Spatial reification, or, collectively embodied amnesia, aphasia, and apraxia

Michael Landzelius 1
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The transformative powers of global capitalism presently dispossess and unsettle millions of people as well as comprehensively reshape the built environment on previously unseen scales of creative destruction. When the world is constantly dis(re)membered in ever new ways remembrance as a both individual and trans-generational complex of experience, memory, and knowledge loses significance in everyday life. Confronting rapidly transforming neo-liberal landscapes across the globe, critical scholars no less than dispossessed migrants find themselves in a memory crisis akin to the one observed as part of the context of the French Revolution and the profound transformations of European modernization.

In the article, this collective crisis of memory-knowledge-politics is addressed through an engagement with the four concepts “reification,” “amnesia,” “aphasia,” and “apraxia,” the former elaborated through the latter three. Time-space disjunction and dislocation, irrelevance of memory, incapacity to combine, and inability to practice, equates passivity and obedience in relation to the havoc wrought upon masses of people and places. A core concern of the article is to articulate the four concepts in relation to built space and its role not simply as reflection of but rather as effecting and exacerbating the memory-knowledge-politics crisis.

The article suggests that the memory crisis has political urgency in the particular sense that a radical politics against reification needs to be articulated in relation to an understanding of built spaces as collective mnemonic assemblages of memory-knowledge-politics, while also suggesting that spaces might be mobilized to topologically articulate past and present intersectional relations of forgetfulness-ignorance-power, and thus possibly be made to contribute to rather than deflect political consciousness and continued struggles for democracy.

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The official journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, founded in 1969 as one of the first scholarly journals in the field, Semiotica features articles reporting results of research in all branches of semiotic studies, in-depth reviews of selected current literature in the field, and occasional guest editorials and reports. The journal also publishes occasional Special Issues devoted to topics of particular interest.