Intercorporeal, Intersubjective, Imaginary and Rational Spatialities: Between Existence and Abstraction

Untitled © Denise Startin

“If a person feels inside a place, he or she is here rather than there, safe rather than threatened, enclosed rather than exposed, at ease rather than stressed. Relph suggests that the more profoundly inside a place a person feels, the stronger will be his or her identity with that place.”

‘Space is multiple. Such multiplicity is both the precondition for and the result of spatial practices. Spatiality and practicality ground one another. There are different ways of attempting to grasp this co-dependent multiplicity. For example,

“…Relph defines four sorts of space, or knowledge about space, produced by different relationships to places. At the first step ‘pragmatic’ spaces are organised by our bodily situation (left or right, up or down). Second is perceptual space, organised through our intentions and centred on us – what we focus upon, what we look at, thus tending to be centred on the observer. Existential space is informed by cultural structures as much as our perceptions – it is space full of social meaning. This space is defined in relationship to some human experience or task. Finally, cognitive space is how we abstractly model spatial relationships.” (Crang, 1998:110). While this is a valuable starting point, recent re-thinkings of the phenomenological heritage, within which Relph lies, may point to a slightly different classification, coordinating person-hood with place-hood. This schema is based on the intercorporeal (as embodied-situated interaction), the intersubjective (as symbolic, performative, narrative interaction), the imaginary (as fantasmal, intracorporeal, medial-virtual interaction) and rational (as geometric, logical, coded interaction), each with their different degrees of freedom. Each of these four dimensions may or may not be well integrated and may well be skewed in various different directions, such that, for example, one’s fantasmal imaginings may begin to dominate and render unsustainable one’s intercorporeal and intersubjective relations. Through integration of these dimensions, spatial practices coordinate, integrate and separate spatialities centred on the self, and its motivated engagement with the world, with the spatialities that derive from geometric and logical calculation and fabrication, the structures of the designed and manufactured world. This is to acknowledge, while re-articulating Heidegger’s focus on care:

“Heidegger does not talk about intentions so much as care. Since we are always engaged with the world, we must focus our attention on particular aspects at any given time. We thus have different types and levels of care for different things at different times. The world might then be seen as comprising different levels of care.” (Crang, 1998: 110). The conclusion that Crang draws from this passage above, in which Relph interprets Heidegger, is that (human) knowledge of the world is always em-placed. It starts from and continues to be based around places as centres of care about the world. Thus, notes Crang, employing this approach suggests that we make sense of the world through the materials at hand, not from abstract schemes.

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Friedrich Nietzsche

“The assumption of a single subject is perhaps unneccesary: perhaps it is just as permissible to assume a multiplicity of subjects whose interaction and struggle is the basis of our thought and our consciousness in general? A kind of ‘aristocracy of cells’ in which dominion resides? To be sure, an aristocracy of equals, used to ruling jointly and understanding how to command? My hypothesis: The subject as multiplicity. ” (Nietzsche 1968: 270)

For a short but informative passage about Nietzsche and the musical rythms (Also pursued in different ways by Phillip Lacoue-Labarthe and Julia Kristeva) in his texts click here

Text reproduced from Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies, Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Indiana University Press, 1994: p.122

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