We typically take public space for granted, as if it has continuously been there, yet public space has always been the expression of the will of some agency (person or institution) who names the space, gives it purpose, and monitors its existence. And often its use has been contested. These new essays, written for this volume, approach public space through several key questions: Who has the right to define public space? How do such places generate and sustain symbolic meaning? Is public space unchanging, or is it subject to our subjective perception? Do we, given the public nature of public space, have the right to subvert it? These eighteen essays, including several case studies, offer convincing evidence of a spatial turn in American studies. They argue for a re-visioning of American culture as a history of place-making and the instantiation of meaning in structures, boundaries, and spatial configurations. Chronologically the subjects range from Pierre L’Enfant’s initial majestic conceptualization of Washington, D.C. to the post-modern realization that public space in the U.S. is increasingly a matter of waste. Topics range from parks to cities to small towns, from open-air museums to airports, encompassing the commercial marketing of place as well as the subversion and re-possession of public space by the disenfranchised. Ultimately, public space is variously imagined as the site of social and political contestation and of aesthetic change.
Edited by Miles Orvell and Jeffrey L. Meikle
Judgement and Creativity from Benjamin to Merleau-Ponty
John E. O'Brien
In his Critique of Rationality, John Eustice O’Brien proposes a fascinating rectification for the distortion of technical necessity in Western Society due to unbridled instrumental reason. He begins with a review of this issue first raised by the Early German Romantics as discussed by Isaiah Berlin and Walter Benjamin. Following French social philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s radically different apperceptive epistemology, he explores the possibility of a social world in which each is anchored by a préobjective disposition to meaning based on the intersubjective presence of all. This justifies the postulate of aesthetic-consciousness as the site of socialization in communities of meaning, as a frame for judgment and creativity. The struggle must continue for awakening that consciousness if an open society is to be realized.
Space, Mobility, Aesthetics
Edited by Esther Peeren, Hanneke Stuit and Astrid Van Weyenberg
This volume sheds new light on how today’s peripheries are made, lived, imagined and mobilized in a context of rapidly advancing globalization. Focusing on peripheral spaces, mobilities and aesthetics, it presents critical readings of, among others, Indian caste quarters, the Sahara, the South African backyard and European migration, as well as films, novels and artworks about marginalized communities and repressed histories. Together, these readings insist that the peripheral not only needs more visibility in political, economic and cultural terms, but is also invaluable for creating alternative perspectives on the globalizing present. Peripheral Visions combines sociological, cultural, literary and philosophical perspectives on the periphery, and highlights peripheral innovation and futurity to counter the lingering association of the peripheral with stagnation and backwardness.