Members' email Discussions 2003

(Statements below are a temporary record of exchanges among seminar members copied from email correspondence and posted here for the convenience of the members only.  They are arranged more or less in chronological order according to the date received.  Additions and later comments are posted only as time allows.  Therefore, members should rely upon the email correspondence for the complete and up-to-date record.  Little or no editing has been done, and some errors have been introduced when converting to HTML.  The texts, however, are substantially the same as the originals).

Responses from (click name to go directly to appropriate section or scroll down to read the responses in order submitted):

David Penchansky (1)

Bill Millar (1)

David Penchansky (2)

Claudia Camp (1) 

Claudia Camp (2)

David Penchansky (3)

Jim Flanagan (1)

Bill Millar (2)

Burke Long (1)

Jim Flanagan (2)

Burke Long (2)

Hayim Lapin (1)

Mary Huie-Jolly

Jim Flanagan (3)

Christl Maier (1)

Burke Long (3)

Claudia Camp (3)

Mark George (1)

David Gunn (1)

Jim Flanagan (4)

Keith Whitelam

Wesley Kort (1)


Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2003 11:37:01 -0500
From: "Penchansky, David" <>
Subject: comments on Millar's paper
To: "James W. Flanagan" <>
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2653.19)
Original-recipient: rfc822;
Comments on Bill Millar's paper

1.      His main point is that the term "Levite" means different things at different times in the formation of the Bible, and their differences are
2.      His second point is that the Bible is best understood polyphonically, that monologic readings function by silencing some of the voices.
3.      Millar ties this discussion to the writings of Bakhtin, who affirmed polyphonic readings of texts through an analysis of Dostoyevsky.
4.      Millar seeks to bring together Soja/Lefebre space theory with his Bakhtinian analysis of the term Levite in the Bible. He makes this connection in two ways:

       a. In a discussion of the actual space in the Temple, and the control of sacred spaces in Israel formed ideologically.

       b. More common in this paper is the use of 1st/2nd/3rd space as metaphor. Firstspace is scarcely mentioned in his narrative, but 2nd space

5. It becomes increasingly obvious to me how important Claudia Camp's paper is to the advance of our discourse. A number of papers (including this one)
use Camp's paper as a touchstone. In this case, Millar works with Camp's analysis of the relationship of narrative space to "real" space. As far as I

        By narrative space I assume Camp and Millar mean the space in which the characters move -- So if Abiathar (a character in a narrative) moves

        Millar well elucidates the struggle to distinguish between the space inhabited by the author (historically understood) and space inhabited by the characters in the narrative -- narrative space.

6. Millar takes from Jim Flanagan the hologram image, seeing things from more than one perspective at once. What Flanagan does with David, Millar does with the Levites, in both cases seeing a complex, contradictory text that resists monologic interpretation.

        I am left with the following questions:

1) How intrinsic to your argument are the 1st/2nd/3rd space categories? Might you have made your point staying strictly within the metaphor of voice and sound? Although you quote Bakhtin once mentioning space, most of what you cite from him has little to do with space.

2) How consistent is your third world space with Soja's use of the term?

3) Would you expand on your categories Levite as military, as teacher, and as priest?

4) In your comparison of Levites with the Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, did you mean to imply that the Levites were forces of reaction and oppression?

David Penchansky represents for Millar the ideological imposition upon texts by those in times he mentions "the silenced thirdspace voices." can tell, Lefebre/Soja gave scant consideration to narrative space. into the Tabernacle in Jerusalem, he has moved through narrative space, the
power. Thirdspace in Millar's hands is "thirdworldspace." Three or four space in the story. In Millar's use, narrative space can also serve as a metaphor for power.

