Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Schizophrenic Walking

De Certeau connects spacial practices, specifically walking, with the construction of the identity. He notes that "To practice space [. . .] is to repeat the joyful and silent experience of childhood; it is, in a place, to be other and move towards the other" (de Cereau, 110). Every mapping of space is a construction of an identity.

What sort of identity is being constructed here is rather unclear. While de Certeau seems to be implying the personal identity, taking us back to childhood and the joy of the mirror stage, his discussion is also tied into the "utopian and urbanistic discourses" which found the city (de Certeau 94). But are these relations not always biunivocal? One constantly coming under the order of the other?

De Certeau notes that while the city provides the basis for the map, it is the individuals walking which animates it. "The walker actualizes possibility" (de Certeau 98). But yet cities eclipse individuals. It is cities which are the characters of the great tragedies the "ministers of knowledge" play out for us. It is not the individual.

Can walking ever get us out of a city, actually construct an individual identity? The answer, it seems to me, is possibly a deeply fragmented one. It is an identity constructed of nothing essential--maybe the most essential thing would be the city of residence, some locality--but rather repetitions. Returning to the same spots, taking the same paths. This is how one defines one's self.

This sort of self is very vulnerable. A variety of things could change to transform the individual entirely. Streets could be paved, shops shut down. This sort of shifting identity--which must also always be ready to reduced to the city, or maybe the nation--would be safe to call schizophrenic, I believe.

No comments: