Lefebvre, space and the body

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I’ve just returned to Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space, but this time I tried to look at its depiction of the body in social space. Focusing on this one aspect I was surprised to find just how central the body is in Lefebvre’s analysis. In fact quite early on Lefebvre is very clear that the body is central to his conception of the production of space.

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What comes across in this reading of Lefebvre’s book is an affective account of space. The sensory body is central to spatial production. Although Lefebvre us clear that this sensory production of space can be usurped by powerful conceptions and representations of space. This leads him to talk of the ‘spatial body’ as a sits in which practices and representations of space implicate one another and shape bodily experience. This is quite a complex and recursive vision of the body and of its part in the production of space. But for me what I found to be most valuable was Lefebvre’s approach to scale. Here Lefebvre moves between scales in the conceptualisation of space. This scalar analysis moved down touts origins in bodily senses, experience and encounters. What is useful in this is that we get a sense of how wider geographical forces, such as capitalism or globalisation, might come to act on the body. But more than this, the body is an active node in these larger social and political processes. This has opened up some questions for me about how the bodily scale is incorporated into the analysis of consumer capitalism, cultures and new media.

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Lefebvre doesn’t really nail down this set of scalar recursive processes in this book. Which is understandable. He does though provide a means for thinking of the body as being an active yet contextually defined part of the broader forces to which it is exposed. In other words, it provides a set of analytical problems about the body in contemporary mediated culture that I think have yet to be addressed. The problem with cultural analysis at the moment is that it tends often to forget the body, and where it is included the analysis often only works on that scale and therefore forgets to explore how other spatial scales may act and be acted upon by it. Lefebvre points toward the need for the body tone incorporated into the spatial analysis of capitalism, and for the spatial analysis of capitalism to include the body. I’m just trying to develop this in the chapter on the body that I’m writing for my book. I’m not sure where it will go yet.

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2 Responses to Lefebvre, space and the body

  1. Reblogged this on urbanculturalstudies and commented:
    Great post. Lefebvre’s late text Rhythmanalysis is a great resource for such questions as well, and Kirsten Simonsen’s 2005 essay “Bodies Sensations, Space and Time: The Contribution from Henri Lefebvre” is another. It is interesting to see how far Lefebvre’s thoguhts on the body have migrated to other disciplines, for example I just read this essay by Michael Todd Friedman and Cathy van Ingen titled “Bodies in Space: Spatializing Physical Cultural Studies” published in 2011 in rhw Sociology of Sport Journal 28: 85-105.

  2. Reblogged this on Urban Choreography and commented:
    The issue of viewing space at varied scales – global to local, is very powerful for understanding how space is constructed in relation to the body.

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