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Date: Thu, 04 Sep 2003 01:48:34 -0700
From: Bill Millar <>
Subject: Response to Questions from David Penchansky 
A Response to David Penchansky¹s Questions:
1)  The value of Soja¹s 1st/2nd/3rd space categories, particularly as revised by the discussion of Kort and Camp, is the awareness that physical space is not an "empty container" in which things happens.  Space is, indeed, a social construct where issues of voice and power are tools in the creation of that construct.  If history, including sacred texts, is written by the winners, that raises the question for the interpreter of the Bible, is it possible to discern silenced voices encoded in the received narrative?  I find Flanagan¹s metaphor of the hologram a good way to still take the text seriously, while not assuming it is a "mirror" or a "photograph."  I see Bakhtin¹s concept of the chronotope as his way of wrestling with the relationship between narrative and social space.
2)  I would say my views of Soja's third world space, if I understand him correctly, is what we have been trying to understand by "lived space."  I like Wesley Kort¹s understanding of lived space as that life experience out of which we derive percepts and concepts. Those who give shape to Secondspace power are also rooted in that lived space quite prepared to keep the marginalized in their place.  I see the narrative of Solomon, Abiathar, and Zadok encoding some of these tensions.  It is interesting to me that the Zadokite narrative of the Chronicler doesn¹t tell that story.

3)  What I have in mind for Levite in a military mode is Exodus 32 with Moses calling forth Levites to punish Aaronid kin with the sword, for the calf episode. The Levites were rewarded with priestly responsibility. It was the Levites in Chronicles who led the assassination of Athaliah; not so in Kings.  Levi in Gen 34 and 49 is presented in warrior roles.  The Levitical cities could have been housing for early supporters of someone like David.  If Mushite Levites were a support group for apocalyptic, there are many military images there as well.
The teacher role is central to Deuteronomy 33:10: "[Levi] They teach Jacob your ordinances, and Israel your law; they place incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar."  This is central to the debate about what a Levite is in the Deuteronomic work: altar clergy and/or client teachers.  When good kings are described, a reason given sometimes is that Levites have done a good job of teaching in the land.
The priestly role and tension is my discussion of the Mushite Levites and Aaronid Zadokites following the insight of Cross.
4)  Levites can be forces for liberation as in the Moses stories.  They could well have been a support group for strong Yahwistic prophets like Elijah/Elisha [Moses figures].  Zadokites who also trace their lineage to Levi can be instruments of oppression when in power.  Ezekiel clearly sought to limit Mushite Levite participation in holy places.  As with the Wahhabis, it probably depends upon where you stand in the social order, that will shape the perception as oppressor or liberator.  This is what one would expect in a fluid, segmented social order.

Bill Millar

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Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 13:07:49 -0500
From: "Penchansky, David" <>
Subject: a question about third space

Further response to Bill:


I want to fine tune the question that I asked you previously.  I have heard in our discussions two distinct ways that people have described the 3-space continuum:


First way

First space: The actual configuration of the space, the topography, the physical dimensions, the direct physical way that the space is experienced.

Second space: Space as ideological construction; space infused with meaning, significance and the exercise of power. 

Third space: "lived space" - how people actually inhabit the space.


Second way

First space: Same as above

Second space: The way the ruling classes control space in order to keep themselves in power

Third space: The way powerless people actually inhabit space in order to assert their existence in the face of hegemonic second space


My question is this:

Do you want to contain in your discussion both ways of describing the 3-space continuum?  Or do you prefer one to the other?  Or do you prefer to change or modify one of my descriptions, or add a whole new one? 


(This reminds me of the two meanings of ideology in Marxist thought:

1)       ideology as oppressive thought, concealing the truth

2)       ideology as simply the way ideas are processed through society, the way that society manipulates its symbols and forms new ones)


Or to put it another way, can George Bush inhabit third space?  If third space is lived space, wouldn't it count as third space the places that Bush liked to go to take off his shoes and watch television?  Or the places that he went to feel powerful, presidential?  Wouldn't that be third space?


First space, White House: The land on which the mansion was built, or else the actual physical dimensions of the house (I'm not sure which.)

