’”) further commenting from Todorov and then postulating, 

Todorov’s mention of writers is a powerful reminder of the particular irony that a discipline devoted to the analysis of writing has been reluctant to examine its own discursive practices. It is worth asking ourselves why some of the most radical feminist theory is being produced in a language inaccessible to some of the most radical feminist activists. The turn toward a wider audience seems to me crucial for a critical literary feminism that could take part in a world-wide intellectual movement for social change. (Lanser 1991, 17) 

Power dynamics are not without interpretation, but that must yield down to building up an educational model where the stance is not oblique. I am not disagreement with Lanser when I wrote,  

First must come the elimination of structural violence, then what must follow is the letting go of violence of the self. The educational model would prepare and sustain a path towards this deliverance, but not complete the work. A new pattern of selfhood must be explored expeditiously. An adroit sovereignty of self awaits those to release their importance over the Other in all matters of displaced rhythms of selfhood and false alliances of ego. To become another is to become oneself. It resolves interpersonal violence as well as spiritual malfeasance and the relenting whispers of arcane retributive glances towards denial of form. (2020) 

It is true to form that an educational model pre-revolution, reintegration, and post-violence would need to summarize critical language in accessible and benevolent forms. To say I am in disagreement with Tzvetan Todorov with his momentary comment on a utopianism of violence would be excessive, but I do think he makes too minimalistic a point.  

Perhaps there is a simplistic utopianism in thus reducing matters to the use of violence, especially since violence, as we know, can take forms that are not really subtler but less obvious: can we say of an ideology or a technology that it is merely proposed when it is carried by every means of communication in existence? No, of course not. (The Conquest of America, 1982, 180).  

If colonial power and post-WWI power structures are to be compared, to call the modern forging of oppression as utopian to those in authority would be eye-opening, though I do not think that is the horizontal witness to the motivation or indoctrination of these entities. In A Passion for Democracy, Todorov maintains his distance from commentary on violence, except to say “Freedom of the press is also complete, except for that which harms the integrity of the person (slander, incitement to violence) or of the community (appealing to the population or to a foreign enemy to overthrow the ruling power)” (1999, 43). Certainly, by these standards, in the contemporary West we have indeed given the press the extended freedom, without liability, to incite violence. The localized formula where this crest is laid out through commentary and conviction is in the home. This returns to Spillers explication of “the Faulknerian situation of the female” and “gender-making as a special outcome of modes of dominance” (2003, 305). Public language (the press) and private language (the home) mimic each other in straights and dominance; in routine and simplistic way-bent edification. From this it is clear that the pre-revolution of a post-violence society requires an educational model according to Lanser’s plea that takes a “turn toward a wider audience” in its erudition of form and emulating the need for critique of invested sociological stations. 


The need to establish a new language and new criteria for identifying and communicating the most urgent issues of our time is becoming increasingly apparent. Presently, the most common and most effective mode for framing these issues is in terms of globalism, globalization, and global studies. However, framing issues in these terms is problematic inasmuch as the emphasis is being placed on openness, opportunities, and our ability to construct the future in terms of our goals, values and hopes. Yet, it is becoming undeniable that the future will be characterised less by openness and opportunities but by limitations resulting from the fact that the Earth is a closed and finite system, e.g. in light of the continuous expansion of the world’s population, the depletion of natural resources, accumulating waste, and impending energy problems, to name just the most obvious cases.  

– Henry Dahms. “Rethoeorizing Global Space.” The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, eds. Barney Warf and Santa Arias (2009, 98).  

