Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Farzaneh Haghighi, Heterotopic sites of knowledge production: Notes on an architectural analysis of lecture halls, Cultural Dynamics, February 14, 2020
DOI: 10.1177/0921374020907111

This article is concerned with the spatial analysis of lecture theaters in higher education institutions and it draws upon two concepts developed by Michel Foucault during the 1970s—heterotopia and the will to know. By examining the heterotopic potentials of lecture theaters where knowledge is rendered visible and articulable, the article argues that the notion of heterotopia is more relevant than panopticon for spatial analysis of these spaces. Heterotopias are defined as counter-sites inhabited by the abnormal, and as such include two dimensions. First there is an exclusion of the abnormal that is aimed at the fabrication of specific subjectivities, students and a more productive workforce. Second, as counter-spaces, heterotopias maintain a hopeful aspect that is providing an opportunity for unsettling the social norms. To support this exploration, the article uses higher education as a transitional environment for the production of an employable workforce and specifically focuses on auditoriums in universities. Contemporary lecture halls originating from the early modern anatomy halls are introduced as a strong spatial context for exploring the spatialization of knowledge and the construction of selves as subjects who desire to know.

Keywords heterotopia, higher education, learning environments, lecture halls, will to know

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