Second space: The symbol of the White House representing the power of the US .

Third space: ??  George Bush in the Oval Office in a suit and tie, feeling bolder and more confident by the minute.


Or does third space have to be inhabited by the disenfranchised and the revolutionary?


David Penchansky

University of St. Thomas

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From Claudia Camp

September 19, 2003


Response to Bill Millar

“A Bakhtinian Reading of Narrative Space and Its Relationship to Social Space; or, Finding the Lost Tribe of Levi and Why It Matters: A Study in Voice, Space, and Power”


1.  I’m glad that Bill Millar has found it worthwhile to pick up on my notion that critical spatiality theory might provide one tool for using narrative texts in social-historical reconstruction. I’m actually really glad about this because, when I wrote that comment, I was not entirely sure what I meant by it.   It was one of those things that I thought, in hindsight, had happened when I did my spatial analysis of Ben Sira , but I really did not know where to move with it from there, how to elaborate on the theoretical potential in a more general way.  


2.  I’m taken by Bill’s point in discussing Bakhtinthat   It is this deeper level of dialogic interaction among a social world’s consciousnesses that Bakhtin calls the great dialogue the polyphonic novel seeks to recreate.”   This seems to me rich way of thinking about the multiple social realities evident in at least certain kinds of literature.   But I’m not clear about Bill’s understanding of the relationship of “voice” and “space.”   Polyphonicity (?!)” may imply “ polyspatiality”; that is, different voices may come from different spaces.  But not necessarily, I don’t think.   Or, at any rate the nature of the difference in space relative to the difference in voice is not self-evident.   To put the issue another way, is polyspatiality to be understood as an analogy to polyvocality , or as something more or different from that?   If it’s an analogy, can we be more explicit about what the lines of connection are?   And does the analogy break down at points?   For example, when I talk about “voices,” I become immediately concerned with “who’s speaking?”   When I talk about spaces, it’s more complicated, especially as concerns the subject: I guess I’m interested in who’s living in the space and how they think/feel about it (or not), but by virtue of the fact that I need to talk about space critically, I also have to be concerned with the perspective of the analyzer of space . . . For me, the analogy between Bakhtin’s dialogic model (which I like) and critical spatiality theory (which I also like) is not as obvious as it may seem.   But I may have missed something here.  


3.  One aspect of this question has to do with what is meant by “narrative space.” Bill says that “it is within the artistic form created by the author that narrative space and social space interact.”   But in one way of thinking the “artistic form” is the “narrative space” (or, if you like, the “narrative time-space”).   I think, when one speaks of the reader’s “orientation(s)” to the narrative, this is the meaning of “narrative space” involved.   And here one may reasonably distinguish between narrative space and social space.   This is, however, different from the descriptions or implications of space that may be found “within” a narrative form.   In the latter case, it seems to me that the relationship of narrative and social space becomes more interwoven and complicated.   For the spaces that narratives describe/imply are social spaces.   And the (social) space from which the reader reads is in part constituted by this and other narratives.  


4.  As we learned long ago from the liberation theologians, responsible scholarship cannot avoid its/our implication in contemporary politics.  I find Bill’s opening paragraph, which underscores the spatial dimension of 9/11, to be powerful and evocative.   And, although I find Soja’s politicizing take on Thirdspace to be reductionistic and romanticized, I do appreciate the moral impulse that leads him in this direction.   I’d appreciate further conversation about how we can talk more clearly about the relationship of critical spatial theory to such issues.


5.  The very imagery of “in front of” the text and “behind” the text is already spatial.   To pursue David Penchansky’s question, yes, in one sense this is indeed using the notion of space in a metaphorical sense.   And yet the language collapses our senses of time and space in an interesting way that may call into question the presumably clear distinction of “literal vs. metaphorical” (see already George Lakoff’s implicit challenge to this distinction in his discussion of “prototype effects” in Women, Fire and Dangerous Things).   We tend to conceptualize time spatially.   Thus, “now” is “here”, “past” is “back/behind”; “future” is “forward/ahead.” This is of course metaphorical talk, but we tend to have it so naturalized that it’s hard to keep a grip on the fact that it’s not literal.   When we say “behind the text,” and mean “what went on ‘back (space) then (time)’ that contributed to its production and ancient meaning(s),” we are again collapsing the language of space and time.   But more than that, we are construing the text as a marker that functions both spatially and temporally.   It has, in effect, mass which can be investigated in itself (the “world of the text”) and which separates the world behind it from the world in front of it.  But what has mainly interested us “behind” it has in fact been temporal: history, the past. Thus, recursively, the mass of the text becomes instead a marker of time.   But what time?   The spatial analogy would have it be “now.”   And thus we readers are, somewhat counterintuitively , not in the present but in the future.   Thinking spatially, then, has forced me to re-think (my place in) time.   Does it make any difference to anything to think of ourselves as the future of the text?   Can we talk about our relationship to the text without using the spatial metaphors of behind and in front of? Or have those “metaphors” become so reified as to be indispensable to our understanding of our relationship to realities involving texts, dead metaphors and hence more or less “literal”?   Could we think “backwards” and consider ourselves as readers as the creators of the meaning and the history of the text, so that history becomes the end-product rather than the assumed source?   Can someone provide a reference to whatever great philosopher already figured all this out a long time ago?    All of this use of spatial language is metaphorical.   Does this matter to a theory of spatiality?   Or does consideration of space have to “come down somewhere” to make a difference?


6.  Bill has taken us through a nice range of historians, and in the case of Whitelam , a historian on historians.  But I’m still trying to clarify in my own mind exactly what spatiality theory adds to this discussion.   Keith does an ideology critique of Alt, Albright, and Mendenhall, which could be referred to in terms of “orientations”—and, of course, concern for the control of space is happening big time throughout all these discussions— but I’m looking for the “what’s more” that spatiality theory adds to the analysis of either the historians’ own chronotopes or their productions of that of “ancient Israel.”


7.  One of the things I tried to do in my Ben Sira paper was to complicate the notion that Thirdspace was always the space of the silenced and disempowered and that Second space is definitively the space of oppressive power.   If one uses narrative as a way of understanding Thirdspace as lived space, then, as I think is the case with Ben Sira’s text, a lot of oppressing can go on here.   In other words, although Soja tends to equate Thirdspace with marginalized, silenced voices, I resist this as an oversimplification.   To put it the other way round, a monologic narrative may still both represent someone’s lived space and help create someone else’s.


8.  I’m not sure about the notion that Friedman’s “more traditional” use of space works as part of a critical spatial theory.  “More traditional” seems to me to imply precisely “uncritical,” i.e., the taken-for-granted notion of space that we as a seminar are trying to put under the microscope.   Friedman’s historicizing use of the fact, if such it is, that the tabernacle’s narrated measurements correspond to narrative descriptions of the First Temple ignores the even more obvious fact that narrative is narrative and not history.   Bakhtin’s careful discriminations between chronotopes might be more forcefully brought to bear here. These narratives are then tied by Friedman to a sanctuary at Arad . Here we do have some real Firstspace stuff, if we take Firstspace as matter that can be encountered with the senses.   But what do we want to do with it?   How exactly does it fit into the critical picture we’re trying to assemble?   Doesn’t Friedman’s own chronotope need some critical unpacking?

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Claudia Camp: Response to Hayim Lapin, “Space and Regional History: The Problem of Roman Palestine”

1.  I appreciate HayimLapin’s introduction of yet another theoretical model for thinking about space, specifically, social and socially produced space.   I’m not sure that I have as yet a clear grasp of central place theory.   These selections from Hayim’s book have given me some pieces of the puzzle, but I wonder if either in these pre-meeting e-conversations or in the session he could give a brief “bottom line” summary of what defines CPT and how it has worked in his argument.   One thing I’m especially interested in is the statement that CPT might help bring to bear on one another episodic literary texts from different locations and the results of archeological surveys and excavations.   Again, I got a sense of this from the reading we had, but not how it all fit together.  How exactly did CPT help here?   In this regard, I thought that the collocation of different kinds of data related to the “influence” of the rabbis was very interesting (how the possibility of asserting the authority of the rabbinic Torah can be thought of in terms of market-bearing villages, the distribution of synagogues, and ties of personal influence or patronage).   It seemed to me that this was one very rich and concrete way of developing Jim Flanagan’s now oft-repeated phrase that “people move through people” (and perhaps even my take-off on it, that “people read through people”).


2.  I’d like to talk more about the implications for doing history of the statement that “this study invokes one such social science model only to insist that the resulting reconstruction of a late antique landscape is at once fictive and at the same time productive for a regional history of later Roman northern Palestine .”


3.   The description of “ provincialization” (“that complex set of interactions where agricultural and craft practices, consumption preferences, residence patterns, and identities took shape with reference to one another”) seems to me to provide one nice thick piece of what Lefebvre calls “spatial practice.” In terms of our ongoing debates about what Soja’s First/Second/Third categories really mean, I wonder if this example may highlight the difference between Lefebvre and Soja: as I understand Soja’s Firstspace (as perceptions of geophysical realities) his is a much thinner category than Lefebvre’s “spatial practice.”   As we try to make the leap, with Hayim , from political-economic-spatial practices to identity, though, we’re unfortunately still missing data on the affective/non-verbal/repressed experiences that would help us understand the ways in which both those in power and those without found a way to live with it all (here I’m thinking of Lefebvre’s version of “lived space,” though I continue to object to using that fulsome term for a category that I think, in this case, Lefebvre construes narrowly).   I found the discussion of bathing customs particularly interesting since it includes the kind of attention to bodies that feminist geographers have called for as a part of the spatial analysis.   How nice if we could know what the women thought about their roles as inspectors and inspectees in the production and consumption of marital partners!  Not to mention of the rabbis’ Torah.


4.  I was intrigued by the connection Hayim makes between his spatial analysis and identity.  It has struck me as I’ve pondered over the last few years about what I mean by Thirdspace, that a significant component of it has to do with its role in identity creation, the internalization, as it were, of space by living in it.   Spatial ideologies (e.g., “the land,” especially in relation to “ Jewishness ”) also contribute, Secondspatially , to forming identity, but Hayim’s point, I think, is that these are “the ‘product’ rather than the ‘motor’ of a particular political and administrative program” that created patterns of living that were not “natural.”  As we’ve often found, and as may be endemic to trying to do a spatial analysis of the past, we’re still missing direct evident of Firstspace (in Soja’s sense of perceptions of geophysical realities).   Yet I do think that “identity” provides one fruitful locus for thinking about how different spatialities operate and, especially, intersect.   


5.  I think that the specifics of this paper challenge us to think about how broad abstractions about spatiality (most notably, given our past discussions, First, Second and Thirdspace) apply to this sort of thick description, with its attention to the diffusion of power in an imperial context, and its complication as well of a number of taken-for granted binaries, e.g., urban/rural, indigenous/ hellenized, core/periphery.

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Penchansky re: Lapin

September 29, 2003


I second Claudia's request that you tell more about Central Place Theory.   As far as I can tell, it refers to understanding the human organization of space as a series of central urban concentrations, surrounded by "provinces."   Is that even closed to Central Place Theory?


I also agree with Claudia that this paper provides an alternative way to structure space than that offered by Soja and Lefebre.  Even though Hayim Lapin read and connected with the two theoreticians, he does not structure space in their three-fold way.