During the 1930s, broadcasters became increasingly aware of their domestic audience. As David Cardiff has noted, they realized they needed to be ‘conversational’ rather than ‘declamatory’ and ‘intimate rather than intimidating.’ In consequence, they attempted to emulate the language of domestic space. Indeed, as Kate Lacey has shown, ‘as radio matured, it become more familiar in address…the prevailing atmosphere of a public meeting was gradually replaced by the consciously studied informality befitting the familiar setting’ 

– Maggie Andrews. “Homes Both Side of the Microphone” the wireless and domestic sphere in inter-war Britain.” Space, Place, and Gendered Identities: Feminist History and the Spatial Turn. eds. Katheryne Beede and Anglea Davis (2015, 85) 

If, reading from the interpretive gaze of Walter Benjamin and Luce Irigaray, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs is an early foray into woman’s early, structured cognitive foray into space and place in a manner that suits the metaphoric realization of this project. However, that is not without many caveats of early entry into this subject matter. Certainly, Zora Neale Hurston’s literary anthropological sensitivities are accumulated into the fold. Space and Place is functionally a wide, vast, and realized permutation of lived reality that can be altered to transfix the subset of masculine architecture that denotes, deconstructs, and demonstrates resisting folds in the space time of lived reality that must be countered to utilize the very inclination of space and place into a palace of reformed society through a feminist lens.  

Both organized and scholarly feminism has matured over the years, leading to a consequence of intimate inclusivity that comes closer to perfecting the end-goal of protecting those very women the ideas sought to lift up. Additionally, the idea of transformation has developed in tide and step with this accumulation distribution in the stock of dignity and transgressive people-hood towards the end of resisting the violence of law and becoming a restorative emblem for the seeds of registered feminine counterweights to masculine architectures.  

In Ruth Salvaggio’s article, “Theory and Space, Space and Women,” (1988) she offers descriptive direction to the tone and maneuverability of her directive thesis in the gaze of literary theory, stating, 

[M]y approach is historical, because I navigate through a time period that eventually leads to what Showalter calls “Women’s Time,” that is, roughly the last fifteen years of feminist criticism. But I will also be navigating my way through spaces that cannot be measured in historical terms, what Showalter has in mind when she describes the largely French feminist exploration of “Women’s Space” as “the space of the Other, the gaps, silences, and absences of discourse and representation, to which the feminine has traditionally been relegated” […]. It is through this Other space, I believe, that women are breaking with both traditional and postmodern concepts of space. (262)

In a thorough survey of the review of feminism and space and place, despite strides to the contrary, the firm reality is that there is an aspect that “cannot be measured in historical terms.” The traces of adamant neglect of women and women’s best interest, well-being, and security in the lived reality of Western and global affairs demonstrates how dire these directive studies must be placed into an approach of being manifest towards a lived reality. Since the founding of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) where, in that time, it was firmly declared that a world with women in leadership leads to a world at peace, there has been set back after disastrous set back. What space and place, human geography (and feminist geography), post-modernist philosophy, and feminist studies can offer is an interdisciplinary magnifying lens into the holistic treatment of social degradation that continues to assert goals against our own self-interests. To expose those oversights and, hopefully, show what the lived reality of place for feminist space will look like in heuristic terms is a laudable and essential goal.  

If validation is the contemporary ethos of feminist teaching then reform and re-testification are allies in the (re)domesticated workspace of elucidation and reification towards the goal of multi-pluralistic landings of peace and restoration of a transfixed public space. To cite myself, if I may be so extreme, “Socio-ontological denominationalism, which are groups within groups, functionary projections of the mind’s executive functioning bringing order to the external world are soliloquies of fostered detention of identity. Between the state, the external public sphere of coercion, this lament carries into the private sphere latent threat centers,” bringing into the fold all manners of elected and well-placed resistance to progressive change, or, as some would phrase it, the normalcy of women’s place in a collective society. Normalcy is what is being rejected, not progressive entry, but the hope of equality. It is capitalism that is a dormant place, bringing any adequate study of space and place into conflict with the sought goal of collective best-interest. A feminist rendering of these measurements of time, collectivity, and social welfare also adjudicate a spendthrift moralism that wakes in the honor of even the slightest suggestion that we be stamped with the same sisterhood, the same brotherhood, or non-binary disposition that starts a conversation, rather than be forced into inclusion. 


