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Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity [Paperback]

Marc Auge , John Howe
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity 3.3 out of 5 stars (3)
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Book Description

May 17 1995 Cultural Studies
An ever-increasing proportion of our lives is spent in supermarkets, airports and hotels, on motorways or in front of TVs, computer and cash machines. This invasion of the world by what Marc Auge calls ‘non-space’ results in a profound alteration of awareness: something we perceive, but only in a partial and incoherent manner. Auge uses the concept of ‘supermodernity’ to describe the logic of these late-capitalist phenomena—a logic of excessive information and excessive space. In this fascinating and lucid essay he seeks to establish and intellectual armature for an anthropology of supermodernity. Starting with an attempt to disentangle anthropology from history, Auge goes on to map the distinction between place, encrusted with historical monuments and creative social life, and non-place, to which individuals are connected in a uniform manner and where no organic social life is possible.

Unlike Baudelairean modernity, where old and new are interwoven, supermodernity is self-contained: from the motorway or aircraft, local or exotic particularities are presented two-dimensionally as a sort of theme-park spectacle. Auge does not suggest that supermodernity is all-encompassing: place still exist outside non-place and tend to reconstitute themselves inside it. But he argues powerfully that we are in transit through non-place for more and more of our time, as if between immense parentheses, and concludes that this new form of solitude should become the subject of an anthropology of its own.

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Review

“Shopping malls, motorways, airport lounges—we are all familiar with these curious spaces which are both everywhere and nowhere. But only now do we have coherent analysis of their far-reaching effects on public and private experience. Marc Auge has become their anthropologist, and has written a timely and original book.”—Patrick Wright, author of The Village That Died for England