So a question we might ask is, does Lapin's structure add something?    I think the answer is yes.   I find quite useful the reconstruction of ties of relationship between a central power ( Rome) and the provinces, ties of economy, social relationships and religion.   This seems as if it would transfer easily into an analysis of, say, 7th century relationship between Babylon and Israel -- using the Bible (among other things) as a rich source of detail.  This would enrich our understanding of the Hebrew Bible.


I found myself wanting to find "firstspace" in Lapin's discussion.   I think I found it in Lapin's insistence that "the land" is not a static given in transactions between the center and the provinces, but rather it becomes transformed through its interaction with humans.  


I liked very much Lapin's assertion that all of the so-called entities (villages or ethnicities) are fluid as well as the historical periods we impose on ancient history.   I think Claudia pointed out that Lapin exposes a number of bifurcations we should hold suspect.


I disagreed with Lapin's division of things into those that served as the "motor "  and those that were "product."   These are some of the quotes [please excuse my quick and choppy editing ] :


" of thinking seriously about aspects of culture as "product" rather than "motor," of a particular political and administrative configuration."

" the phenomena of synagogues as a product of regional settlement patterns and rural economic structure, and not their determining cause."

. . . it seems equally necessary to remember that that formation is not simply "there" to "respond" to an "external" force, but is rather in some basic ways the product of the same historical processes.

. . . much of what we now, from a distance. . . tend to see as naturally Jewish, such as synagogue and the rise of the rabbis, is in fact the product.


I think it is impossible to distinguish between motor and product.   Most things are subtle combinations of motor and product.   And I think we waste a lot of rhetorical energy when we try to prove something as the "cause" of something else.   Everything else about Lapin's argument seems to suggest rather that one examine the relationship between the two (synagogue and complex provincial history, for instance) without thinking which was the cause.


Who is Lapin' arguing with there?  Who is it that claims that synagogues were not the products of complex historical forces?  


However, this does not in any way diminish his thesis, or his methodology.


David Penchansky

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Flanagan (1)

Sept. 30, 2003


One of the goals of the Constructions of Space Seminar and the Constructs of Ancient History and Religion (renamed Constructs of the Cultural and Social Worlds of Antiquity Group) has been to bridge the chasm separating literary and historical studies of the Bible.   The problem manifested itself when David Gunn and I were working on the Literary Studies of the Bible and Social World of Biblical Antiquity Series that we edited respectively for the David’s Almond Press.   We felt that the field if not the discipline was bifurcating.   Of course others continued to solve our dilemma by sticking with older forms of criticism and ignoring both the approaches and the attempts to bring several kinds of biblical studies into dialogue with other disciplines.   Nevertheless, among those who were trying, two camps were forming.


It is with this problem in mind that I have read Bill Millar’s and HayimLapin’s papers and several of Claudia Camp’s contributions and her and David Penchansky’s comments in this seminar.   Claudia’s earlier paper in this seminar, now in published in my Festschrift has caught the fancy of many in our field (pp. 64-80).   In that, for example, Bill joins Richard Bautch and Steven Schweitzer who gave papers in this year’s Biblical Hermeneutics taskforce at the CBA meeting.  Both took Claudia’s insights as their starting point.


I appreciate Hayim’s willingness to offer his thoughts for our review.  I believe his piece is his further reflections on a paper he gave in the Constructs Group 1997 (see:   Now as then, his use of central place theory brings an additional perspective to our discussions.  In the framework of the work of this seminar over the past few years, I would like him to spell out in more detail how CPD relates to or participates in critical spatiality.   I believe it can be done, and no one is better prepared to do so than Hayim.


