Foucault, Borges, Heterotopia: Producing Knowledge in Other Spaces

  • Robert J. Topinka University of Kansas

Abstract

Arguably the most famous heterotopia that appears in Foucault’s work is the Chinese encyclopedia, which originates in the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges. Drawing on this citation of Borges, this article examines Foucault’s notion of the heterotopia as it relates to order and knowledge production. Frequently, heterotopias are understood as sites of resistance. This article argues that shifting the focus from resistance to order and knowledge production reveals how heterotopias make the spatiality of order legible. By juxtaposing and combining many spaces in one site, heterotopias problematize received knowledge by destabilizing the ground on which knowledge is built. Yet heterotopias always remain connected to the dominant order; thus as heterotopias clash with dominant orders, they simultaneously produce new ways of knowing. This article first explores the tensions between Foucault’s two definitions of heterotopias before connecting these definitions to Foucault’s distinctly spatial understanding of knowledge as emerging from a clash of forces. Finally, the paper ends by returning to the relationship between Foucault, Borges, and heterotopias.

Author Biography

Robert J. Topinka, University of Kansas
R
Published
2010-09-01
Section
Articles