About the Author

Marc Augé is Director of Studies at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Much can be said about this book,... but it clearly IS a refreshing and highly inspirational read.
I will not launch into an exhaustive analysis of the theories presented in this book (please see the review of dec. 4th below for a detailed discussion of the book), but solely add a comment on excactly that review, thus broadening the scope for potential readers.
My point is: The way I see things here; this book was not meant to be understood as a volte-face in contemporary anthropology/ethnology/et al. but merely an attempt to put certain aspects of life into a new perspective: that of supermodernity and non-places. Auge argues: "In the concrete reality of today's world, places and spaces, places and non-places intertwine and tangle together" (Auge, 1995: 107), meaning that a long history of place-bound anthropological investigations must come to terms with a changing world in which people travel, imagine and experience contemporary society from more than one posture/position.
"Shopping malls, motorways, airport lounges - we are all familiar with these curious spaces which are both everywhere and nowhere" (Auge, 1995: Back-cover by P. Wright). Consequently: This book is an elaboration of theories put together to show how we can grasp these "spaces formed in relation to certain ends [...], and the relations that individuals have with these spaces."
I highly recommend this book even though it has flaws (all books have!). Of course Augé draws on the work of others, and of course he tries to present this as his own achievement (if you read social sciences you will know that everyone presenting "groundbreaking" material will try to get all the credits him/herself): But that is not the issue here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Marc Augé's book "non-places" explores the interstitial places between the 'significant and meaningful' spaces that he calls 'place'. He starts with a prologue about a man traveling from Paris by airplane. The man draws money, waits on the highway, enters the airport, then the airplane itself. All the while his reality is suffused with the advertising, the bright lights, digital displays, glass and polished walkways of places that are not quite places in Augé's sense, but which acquire their identity from their being on the way to other places, near or far. These 'non-places' are the declared interest of Augé.
But in the first chapter he conducts a very general study of 'the contemporary world' with the goal to find possible objects for anthropological investigation, which in the end turn out to be these 'non-places'. They seem to be the answer to the question posed by Augé, "whether there are any aspects of contemporary social life that seem to be accessible to anthropological investigation" (p. 16).
Augé observes three kinds of accelerated transformations that are responsible for what he eventually calls 'supermodernity'. Speaking about time he states an "acceleration of history" (p. 26) which leads to an overabundance of events. Secondly Augé finds a surplus in the realm of space: "the excess of space is correlative with the shrinking of the planet" (p. 31) which leads to a spatial overabundance. His third 'figure of excess', as he calls them, is "the figure of the ego, the individual" (p. 36).
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I liked reading the book very much, because I'm doing a school work about the new relations between us and our territory, our new concept of the Space and time that we live in this modern times. And this book helped me to understand it better...
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
114 of 135 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars trendy theory without much insight - disappointing Dec 4 2000
By graduate student from New York University - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Marc Augé's book "non-places" explores the interstitial places between the 'significant and meaningful' spaces that he calls 'place'. He starts with a prologue about a man traveling from Paris by airplane. The man draws money, waits on the highway, enters the airport, then the airplane itself. All the while his reality is suffused with the advertising, the bright lights, digital displays, glass and polished walkways of places that are not quite places in Augé's sense, but which acquire their identity from their being on the way to other places, near or far. These 'non-places' are the declared interest of Augé.
But in the first chapter he conducts a very general study of 'the contemporary world' with the goal to find possible objects for anthropological investigation, which in the end turn out to be these 'non-places'. They seem to be the answer to the question posed by Augé, "whether there are any aspects of contemporary social life that seem to be accessible to anthropological investigation" (p. 16).
Augé observes three kinds of accelerated transformations that are responsible for what he eventually calls 'supermodernity'. Speaking about time he states an "acceleration of history" (p. 26) which leads to an overabundance of events. Secondly Augé finds a surplus in the realm of space: "the excess of space is correlative with the shrinking of the planet" (p. 31) which leads to a spatial overabundance. His third 'figure of excess', as he calls them, is "the figure of the ego, the individual" (p. 36).
In the second chapter Augé explains the more traditional anthropological notion of place, which enables him in the third chapter to construct his notion of 'non-places' partly in contrast to it. 'Place' for Augé means historical places within a complex historical and social context of other spaces in which 'normal' social interaction occurs. The airport lounges, fast food spots and transport spaces such as high-speed highways and railway lines, are not 'place' because they lack the quality of the 'social fact'. The transitional spaces are always 'here' and always 'there'; bridging between those culturally elaborated and historically situated places that seem much more 'real' for Augé.
In the third chapter he first gives a negative definition of non-places: "If a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place." (p. 77-78) Non-places are being produced by supermodernity and do not integrate earlier places. A few pages later Augé explains a little more clearly, that the word 'non-place' for him "designates two complementary but distinct realities: spaces formed in relation to certain ends (transport, transit, commerce, leisure), and the relations that individuals have with these spaces." (p. 94)
A general problem I had with this book is that it is written - to say the least - not very careful and quite unaware of what is going on outside of French anthropology. Augé seems to want to develop a new anthropology but amidst all his spaces and places doesn't even realize that non-places also imply that there are transitions between spaces, between fields. As far as I see it, it is impossible today to develop a 'valid' theory that is totally ignorant of anything that goes on outside its direct territory. Besides citing only French sources he doesn't even seem to know his most important French contemporaries in theory. He alludes somewhat simplistic (and this way becoming wrongly) to "the mirror as the first identification with the image of the self" (p. 84) and doesn't even mention Jacques Lacan; he writes at length about movements and speeds of traveling (p. 85-86, 96) and doesn't make a single reference to Paul Virilio who published more than one book in this field. On another occasion Augé argues against textual anthropology, but doesn't even know the basic differences of how to deal with a text. He writes about hermeneutics and deconstruction (foundations of the latter laid by his compatriot Jacques Derrida) as if it were the same thing (p. 36), while they are the two contemporary methods of literary theory somewhat farthest opposed.
My second fundamental problem with Augé's text is his almost complete unawareness (he mentions it very marginally) of electronic media which are as I think at the same time something like the 'essence' of a non-place: the whole world happens on TV, but where actually is TV? and the creators of supermodernity as Augé describes it. What is the reason for the "overabundance of events in the contemporary world" (p. 30) that Augé sees as one of the creators of supermodernity? It is the media that will transmit any event 'in the world' to everybody, and if there is nothing suitable around, the 'event' will be created (very recent example: a friend told me about the ceremony of the lightning of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree which used to take about half an hour. Since the networks broadcast it, it takes several hours). The same question can be asked about the second and third category of Augé's supermodernity. Why for instance is 'history snapping at our heels'? The motto of media business answers: 'nothing is older than yesterdays news'. Why is the individual 'making a comeback'? Because it is being created (as Augé in another context states himself) by advertisements and other media. Augé's ignorance is the more astonishing since anthropologists have employed technical media in a rather central place of their work: audio-tapes, photography, film (=> Margaret Mead-Festival) were and probably still are basic instruments of anthropological research.
I find it difficult to accept Augé's insights concerning 'the contemporary world', since he leaves out too many important details.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical concept for understanding Space Aug. 15 2013
By may joseph - Published on Amazon.com
Non-Place is a major theoretical contribution to the visualization of space. Auge's lucid and groundbreaking book is necessary reading for anyone interested in architecture, ethnography or urban planning. His writing is beautiful to read, and offers provocative theoretical tools for interpreting urban modernity.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging July 22 2013
By Erwin Losekoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of those classic books that everyone (especially anyone interested in place and space) should read. Surprising how many people who quote him do not seem to have 'got' what he is saying...
12 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It says all about the new relation Men and Modern Spaces Jan. 21 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I liked reading the book very much, because I'm doing a school work about the new relations between us and our territory, our new concept of the Space and time that we live in this modern times. And this book helped me to understand it better...
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