From the Spatial Turn to the Spacetime-Vitalist Turn

Mahjoub’s Navigation of a Rainmaker and Owuor’s Dust

Authored by: Russell West-Pavlov

The Routledge Handbook of Literature and Space

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138816350
eBook ISBN: 9781315745978
Adobe ISBN:


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When was the spatial turn? The question is legitimate because Foucault, in his programmatic article “Different Spaces” (sometimes translated as “Of Other Spaces”), claimed that “space itself, in Western experience, has a history.” 1 The so-called spatial turn dislodged a putative nineteenth-century dominance of time in the humanities (whether historical, social scientific or literary) to reintroduce, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, the apparently elided element of space and geography. 2 The spatial turn may be said to have been prepared by English-language publications such as Raymond Williams’s The City and the Country in 1973. 3 But it flourished in its true poststructuralist mode from roughly 1980, when the work of Foucault began to have an impact in the English-speaking world (consecrated perhaps by the translation of Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces” in Diacritics in 1986), to sometime in the first decade of the 2000s, its zenith marked perhaps by the publication of Warf and Arias’s edited volume, The spatial turn, in 2009. 4 At that very moment, however, what I suggest might be seen as its successor, the Affective Turn, consecrated by the publication of a reader bearing that title in 2007, was already appearing on the horizon. 5 The Turn from the Spatial to the Affective is, I would suggest, far more than merely an epochal conceptual paradigm shift, but may be understood even as a modification of the question of the “when?” as it meets, intersects with and transforms the “where?”

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