Notes: Marc Agué, “Anthropological Place” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity

Agué, Marc. “Anthropological Place” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995: 42-74.

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Summary:

Agué discusses and defines Anthropological Place, referring to the ways that anthropology has classically understood its intellectual objects as situated.

Keywords: Anthropology, place, space

Quotations:

“But this ideal of exhaustive interpretation, which a novelist would find discouraging owing to the comprehensive imaginative effort it might seem to require of him, rests on a very particular conception of the ‘average’ man, in which he too is defined as ‘total’ because, unlike the representatives of the modern elite, ‘his entire being is affected by the smallest of his perceptions or by the slightest mental shock'”(48-49).

“In so far as the culturalist view of societies tries to be systematic, its limitations are obvious: to substantify a singular culture is to ignore its intrinsically problematic character (sometimes brought to light, however, by its reactions to other cultures or to the jolts of history); to ignore, too, a complexity of social tissue and a variety of individual positions which could never be deduced from the cultural ‘text'” (50).

“We will reserve the term anthropological place for this concrete and symbolic construction of space, which could not of itself allow for the vicissitudes and contradictions of social life, but which serves as a reference for all those it assigns to a position” (51).

“These places have at least three characteristics in common. They want to be – people want them to be – places of identity, of relations and of history” (52).

“If we linger for a moment on the definition of anthropological place we will see, first, that it is geometric. It can be mapped in terms of three simple spatial forms, which apply to different institutional arrangements and in a sense are the elementary forms of social space. In geometric terms these are the line, the intersection of lines, and the point of intersection” (56-57).

“Thus, starting from simple spatial forms, we see how the individual thematic and the collective thematic intersect and combine. Political symbolism plays on these possibilities to express the power of an authority, employing the unity of a sovereign figure to unify and symbolize the internal diversities of a social collectivity” (62).

“[T]urning away, this bypassing. is not without some feeling of remorse, as we can see from the numerous signboards inviting us not to ignore the splendours of the area and its traces of history” (73).

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