Walking in the City: Michel de Certeau
‘The City’ like a proper name, provides a way of conceiving and constructing on the basis of a finite number of stable, isolatable, and interconnected properties…on the other hand there is a rejection of everything that is not capable of being dealt with in this way and so constitutes ‘waste products’ of a functionalist administration (Abnormality, deviance, illness, death etc.).
The functionalist organisation, by privileging progress (i.e. time), causes the condition of its own possibility – space itself – to be forgotten; space thus becomes a blind spot in a scientific and political technology.
If in discourse, the city serves as a mythic landmark for socioeconomic and political strategies, urban life increasingly permits the re-emergence of the elements that the urbanistic project excluded…beneath the discourses that idealise the city, the ruses and combinations of powers that have no readable identity proliferate; without points at which one can take hold of them, without rational transparency they are impossible to administer…one can follow the swarming activity of these procedures that, far from being regulated or eliminated by the panoptic administration, have reinforced themselves in a proliferating illegitimacy…
I would like to follow out a few of these multiform, resistant, tricky and stubborn procedures that elude discipline without being outside of the field in which it is exercised, and which should lead us to a theory of everyday practices, of lived space, of the disquieting familiarity of the city.
Kandinsky dreamed of “ a great city built according to all the rules of architecture and then suddenly shaken by a force that defies all calculation”
Text: Extracts from Chapter VII (Walking in the City) from “The Practice of Everyday Life” by Michel De Certeau 1984, University of California Press, translated by Stephen Rendall.
Photographs: Alan Rogers