Sandrina de Finney writes in her essay, “Under the Shadow of Empire: Indigeneous Girls’ Presencing as Decolonizing Force,” (Mitchell and Rentschler, eds. Girlhood and the Politics of Place) that “[a]s a disruptive practice, I look for counternormative conceptual frameworks that offer openings to rethink trauma in our work with Indigenous girls. One such framework is Leanne Simpson’s notion that acts of presence are integral to Indigenous resurgence. Simpson emphasizes that decolonization involves understanding and generating meaning ‘through engagement, presence, and process.’ She asserts that ‘Indigenous societies were societies of presence. Our processes – be they political, spiritual, education or healing – required a higher degree of presence than modern colonial existence’” (2016, 21-22). Through community and the giving presence of the community’s wide stance on demarcating modes of obstruction come “engagement and visibility” (2016, 22). Through community comes resurgence and through that, “girls’ everyday act of presence” (2016, 22). Presence is an act that counters normative weights that seek to subdue or act as tranquilizers of peaceful negotiation to one’s lifeforce.  

There are those who feel that “presencing” requires more formal redress, such as theology that counters exploitation and dominant histories. Robert Warrior, in his article, “Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians,” commented on the work of some activist Christians to aid Indigenous communities in developing a religio-magnified praxis, but notes, “Liberals and conservatives alike have too often surveyed the conditions of Native Americans and decided to come to the rescue, always using their methods, their ideas, and their programs. The idea that Indians might know best how to address their own problems seemingly lost on these well-meaning folks” (1989, 2). That an introductory narrative might still need to be established gives insight in the continuous othering by even those that promote seeking an assisting role. The space they provide is not merely inclusion, but an insertive, including us, too.  

Alicia Arrizon, in her article, “Mythical Performativity: Relocating Aztlan in Chicana Feminist Cultural Productions,” (2000) associates ideas and space with performative standing, stating,  

The term “Aztlán” redefines space. Its discursive configurations, ranging from ancient mythology to land annexation, are engaged repeatedly in Chicano cultural studies and Chicana feminist practices. From the “manifesto” of the nationalist Chicano movement to the radical feminist perspectives in Cherríe Moraga’s queer configurations of space and bodies, the genealogy of Aztlán affects cultural identity, shaping the ongoing modifications—and sometimes, commodifications—of the collectivity. According to myth, Aztlán is the ancestral homeland in the north that the Aztecs left in 1168 when they journeyed southward to found the promised land, Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), in 1325. (2000, 23)  

Whether the chemistry of progressive whites to aid with their self-identified superior resources or the magnitude of El Plan de Aztlán at the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver in 1969, “presencing” requires far fewer resources or organized, instructive methods. There is a statement adopted by the disabled community, “my existence is resistance.” The space of the body is the space of mind that permits and instructs deciphered coalesced insights that weakens kingdoms, i.e., colonial empires. That being said. It is not without organization in any capacity that instructs the next generation to displace learned reasoning of conceding compromises. The insistence from Robert Warrior that the Exodus model is worth being emulated, constructive insights are only insights. Thoughts that are intended to strengthen critical thinking, even ill-formed white-centered permutations, do just that (as it is often discovered), inspire a cacophony of ideas that are naturally selected, sorted, and reasoned out. Often in such a way that some elders will hear the sound reason of child’s request and relay an often repeated colloquialism, “out of the mouth of babes.” “Presencing” is the identification of a social unit’s natural way of healing as well as its instinctive identification of that which seems to impose a pre-manufactured order.  

Such imposed order comes from location. Steve Pile, in his work, The Body and the City: Psychoanalysis, Space, and Subjectivity, writes that “there are no accepted psychoanalytic concepts which can be easily transposed into, superimposed onto, or mapped alongside geography – regardless of the kind of geography […] It is easy to claim that psychoanalysis has been systematically misrepresented, but I would prefer to suggest that particular aspects of psychoanalysis have been selected and presented as if they were symptomatic of the whole approach” (1996, 61). Pile is suggesting, in his work, that psychoanalytical frameworks have been present in treatments of space and place from the onset, and no doubt this returns us to an ever more accessible location of “Leanne Simpson’s notion that acts of presence are integral to Indigenous resurgence” (to return to Sandrina de Finney cited above). Recording, writing, stenciling children’s insights into the width of colonial influence on their everyday lives is not really without an aspect of a practice of the very psychoanalysis of space that Pile is referring to.  

