Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hauntology and Non-Places


Mark Fisher has been talking at NYU and I wish I could have been there (lectures here). It seems as if his argument has some affinities with some of the things I wrote in Ecology without Nature.

In fact that whole project began as a meditation on non-places. In Colorado I was struck by the enormous size of mall parking lots, far far bigger than necessary. And restaurant tables—the fancier the restaurant, the wider and more massive they were, the better to separate the diners. I too am haunted by these places.

I use Derrida's term hauntology in a slightly different way in EwN than the way I think Fisher uses it. This is the sense of undead, spectral presence rather than loneliness per se (though I see how they are related). I think this is an improvement on environmentalist presence. Mind you, check out these lines:

Spitzer argues that the very thinkers whose ideas undermine these usages introduce them, to protect us against what they have clearly discovered—vast empty space...

...

“Empty” space—space that capitalism has left relatively undeveloped—is intrinsic to capitalism, since the laws of capital may dictate that a vacant lot is more profitable over a certain span of time than one that has been developed. Plot is a potential space, a limbo waiting to generate value. Capitalism moves onto this empty stage, with its phantasmagoric carnival, leaving junkspace in its wake.

...

To theorize ecological views is also to bring thinking up to date. Varieties of Romanticism and primitivism have often construed ecological struggle as that of “place” against the encroachments of modern and postmodern “space.” In social structure and in thought, goes the argument, place has been ruthlessly corroded by space: all that is solid melts into air. But unless we think about it some more, the cry of “place!” will resound in empty space, to no effect.


My own take: capitalism has ruthlessly demystified the notion of place only to re-place it with other forms of interstitial place such as airport lounges. One of the first ever non-places is surely the garden lawn. Jefferson's Monticello (see photo) has a gigantic one, originally to obscure the view of slave quarters...

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