chapter  3
Heterotopia and Placelessness in Brian Chikwava’s Harare North
Pages 16

Foucault’s outline of heterotopias as counter-sites that relate to all other sites ‘but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or re ect’ has, for all his extensive examples, been much criticized for its vagueness.1 Moreover, critics point to the contradictions between the essay ‘Of Other Spaces’ and the brief reference to heterotopia in the Preface to e Order of ings where its focus is on textual space.2 e arguments are pertinent to postcoloniality in that they centre around an understanding of Foucault’s conceptualization of space as an instrument of resistance and social change: the doubleness and contradiction implicated in heterotopia has been linked with the postmodern valorization of alterity, and thus has in ected its meaning with radical ‘openness’. Edward Soja , for instance, connecting the ‘other space’ of heteropology with Homi Bhabha’s ‘third space’, insists that it is meant to detonate and deconstruct, that Foucault’s geohistory ‘explicitly focuses on the spatio-temporal interpretation of the power-knowledge relation’.3 Hilda Heynen , on the other hand, is critical of heterotopia’s doubleness ‘which continues to resonate in between liberation and oppression’.4 She cites Foucault’s example of the heterotopic ship as a problematic site of imagination and adventure in its failure to recognize the ship’s role in the history of slavery , racism and oppression. e arguments as to whether heterotopias subvert or support social systems are, however, de ly demolished by Johnson’s detailed and nuanced reading of the concept as not being

tied to a space that promotes any promise, any hope, or any primary form of resistance and liberation … heterotopias are fundamentally disturbing places … [they] draw us out of ourselves in peculiar ways; they display and inaugurate a di erence, and challenge the space in which we may feel at home. ese emplacements exist out of step and meddle with our sense of interiority. ere is no pure form of heterotopia, but di erent combinations, each reverberating with all the others … but their relationships clash and create further disturbing spatio-temporal units.5