At the time of the book’s publication, 1996, Pile stated that psychoanalysis was a “marginal” resource for geographers (61). With strides in interdisciplinarity, that has certainly become less so and though arguably Neo-Freudian, Pile is not without a similitude of the structuralism of Jung that so many post-modernist found influencing win with. At the very least, Pile’s constructs points to another field, that of developmental psychology, as being an even more obvious candidate for a marriage with humanist, feminist geography. The geography of de Finney, citing quotes from children as a merit of space and place is not without the implications of an assumed background in developmental psychology, though that does not make the practice whole. To immerse ourselves not only in “what is benefited by” but also “what benefits” serves to take the most obvious indicators of space and place and developmental psychology towards a progressive dire praxis where the concept of the universal can at the least have some neighboring constituents towards what needs have to be met for sustained progress of societal and inclusive networks of ontological abode. 


I believe the only English translation of French feminist, Claudine Hermann’s short essay, “Women in Space and Time” can be found in the text, New French Feminisms: An Anthology, eds Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron. Hermann is concerned with the “hierarchical function of space” and degrees of power and (place)ment (1980, 169). Hermann is aware of the potential violence of space and imbues that violence comes from a lived allegory or social order; an order not intended for her space, or her recline. She used images of a professor or a lawyer as separating spaces: 

In length, width, and height, order is established by division, the disposition of space for man is above all an image of power, the maximum power being attained when one can dispose of the space of others[.] (1980, 169) 

Hermann agrees with Walter Benjamin that violence is law and law is violence. To cite myself again, at the risk of being self-referential, examining a disputed context between Walter Benjamin and Byung-Chul Ham:  

Walter Benjamin, in his essay, “Critique of Violence,” argues that laws function as violence to protect those in power, stating, “[l]awmaking is power making and, to that extent, an immediate manifestation of violence” (1986, 295). Byung-Chul Han takes to issue some of the reading of Benjamin’s marriage of law and violence in his short text, Topology of Violence. At one point Byung-Chul Han seems to dismiss Benjamin (and Giorgio Agamben) as being relics of a previous age, an age of world wars unprepared for the new world order of organized media, which he perhaps gives too much credit towards as being an indicator of contemporary mass existence. Byung-Chul Han separates law and violence, putting forward that, “[s]heer violence alone is not capable of forming spaces or creating locations. It lacks the space-building force of mediation. Thus it cannot produce a legal space. Only power, not violence, is capable of space building” (2018, 56). Both Walter Benjamin and Byung-Chul Han give consideration to (perhaps measures and degrees of) a pure (unalloyed) violence,….and law, that can be stapled free of the meditations of willful coercion. Where Benjamin sees a marriage of necessity and form, Byung-Chul Han sees an indication of uniqueness. 

Contrary to Byung-Chul Han, Claudine Hermann indeed sees self-replication in the status of power and a dominating intruder onto the will of others. Hermann is concerned with the forced conformity that power of status brings into other people’s spaces, stating, the “space of the mind is divided according to rules governing physical space: everyone must conform or risk a social sanction ranging from social scorn to exclusion from the group, pure and simple” (1980, 169). Hermann sees an emblematic order from power into bred social strategy. She states that men enjoy a “full space” while women contend with “empty space” (1980, 169). For Hermann, maneuverability is directly tied to cognitive (re)placement with the tides of power structures built into the solemn societal squares of time.  

There are aspects of the essay that may arguably be dated among some feminist circles, citations that are dubious, at least, simplistic under contemporary interdisciplinary study charts, though Herrmann denotes the struggle of feeling forced to ‘catch up’ in her statement, “perhaps, wisdom, would be highly desirable, just as it would be preferable, as we have seen in recent years, to establish a science based on harmony rather than domination” (1980, 173). The message of the essay is aged just enough to reflect the feelings of being subject to tassels, weights and the substandard expectations of social order upon women’s experience of time and place. I would argue for many women those feelings haven’t gone away, nor have those lived experiences. Therefore, the space that Herrmann indicates can be labeled as a legitimate realm of placement of power in masculine authority. 


