AC Habbard





“Space Oddity”

Odd Spaces and Their Meaning





Course Presentation:


This seminar will look at all these odd places which distance us, geographically, but also socially, politically or psychologically, from our daily lives and our spatial habits; and which, thereby, force us to see or think differently our relationship to the world. From Thomas More’s utopia to Foucault’s heterotopia and to the Gilles Clément’s inspired ‘third-places’, all these weird spaces – be they fascinating, liberating or frightening – help us understand our mode of being in the world, and even understand the world itself.

We will look at the long debate about the ends of the world; at the underground world, perceived as hellish and obscure; at aerial and extra-terrestrial space. What do they tell us about our relationship to Earth?

On the Earth itself, how do we relate to oceans, long viewed as both terrifying and godly; to sacred spaces, and to liminal places such as the forest, the abyss, the strait, the island?

What does travel tell us about our spatial mode of being? Magellan’s journey is not the same type of travel as the medieval crusade, or the Middle Passage for African slaves; nor can either of those be likened to an EasyJet trip to Marbella. Why and how do we move? What do we call exoticism? The freedom of travel will shed some light on the metaphysical concept of freedom.

We will also take a look at the separation of spaces: the wall, the fortified enclosure, the border, and its multiple avatars. Who has a right to be where? The centre is normal, and normative: the periphery is viewed as abnormal, but also as decadent, immoral, a space of moral depravity. But is exile necessarily anomalous? The issue of territory and territorialisation is here at stake.


All these marginal spaces will allow us to reflect on human spatiality, and, more generally, on the way we construct our environment, our landscape, and our mode of dwelling in the world. The theme of the anamorphosis will be used as a metaphor to learn to see what we think we see differently.



Course Outline:


Week 1: Introduction

Thinking about the human being’s spatiality and mode of being in the wold. Space and place, here and there. Anamorphosis as a metaphor. Landscape and the Anthropocene.


Week 2: The Ends of the World

The Ancients’ ‘Oekumene’. The edges of the known world; what is a Terra incognita?


Week 3: Air- and Extra-terrestrial Space

How the Earth became a globe, and the human being, a flying and cosmic being. Evading the boundaries of terrestrial, Earth-bound life.


Week 4: The Underworld

The myth and history of our relationship to underground spaces, both hell and liberation.


Week 5: The Sea, the Ocean, the Desert

Un-inhabitable places, both monstrous and godly. The question of the sublime.


Week 6: The Island

The utopia, the insular mythology. This island as both get-away and prison.


Week 7: Walls, Borders, Enclosures, Frontiers

The separation of spaces. Closing in, the political role of exclusion.


Week 8: Travels

What is exoticism? The meaning of mobility


Week 9: The City and its Singular Spaces

The ghetto, the brothel, ruins, urban wastelands… Walking in the city.



Provisional Bibliography (Fr/En):


Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, U. of Chicago Press, 1958.

Etienne Balibar, Nous, citoyens d'Europe ? Les frontières, l'État, le peuple, Paris, La Découverte, 2001

Walter Benjamin, Paris, Capital of the 19th Century.

Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignties, Princeton UP, 2010.

Michel de Certeau, L’Invention du quotidien, Tomes 1 et 2, Folio Classiques, 1990 et 1994.

Gilles Clément, Manifeste du Tiers paysage, éd. du Commun, 2020.

James Clifford, Routes. Travel and Translation in the Late 20th-century, Harvard UP, 1997.

Tim Cresswell, On the Move – Mobility in Modern Western World, Routledge 2006.

Gilles Deleuze, L’Île déserte et autres textes, Paris, éd. de Minuit, 2002.

Vilhelm Flusser, The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism, U of Illinois press, 2003

Michel Foucault, « Des espaces autres », Conférence au Cercle d’études architecturales, 14 mars 1967, in Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, no 5 (1984): 46-49.

Frédéric Gros, Marcher – Une philosophie, Pairs, Flammarion, 2019.

Eric Hazan, L’Invention de Paris – Il n’y a pas de pas perdus, Paris, Points, 2004.

Peter Hopkirk, Trespassers on the Roof of the World, Oxford UP, 1993.

Edmund Husserl,

-          La Terre ne se meut pas

-          La Crise des sciences européennes

Leif Jerram, Streetlife: The Untold History of Europe's Twentieth Century, Oxford UP, 2013.

Henri Lefebvre, La Production de l’espace

Kant, Perpetual Peace

-          Critique of Judgment

Robert McFarlane, Underland, Les Arènes, 2020.

Olivier Remaud, Penser comme un iceberg, Actes Sud, 2020.

James Romm, The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought, Princeton UP, 2019.

Edward Said, Reflections on Exile, Granta Books, 2012.

Car Schmitt,

-          The Nomos of the Earth

-          Land and Sea

Victor Segalen, Essai sur l’exotisme, Livre de Poche, 2007.

Richard Sennett, “Fear of Touching: The Jewish Ghetto in Renaissance Venice,” in Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization, New York, Norton & Co, 1996.

Peter Sloterdijk, Spheres (vol. 1 and 2).

Peter Szendy, Kant chez les extraterrestres, Paris, éd. de Minuit, 2011.

H. Thoreau, Walking

Paul Zumthor, « Lieux et espaces au moyen-âge », in Dalhousie French Studies, Vol. 30, printemps 1995, pp. 3-10.