For obvious and selfish reasons, I am attracted by Bill’s comments on holography and will devote most of my remarks to it and thoughts that Bill’s use have triggered.   I must confess that he has credited me with insights or thoughts that I didn’t have until I entered into extended discussion with Steven Schweitzer at the CBA in early August.  It struck me then that Steven (and to a lesser extent, Richard) was struggling after a more fluid or flexible way to think about spatiality.   Steven was resisting the lineal approaches that are reinforced by traditional literary and historical criticisms.   Spatiality and spatial criticism fit in, but it seemed to be an add-on, something one does after finishing the hard work of sorting out the text, its pieces and its history.  This, I feel, was Richard’s problem more than Steven’s, but both were remaining loyal to their training in the earlier approaches. (Schweitzer’s and Bautch’s papers can be found at

 Although neither referred to holography, because of conversations with Steven, I began to see a connection between it and spatiality.   Millar’s paper invites further reflection.


Looking back on my encounter with spatialities of various sorts, this seems like a large oversight on my part, especially because holography played a role in forming the Constructs Group and the Constructions Seminar.  My excuse is that at the time I was working with the holography metaphor, I was thinking of kinds of information or disciplines and how they “interfere” to provide an encoding that can be illumined by comparative sociology, in my case, the illuminating beam of the rise of Ibn Saud, as Bill aptly describes.   (For the record, while driving down the hill from Sheffield University where I had gone in the fall of 1988 to read proofs for David’s Social Drama, good friend, colleague, and publisher David Clines advised me to publish the book and never mention holograms again!   For the most part, I have heeded his advice.)   But after reading Bill’s paper, I see additional richness in the metaphor and applications beyond those I first envisaged.   Where Bill says that my use of holograms “moves us to think differently about space,” he might have said more accurately that he “moves us to think differently about space and holograms.”   I am grateful for that.


Bill seems to posit an association between holography and electronic modes of communication (p. 14).   I need to think about that, but my first impression is that he is confusing something I may have said about cyberspace, the Worldwide Web, and electronic communications with earlier remarks about the technologies behind holograms.   On the other hand, even if I didn’t think it or say it, there may be linkages.


Bill’s assertions and associations are helpful.   Beyond the separation mentioned above, this seminar has wrestled with several problems that we have not resolved.   Many of them have centered on what Soja means (and to a lesser extent, LeFebevre) by First-, Second-, and Thirdspace.   For some, the terms, especially the last, seem unclear, imprecise, or too elastic.   In my judgment, the confusion among us has several causes.   One is, I think (not to be unkind), that some folks have relied more on what members of the seminar have said about Soja than on what Soja has written.   Second, to the extent that they criticize Soja, they seem to be forgetting his claims about “Thirding-as-Othering.”   Like the term or not, it is important in understanding his move toward Thirdspace.   To forget it is to regress into a modernist reading of what he presents as a postmodernist understanding.


Back to holograms.  If we think of space as holographic – some sort of multidimensional spatial construction from experience, as people like Soja have claimed – then First-, Second-, and Thirdspace are a necessity and not just an arbitrary way to describe “the world out there.”  The latter would be a modernist, “referentialist” way of looking at things that Soja is trying to move beyond.


Remembering that Soja insists that all space is all three all the time, we can understand the interference (in hologram terms) of First- and Secondspace as analogous to the two lasers that interfere when encoding a holographic plate.  One falls directly and unimpeded on the plate (Firstspace ) and the other strikes the plate after being interfered with by someone’s conceptions of the same space (Secondspace).   For the individual actor, these are, in a metaphorical sense, illumined by the lived spatialities (Thirdspace) of an agent.   This is not to say that agents bring their experiences from afar as if from another planet or another space, but that one person’s “illuminating” will not be the same as another’s because of personal experiences.   And remember that space is constructed from lived experiences.


If these remarks are thought of as “historical reconstructing,” a similar way of thinking spatially/holographically can be imagined for texts and readers.  In the story world of a text, whether intended to be historically referential or fictional, a scene is envisaged and described.   One might argue that that is Secondspace , conceived space, but the writer usually presents it as a Firstspace , a perceived space.  What the writer does with that space, I would call Secondspace .   Of course we cannot think of them as distinct or separable, but in analyses they can be discriminated.  Thirdspace, I suggest, is the spatiality that the reader brings to and gets from illuminating the interference of First- and Secondspace.