“Feminist Thoery and Economic Geography,” (1994) a review by Andrew Leyshon and the prolific scholar, Liz Bondi, acquaints the reader with the 1994 IBG Conference, put together by the Women and Geography Study Group as well as the Economic Georgraphy Study Group. The session was titled, “Feminist Theory and Economic Restructuring.” Many of the speakers worked to argue that the economic exploitation of women and women’s labor in new capitalist functions highlights that a holistic insightfulness needs to give a strictly economic outlook a second review. Women’s work was changing, as it continues to changes, and masculinarity (my term), with its advantages of being able to forfeit domestic duties to his partner, warrants the need to review the economics of humanistic geography through a feminist lens. Increasing privatization paired with the largest increase of women’s work then coming out of the public sector created an economic climate of greater insecurity (Leyshon and Bondi, 1994). Humanist geography, feminist geography, and radical geography properly draw their lineage to the 1960s. Certainly, with the English translation of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space in 1964, new possibilities, new avenues, new spaces became available where before were vacant trigonometry of resistance to moral restitution.  

Naturally, too, the door-knob could hardly be drawn in scale with the house, its function taking precedence over any question of size. For it expresses the function of opening, and only a logical mind could object that it is used to close as well as open the door. In the domain of values, whereas the door-knob opens more often than it closes. And the gesture of closing is always sharper, firmer and briefer than that of opening. (1964, 1994, 73). – The Poetics of Space, from the chapter, “House and Universe”  

Rightly placed, emblems of feminist geography can properly be traced to First Wave feminism and the accompanying deconstruction of women’s work and “women’s space.” There is a serene sense of a mechanical duplication in the natural reproduction of the slow, but evident progress into applied theory being utilized among professionals. Though, of course, economic materialism did indeed and does maintain a stranglehold on a seismic attribution to an explication of human affairs. Susan Stanford Friedman, in her text, Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter, states that with her text-project she intends to “move feminism ‘beyond’ theorizing difference to theorizing the spaces in between difference” (1998, 68). Friedman humbly proclaims that her work in not the first to move towards these analyses from various fields and the feminist subgroups within those various disciplines, but puts forwards that these movements “constitute a new geography of movement of intercultural contact within the context of shifting power relations” (1998, 68). Friedman further states,  

The explanatory power for feminism of this migratory geography of borders moves simultaneously in two directions: the descriptive, delineating networks of existing syncretisms (positive and negative) in everyday life; and the utopic, forging pathways of possible connection, affiliation, and reconciliation. (1998, 68)  

Stationary assemblages of difference and power seems unlikely to have ever been the case. The only manner in which feminist expositions of power and influence would not make their mark, through conferences or street-ware bases is through totalitarian oppression that stymie intellectual, interpersonal, and prosperous growth. Of course, the problem not being resolved is that the introduction of feminist thinking into masculine or economic spheres is only a step towards alleviation from post-totalitarian, consumer mandated applied political science of neoliberal disposal and the accompanying suffering of millions of people.  

Like Gaston Bachelard’s door-knobs, so acutely observed through a behavioral discourse, the poetry of motions towards feminist dialects can bring a seismic shift away from power-sharing masculinarity, but much like the Seneca Falls Convention, articulation without application delineates the proscribed choice of freedoms. Without the basket in hand of the acquired rewards for lived potential and labors of choice, difference multiplies. Feminist theory intertwined with geography more aptly names those barriers that we may, hopefully, postulate on the weaknesses of masculinarity so as to (re)tame its imposing configurations. Naming is not without its religio-psychology. The cultural indices of naming allow both the one doing the articulating and the one living the freedoms being ascribed to meet the potential for a free-form tomorrow where “[n]aturally, too, the door-knob could hardly be drawn in scale with the house” and the universal meets the interpersonal. 


I first encountered the topic of spatiality through literature. More specifically, though only briefly mentioned, in Dr. Valerie Sweeney Prince’s text, Burnin’ Down the House: Home in African American Literature. The topic of spatiality was only lightly touched upon though it reflected an ontological belonging to one’s present moment, occupation, family, and place in time. The larger topic of exploring the theme of home, thought by some to be the most commonly sought theme in all of literature, was later explored in the Toni Morrison novel, Home. I have often wondered if Morrison’s novel was inspired by Dr. Prince’s text, as I know from Dr. Prince’s stories that the two of them did meet at least once and had an extended conversation during a dinner. 

