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Between the Linguistic and the Spatial Turns

A Reconsideration of the Concept of Space and Its Role in the Early Modern Period

Yair Mintzker

This exploratory essay seeks to unravel the inherent contradictions between two fundamental trends in contemporary historiography: the “spatial turn” on the one hand, and the “linguistic turn” on the other hand. The “spatial turn,” it argues, turned “space's” status as a category of analysis into an accepted dogma. Under these circumstances, one often overlooks the fact that “space,” like all concepts, can also be problematic and at times even misleading. By looking at several examples from and about the intellectual world of early modern Europe, the article demonstrates how the use of space as a category of analysis encounters two fundamental challenges. First, the problem of the absence of the word “space” itself from important early modern texts (“shrinkage”); and second, the overuse of the term “space” in translations and analysis of early modern intellectual works (“contamination”).

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Daniel T. Levin and Caryn Wang

Levin and Simons (2000) argued that perceptual experience in film and the real world share a deep similarity in that both rely on inferences that visual properties are stable across views. This article argues that the perception and representation of visual space also reveal deep commonalities between film and the real world. The article reviews psychological research on visual space that suggests that we not only attend to similar spatial cues both in film and in nonmediated settings, but also that the rules for combining and selecting among these cues are similar. In exploring these links, it becomes clear that there is a bidirectional relationship between cognitive psychology and film editing that allows each to provide important insights about the other.

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Vassiliki Markidou

This article analyses William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in relation to its main spaces – the heath, Macbeth’s three castles, Macduff’s fortress, and the battleground where Macbeth perishes – in order to shed light on the play’s use of spatial politics by outlining the function and significance of the concept of the palimpsest, while concurrently reading the play within a context that conflates Michel de Certeau’s and Henri Lefebvre’s theories of space. It contends that although castles are supposed to be the bedrocks and shelters for the individuals that inhabit them, hence fixed and static, those in the text are ambiguous and changeable while concurrently they refigure and reinscribe one another. Finally, the article will demonstrate that the playwright invites the audience to ponder on the issues of social responsibility and political power by choosing a spatially palimpsestic framework for his play.

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Human Mobility and the Spatial Dynamics of Knowledge

Mapping Science, Technology, and Medicine in and around Late Imperial China

Catherine Jami

The project “Individual Itineraries and the Circulation of Scientific and Technical Knowledge in China (16th–20th Centuries)” has shed light on the impact of individuals’ geographic mobility on the spatial dynamics of knowledge in late imperial China, where the bureaucratic system dictated a specific pattern of mobility for the elites. The question was also studied for other socioprofessional groups—craftsmen and medical doctors—and for the actors of the globalization of knowledge—Christian missionaries, colonial doctors, and the Chinese students. The studies conducted shed light on a variety of places, social milieus, fields of knowledge, and on the conditions of travel of technical knowledge—including sericulture, water conservancy, medicine, natural history, and statistics—against the background of the expertise such as classical scholarship—the dominant body of knowledge, sanctioned by imperial examination—circulated among the elite.

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Factors in the Development of Spatial Cognition in Boys and Girls

Assessing the Impacts of Biology and Navigational Experience

Mariah G. Schug

Spatial cognition represents one of the best-established sex differences in cognitive science. There is a pervasive tendency for males to outperform females on multiple spatial reasoning tasks. While prenatal hormones may provide a foundation for these differences, childhood experience also plays an important role. This current article examines how biological factors may interact with environmental and cultural factors. Of particular interest is the cross-cultural literature in which children’s naturalistic experiences exploring their environments can be linked to the development of spatial skills. Based on the examined research, children who gain more navigational experience tend to perform better on spatial tasks. Because boys typically have greater opportunities to explore and navigate, this difference in experience may contribute to the observed sex differences in spatial performance.

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Marko Grdešic

This article engages in a spatial analysis of the link between protest and voting during the Wende, East Germany’s revolution of 1989. Are the same places that protested more also the places that decided the revolution’s fate by supporting CDU’s ticket of quick reunification? The revolution is approached through the conceptual metaphor of Thermidor, a conservative backlash to the revolution’s initial radical impulse. Spatial methods are used to investigate the local-level relationships between protest and voting. The article finds a weak link between protest and voting, which suggests that something akin to Thermidor occurred in East Germany. While certain towns initiated the revolution with their protests, other localities stepped in at a later stage and finished the revolution by voting for reunification, the revolution’s main outcome. The article pays special attention to the divide between East Germany’s north (Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania) and south (Saxony and Thuringia).

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Peter Merriman

In this article Merriman responds to Gijs Mom's suggestion that mobility historians should develop a common research agenda, formulate big questions, and adopt a transnational and comparative approach. In reply, Merriman suggests that dissensus and multiple approaches have their advantages, and highlights the ongoing importance of the national as a frame of understanding, as well as the importance of spatially sensitive approaches that pose clear challenges to comparative methodologies.

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Claudia Winkler

This article analyzes Sabrina Janesch's 2010 novel Katzenberge through the lenses of Heimat and spatial theory. Katzenberge, which is told from the perspective of the third generation (i.e., grandchild) of expellees, narrates the story of Polish flight out of the Polish-Ukrainian border region of Galicia into the German-Polish border region of Silesia. I argue that Katzenberge chronicles a generational shift in relationships to the verlorene (lost) Heimat from the expellee generation's static view (Heimat as the physical territory itself) to the third generation's more fluid conceptions (Heimat as memories, stories). The purpose of this article is to illustrate changing ways of engaging with the verlorene Heimat over time and particularly to show the role that literature plays in facilitating and explaining these changes while also opening up new avenues of understanding both across generations and across German-Polish national borders.

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Achebe's Spatial Temporalities

Literary Chronotopes in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God

Harry Olufunwa

Human perception is most commonly shaped by the ostensible "concrete" nature of things, that is, by their existence at specific moments of time and in particular locations in space. In spite of longstanding philosophical enquiry into the issue of "whether time has a continuous or discontinuous structure", there is clearly a close correspondence between the progression of time and moment in space.

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Racial or Spatial Categorisations?

A Focus on the French Setting

Magali Bessone

The hypothesis developed in the paper is that the relation between race and space, under-explored in philosophy, is a powerful theoretical instrument for understanding racial injustices and can be used to renew racial categorisation in a more critical, transformative manner. It argues that only constructivism, in its 'interactive constructionism' version (Hacking 1999), can make sense of both concepts in a relevant way for political theory, and provide a general critical frame to study the relation between both concepts, thereby replying to the powerful arguments of racial scepticism. After specifying what such a position entails for the 'race' concept, the paper argues that 'space', itself conceived in a constructionist perspective, is a core element of current referents of 'race' in our folk conceptions. It shows that France, despite its pretence of racial blindness, is not a counter-example, but rather reinforces the hypothesis. Hence, space should be more thoroughly reinvestigated at an epistemological and theoretical level in exploring our racial thinking.