ABSTRACT. Kantian culture was based on the categories of time and space inherited from the best science at the time (e.g., Newtonian physics) that treated them as the permanent and absolute framework of our cognitive schema, shaping the very sense impressions we receive from the world and making them intelligible. Before Kant space and time were treated separately although often interdependently. At the beginning of the twentieth century Einstein’s (1907) ‘space-time’ expressed elegantly in Hermann Minkowski’s equations treated these categories as one concept in his general theory of relativity. The new awareness of space developed quickly in topology, a form of spatial mathematics that culminated in the Bourbaki group whose work in the 1930s greatly influenced the revolution in structuralist linguistics and genetic epistemology, including respectively, Levi-Strauss and Jean Piaget. The structuralist revolution and its confrontation with phenomenology (and existentialism) are perhaps best epitomized in the quarrel between Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre over the nature of experience and it’s lived spatial nature. Foucault was later to retemporalize his epistemes by adopting Nietzsche’s ‘genealogy’, a move that encouraged him and others to articulate a new form of historicism that imperiled essences and other universalist forms of thinking. By historicizing Heidegger Foucault moved toward what Hacking (2004) calls ‘historical ontologies’. This paper argues that in order to understand the spatial turns of the twentieth century in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and history we need to develop critical historiographies that simultaneously view and problematize these ‘turns’. In this way we can come to recognize the ‘persistence of narrative’ as a lasting and significant achievement of the linguistic turn and as the basis for our systematic reflection on the spatial turn. pp. 48–66

Keywords: the spatial turn, typology, Foucault, Lefebvre, critical historiographies

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University of Waikato
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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