There is a parallel between spatial envelopment and one’s or one’s character’s visitation with reality and invitation into a moment that eclipses definition. Representation does not hide from our sights, but beams on high for us to see where we are located in the cartography of the indices of realization. This is much like Dr. Prince’s accentuation of her character analyses in Burnin’ Down the House. Robert T. Tally, Jr., in his book, Spatiality (2013), drives into representation and the author, stating,  

The phrase “representation of reality” might be used to describe the goals of both literature and cartography, provided it is understood that both fields only represent reality through figurative means. If various genres, such as the epic or the novel, represent reality in particular, identifiable, and distinctive ways, then one might say that the literary cartography is determined, at least in part, by narrative form. (2013, 59) 

Indeed, narratology is a distinct indicator of the fermenting truculent ontological struggle between reality and form; expression and indicators of recess of being. In Albert Murray’s celebrated work, The Hero and the Blues, he comments that “the writer who deals with the experience of oppression in terms of the dynamics of antagonistic cooperation works in a context which includes the whole range of human motivation and possibility” (1995, first published in 1973, 49). What is the “whole range of human motivation and possibility” other than an ontological recovery from crisis, to fermentation, to resolve through spatial difference. That which is figurative is wholly doctrinal. That which is doctrinal, through literary means, incites characterization into sublimity. That which is sublime is easily cross-referenced into an ontological discourse and is a production of space and place.  

This production of space and place is inherent representations of reality as intersectional. Sharlene Mollett and Caroline Faria, in their Gender, Place, and Culture article, “The spatialities of intersectional thinking: fashioning feminist geographic futures” (2018) put forward that, “intersectionality was, at its inception, already a deeply spatial theoretical concept, process and epistemology, particularly when read through careful and serious engagement with Black Feminist Thought. In short, the interlocking violence of racism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalism constitute a spatial formation” (2018, 2). How does this reify an author’s deliberative representations in the context of feminist struggles in art as collaborative with reality? Mollett and Faria continue, and this is a very important point,  

The entire framework…must be rethought and recast’ (Crenshaw 1989, 140; Moraga and Anzaldúa 2015). Writing more recently, scholars argue that intersectionality serves as ‘analytic sensibility’ (Cho, Crenshaw, and McCall 2013). An analysis is not simply intersectional by employing the term, rather it ‘is the adoption of an intersectional way of thinking about the problem of sameness and difference and its relation to power […]’, making the point that it is ‘what intersectionality does, rather than what intersectionality is’ (Cho, Crenshaw, and McCall 2013, 795). (2018, 3)  

The codices of analytic discussion is a process of discovery for the reader. It is narrative empathy to inquire towards both the deleterious direction and the entirety of one’s own representation of reality in a collaborative effort with the literary formations on the page. The word catharsis is not apt, but an extension of that working body of idealization in the term would be adroit. The author’s or critic’s representation of reality as an intersectional mode of direction towards a cartography of “analytic sensibility” codifies the indicators of education and praxis as motivations of direction. In that, we find a liberation of a thought through an ontological rhythm that has the potential to withstand and extend an invitation to a measurement of reality that the author or critic seeks to clarity. The emphasis on spatiality is a trajectory more than a concluding end and it’s shape is that which escapes relations to power in how it defines one’s ability to stand above it, identify, and name systematic power for the future. 


