Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Michel De Certeau - Walking in the City - review

One of the key notions in Michel De Certeau's "Walking in the City" is expressed by his assertion that "urban life increasingly permits the re-emergence of the element that the urbanistic project excluded".  This urbanistic project is, as De Certeau describes, that of standing on top of the tallest building, out of the city's grasp, and looking down at the objective totality of the city, and as De Certeau says: "the fiction of knowledge is related to this lust to be a viewpoint and nothing more" to be "a totalizing eye".

But De Certeau prefers, as his title suggests, walking in the city instead of viewing it. He argues that walking in the city has "its own rhetoric" and with people's limited scope as the move about and write their own course of subjective use of the urban space "the network of these moving, intersecting writings compose and manifold story that has neither author nor spectator".

For De Certeau, the pedestrians of a city create it through their walking about, as an objective mass made of subjects which escape any planned or regulated scheme of the city. The pedestrian, while walking in the city, has his own style, which is a sort of language which speaks about the city and take part in creating its meaning. In walking in the city, the pedestrian gives new meanings to places and streets which are not the same as those originally assigned to them. Pedestrians, for De Certeau, create the meaning of the urban space by applying their imagination on it through the manner in which they move about the city "linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings and directions, these words operate in the name of an emptying-out and wearing away of their primary role. They become liberated spaces that can be occupied".
       

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