Cruising through the non-places…

I have been in contact wih the editor of ‘Bifurcaciones’; a Chilean cultural/urban studies journal:

He was interested in something I posted to the film-philosophy list about Marc Auge’s concept of the non-place and wants me to write something for the journal. As James Weiner has noted, within anthropology (proper, none of this ‘cultural studies’ nonsense) there are two competing accounts of human relations to place and placedness. One is premised on “detailing the many dimensions of intimacy, knowledge, familiarity, history, and interpersonality mediated by attachment to particular places.” The other is located around Auge’s notion of the ‘non-place’ “the interstitial and often artificially constructed zones that have emerged in a world of continuous travel.” A ‘place’ in Auge’s little book are public spaces filled with historical and ceremonial memory.

Of course, my research on modified-car culture, where I have hung out in these alleged ‘non-places’ doing fieldwork, has led me to the conclusion that Auge’s account is, at best, only ever partial and its partiality needs to be interrogated. Perhaps it is too French? The account of the business-class traveller in the beginning of the book certainly offers a very different account of the non-places compared to a traveller from a different class, gender, ethnicity, age, etc background.

It is perhaps useful to retun to Foucault’s notion of heterotopias which I read through a Deleuzian-eye as the virtual potential of the spatial extension in any actual situation. Chris Stanley has already thought through the notion of the ‘streets’ in a similar way in his piece in the 1998 _Club Cultures Reader_ “Not drowning but waving: urban narratives of dissent in the wild zone.” Stanley’s ‘wild zone’ is the space where ‘joy riders’ can escape to in their stolen cars. It is the space within the space that is under the radar of governmental authorities; not only the actual police, but the machinery of policing that has come to populate the body of the ‘road user’.

The ‘cathedrals of consumption’ such as shopping centres and fast food joints have long been appropriated by youth as spaces of sociality. Most of my fieldwork time has been carried out in one of two modes. I joined a car club and attended organised club events. The other simply involved cruising around and discovering where something was ‘happening’. Something ‘happens’ from the nothing of the street. That is, it is not enough to label a space a ‘non-place’ as such a categorical distinction is temporally specific. Paul Corrigan’s piece on “Doing Nothing” in the BCCCS classic _Resistance Through Rituals_ exemplifies the creative event-based practices that are common to most youth and, I would argue, especially car enthusiasts. The space of the street becomes a space of potentiality – through action what is precipitated is the incorporeal event of ‘nothing’. Parallels can be drawn to the early rave scene that Stanley also discusses and their appropriation of abandoned warehouses/etc.

Anyway, I will need to think about this some more. There has been some work on ‘cruising spaces’ already by scholars (including an awesome essay from 1969!) so I need to figure out what has changed, if anything… and I think a lot has…

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