Bodies and Structures


Figures are geographic imaginaries applied to the representation of social groups. For example, referring to a person as an "immigrant" immediately invokes a spatial referent. The immigrant is, by definition, from "elsewhere." Immigrant also invokes its opposite, the native -- the one who is from "here."  At their core, spatial figures reflect a determination of in-place or out-of-placeness. This determination can be undertaken discursively, for example through media representations or official statistics. But these discursive determinations almost always have material consequences in terms of spatial experiences, such as the border examination, the sense of fear of foreigners or a sense of ownership and belonging in one's "native" landscape, or the spatial ordering of cities in terms of ethnicities.

Figures demonstrate the significance of space/spatiality to subjective formation, social change and social formation. They expose the social character of space and the spatiality of the social (Simmel 1908). They are specific manifestations of the broader spatial formations, imaginative geographies, and ideas of place that give their spatiality meaning. Through the Tag Index, Bodies and Structures uses figures as a method for drawing specific historical and conceptual connections across modules, times, and places. Specific historical figures, such as "Chinese as invasive," can be points of entry for analyzing imaginative geographies, spatialities, and place in particular historical moments. More broadly defined figures, such as "stranger," allow for the analysis of spatial subjectivities across time and place.

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