The epoch of space. State and new perspectives
For centuries, the study of time was one of the main academic interests in the field of Humanities. However, in the second half of the 20th century, most scholars and philosophers shifted their focus to the question of space. This, termed “spatial turn” by Soja in 1989, encouraged the foundation of new approaches and perspectives whose main goal was to elucidate the “spatiality” (Tally, 2013) of beings as a result of their interaction with their physical surroundings.
Even though this new “era of space” was explicitly acknowledged and labelled as such (“l’époque de l’espace”) by Foucault in 1967, Gaston Bachelard’s La Poétique de l’espace, published in 1958, proved to be a turning point in the development of this perspective. In this work, Bachelard explores the experiences that result from human interactions with architecture through what the author termed “topoanalysis”: a method that uses psychology as a research tool for the study of the spaces and places that we inhabit.
The interest in studying this in the field of the arts has increased significantly in recent years, and is especially noticeable in the case of literary creations. Scholars today –particularly comparatists– are paying more attention to the rediscovered relevance and symbolic value of the geographic connections present in literary works. Likewise, the links between human beings and their physical surroundings stand out as a significant matter of study in the field. They have, indeed, been approached from a variety of perspectives, such as Ecologism and Marxism, mainly via the analysis of cultural creations and the impact of human communities in the territory.
The popularity of this kind of approaches has varied throughout history, and not all disciplines have been equally receptive to the notions underpinning them. While Ecocriticism and Geocriticism are well respected and established in literary studies, research fields like those of medieval studies, history, history of art, and classical studies seem to be rather detached from these perspectives.
The growing influence of Ecocriticism and Geocriticism is especially noticeable in digital humanities. The bridges recently built between these fields are already proving to be productive, as they have led to the development of new tools, approaches, and methodologies, such as deep mapping techniques and the spatial humanities. In the same way, the technical progress encouraged by the advancement of the internet and computer science has fostered the emergence of new habitats that suggest the need for a reinterpretation of the Bachelardian theories and the way we construct our identities in space.
Soja, Rueckert, Foucault and Bachelard’s iconic works will be 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old in 2018 and 2019. The time seems to be just right for reflecting on our task as researchers in the Era of Space – how have the disciplines evolved in recent years? Do we need to redefine the key concepts regarding space and place? Has our relationship with territory changed? Have we produced new ways of inhabiting space? It is our opinion that not only we need to rethink our answers to these questions, maybe even articulate new ones, but also we believe it necessarily needs to be done from the unavoidable perspective of the place from which we call on you: Galiza.