chapter
10 Pages

Heterotopia: an ecology

ByJAMES D. FAUBION

Sidi-Bou-Saïd, 1967. He would introduce it to an audience of Parisian architects in March, but Foucault had already conceived of heterotopia when the year began. He had at least already had the experience of it in his sojourn in Tunisia, where he swam in a warm sea, partook of hashish and dark, young bodies, wrote in the mornings in one or another of the whitewashed, blue-trimmed houses that he rented in a picturesque village clinging to the cliffs of the Bay of Tunis, and lectured in the afternoons and evenings in the city proper, some 20 km to the south of the village itself. His thoughts on heterotopia are in any event expansive. They set aside the historian’s usual empirical reserve to consider phenomena common to ‘every culture, every civilization’ (Foucault 1984: 178). They have something of the sightseer’s enchanted breathlessness. They highlight an ‘unspoken’ dynamic of ‘sacralization’ still operative in even the most secularized and godless of modern societies (1984: 177). They race from ‘crisis utopias’ – the menstrual hut, the delivery room, the boarding school, the honeymoon hotel – to a great swirl of ‘heterotopias of deviation’ that includes rest homes, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, Christian cemeteries ancient and modern, theatres, cinemas, gardens, Persian carpets, museums, libraries, festivals, Muslim baths, Swedish saunas, motel rooms, brothels, Puritan colonies and Jesuit settlements in the New World. The tour is extraordinary, dazzling, befuddling. What territories can these be?