To cite a length Pamela K. Gilbert’s essay, “Sex and the modern city: English studies and the spatial turn,” from The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (eds. Barney Warf and Santa Arias),  

[A]s both Foucauldians and Marxists agree, human experience of space is always mediated by human relations with the world, material and discursive. Space is, then, not an Euclidean given; it is a materiality which we always experience both temporally and through a number of beliefs and practices. Most theorists posit two types of space superimposed on or coexisting with each other: physical space and social space (what Neil Smith calls relative space). Physical space encompasses both the natural or “given” and the built environment, and of course, as Smith points out, nature is itself produced, both ideologically and physically, through human interaction with the land, and through various scientific practices which seek to measure it. Place – the particularities of a named space experienced as unified with clear boundaries, characteristics, and history – was often asserted as charged with meaning against the abstraction of modern space. Place could be claimed as home, as related to the construction of identity and values. From both the feminist and the Marxist sides, ideas of place were eventually critiqued – even attacked – as nostalgic mystifications of inequality and essentialism. (103)  

Home and concepts of home become target sites for sources of conflict and sites of oppression, built upon a history of informing a place of its unlimited conjecture of more-real-than-life tropes and confusion of resources; as wastelands of embodied beads of desire where we seek freedom and stages of resistance. Commonality between feminism and Marxism is often glossed over, perhaps not always explored as the unique identifiers of gender is or capitalism incursions, though clearly they are abetted towards many mutual inclinations to freedom of thought and resilience under pressure. Kathleen M. Kirby elaborates further in her boundary 2 article, “Thinking through the Boundary: The Politics of Location, Subjects, and Space” (1993) how the body and locality are uniquely tied, as I touched upon in the last section. Freedom from the oppression of place is to be explored through an understanding of space and the foundations of demarcated rhythms of holistically global artifice and acupuncture of spanning time with our senses towards the reasoning of neglect. Kirby states,  

Space has the capacity to figure many of the different aspects of identity – the psyche as volume, the body as container, discourse as spatial network, groups as closed circles, and the aloof expanses of geography and nation. Space brings together the material and the abstract, the body and the mind, the objective interaction of physical subjects and the elusive transience of consciousness (or the unconscious). Space is our environment, it links us to our environment and seems to fortify a distinction between self and environment, girding (and guarding) an interiority. As a metaphorical substrate, space provides the very medium for measuring interconnection and difference, similarity and distance-markers that become important in evaluating the possibilities of coalition or the desirability of separatism. Space, then, seems to offer a medium for articulating-speaking and intertwining-the many facets, or phases, of subjectivity that have interested different kinds of theory: national origin, geographic and territorial mobility (determined by class, gender, and race), bodily presence and limits, structures of consciousness, and ideological formations of belonging and exclusion. (174)  

This is seen in literature as a form, but this form is much more triumphant in its dispersal through time as a weight on which structured “reality” rests. Yes, through literature we can begin to attest to our breaking points, but there is a wide margin between negotiating the storyform and reigniting the cacophony of bonds which restrain our reasoned intellectualism from asserting our potential onto real space. Roxanne R. Reed writes in “The Restorative Power of Sound: A Case for Communal Catharsis in Toni Morrison’s Beloved” (The Journal of Feminist Studies of Religion, 2007), that “[t]he process of spiritual development is figured in Morrison’s novels as salvation. The concept of re-memory (remembrance) recurs in Morrison’s novels and facilitates the redemption. The catalyst for re-memory comes through sound, and for the characters in Beloved sound assures communal salvation as the ultimate goal” (66). Here an instigator of release of a physical embodiment of the unexplored emotional depth as indicated and exposed through “sound” that feels out its space and harvests the rhythm of space-time’s journey into the unknown that is always-already known through communal experience. Memory is narrative. Memory is also a catalyst for change.   

What is remembrance but concentration through time? And in that a breach into space, or, a place that neglects the reasoning of time. Feminist circles have reasoned that without liberation from First World market competitive dominance, resistance on the fronts in non-First World nations is a constant struggle that does not guarantee victory in space or time or through commercial assets. As Audre Lorde proclaimed, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” When First World feminists uphold the values of glass-ceiling victories to bring wealth and power to the individual, but not liberation or even the tools of liberation to the global marketplace then place, here, is indeed justified to be “ critiqued – even attacked – as nostalgic mystifications of inequality and essentialism.” We demystify space through literature, as Roxanne R. Reed is alluding to, but through that process we must take the next step and demystify our own enclaves of neglected staged rebellion. For in that space of neglected staged rebellion is the neglected body that will continue to despair within the confines of spaces of whiteness and capitalism.    

Space Strategist and Ethicist: First Contact Strategy and Ethics