Spaces of Otherness

Tigran Tsitoghdzyan,painting

Heterotopia is a concept elaborated by philosopher Michel Foucault to describe spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the space of a phone call or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror. Foucault uses the idea of a mirror as a metaphor for utopia because the image that you see in it does not exist, but it is also a heterotopia because the mirror is a real object that shapes the way you relate to your own image.



  1. I used Foucault’s theories extensively in my PhD. Your post has my brain working again after a week of its laziness!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that’s cool Julie. I tried to find other layman’s examples of Foucault’s Heterotopia theories but was unable (or better stated, too lazy to continue the hunt). If you can share, I’d be grateful. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Foucault’s concept of surveillance is particularly apt in terms of my current situation. The management have accused me of using work-time to visit Anthony. Why they would want to alienate a good staff member, working in another section from Anthony’s, but wheelchair-walking people past his room and saying hello to him and many others in that long corridor? Sorry, too tired and stressed to continue but I am in midst of the most unbelievable situation and have been bullied into resigning!

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  2. Need. More. Coffee….

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  3. How fascinating~

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  4. Heavy before coffee. Very interesting.

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  5. That is interesting. Here are other examples (from Wikipedia):

    Foucault articulates several possible types of heterotopia or spaces that exhibit dual meanings:

    A ‘crisis heterotopia’ is a separate space like a boarding school or a motel room where activities like coming of age or a honeymoon take place out of sight.

    ‘Heterotopias of deviation’ are institutions where we place individuals whose behavior is outside the norm (hospitals, asylums, prisons, rest homes, cemetery).

    Heterotopia can be a single real place that juxtaposes several spaces. A garden is a heterotopia because it is a real space meant to be a microcosm of different environments with plants from around the world.

    ‘Heterotopias of time’ such as museums enclose in one place objects from all times and styles. They exist in time but also exist outside of time because they are built and preserved to be physically insusceptible to time’s ravages.

    ‘Heterotopias of ritual or purification’ are spaces that are isolated and penetrable yet not freely accessible like a public place. To get in one must have permission and make certain gestures such as in a sauna or a hammam.

    Heterotopia has a function in relation to all of the remaining spaces. The two functions are: heterotopia of illusion creates a space of illusion that exposes every real space, and the heterotopia of compensation is to create a real space—a space that is other.

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  6. Whoa ! ☺

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  7. Heterotopia – very interesting word to start this day contemplating! Deep thought provoking.

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  8. wow, this blew my mind. but then, perhaps it doesn’t really exist. but it does. does it?

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  9. You must have better coffee over that side of the world. I like simple concepts ha❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Say what?
    That’s not me that I’m seeing in the mirror? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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