I offer these comments in the for-what-it’s-worth category, because I am not sure that I am saying anything new or helpful.   On another plane, however, for good or for ill, because the so-called biblical world and its modern geography hover in the background and foreground of our work, I constantly associate that world with the same Firstspace that fills our present-day newspapers and is referred to as the “Holy Land.”  It strikes me that no matter what the Firstspace issues are that plague the region or what the Secondspace designs to configure that space may be, ignoring the Thirdspace, the lived space, of the actors on all sides dooms discussions, plans, and peace initiatives to failure.  Rocks and stones, fire bombs and rockets, tanks and taxi cabs, check points and road blocks, walls and encampments cannot on the short term touch or change anyone’s Thirdspace .     In the present environment, they are part of their Thirdspace .


So it must have been in biblical antiquity as well.   The Bible, we can say, is more about lived space than it is about either perceived or conceived space.   Hence, the need for critical spatiality in our discipline and work.   Hence, the advantage of thinking about that world holographically rather than as a series of causes and effects that can be understood by reconstructing sequences of events and personalities.

Jim Flanagan

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 Millar (2)  10/2/03

RE:  Further Response to David Penchansky, Claudia Camp, and Jim Flanagan


            1) Voice and Space:  What I had in mind in wrestling with the categories of voice and space, and their interconnection, draws on what I understand Bakhtin to be describing when he discusses consciousness and planes of perception.   These latter quickly move into space language.   We see the world out of our own centers of perception.   When I was using the word narrative space, I was thinking of “descriptions or implications of space that may be found ‘within’ a narrative form” to use Claudia’s language.    I was using voice as it is linked to report ing and reported speech.   Reporting speech is frequently used by the narrator—who may or may not be the implied author—to sketch out a narrative world which is an artistic creation.   Reported speech is speech within speech—of which there is a lot in the Bible—which can become a narrative device to shift the plane of perception to a different range of consciousness, which may allow for the expression of a voice to what may not be discernable from another plane of perception.   When I used the term social space, I was referring to the social time-space, or chronotope, out of which the author was creating the artifact.


            If one takes as an illustration the Chronicler’s presentation of Rehoboam, 2 Chronicles 11:5-23 sketches out in reporting speech, an ideal space that voices the narrator’s understanding of how things ought to be when a good king is in power.  It visualizes a series of concentric circles moving out from Jerusalem with a range of boundaries that monitor degrees of purity.   [Jim’s mention of Steven Schweitzer’s paper on Chronicles and utopian literature is very good.]   This ideal space is violated by an invasion of Shishak (2 Chron 12:2-4) who breaks through the rings of fortified cities, coming as far as Jerusalem.


            Then the narrative shifts to a speech within a speech—inviting the reader to shift perspective on the event being described—wherein Shemaiah, a prophet speaking for Yahweh, offers an interpretation of why God allowed Shishak to come as far as Jerusalem.  The king and people humble themselves, prompting another speech within a speech wherein God says: “...I will give them some measure of escape, and my anger shall not pour out against Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” (2 Chron 12:7).


            If one acknowledges that Chronicles was written during the time and space of Persian occupied Yehud, sometime after the rebuilding of the Second Temple, another plane of perception has been introduced, which would include the presence of the Implied Author.  Assuming one of the theological problems facing this community was the question of why God was continuing to allow his city and land and chosen people to be colonized by the Persians, the reference to “I will give them some measure of escape,...” could carry the double meaning as an expression of hope to the Implied Audience of the faithful in Yehud.   God is once again intervening on behalf of his people, now within the political/social structures/space of the Persian empire and rebuilding of the Temple.


            What critical spatiality theory brings to this reading is the   recognition that narrative space is as complex as lived space, and encodes images and voice messages discernable to the reader as that reader shifts perspectives on the artifact.  It also asks of the reader to be self-consciously aware of the chronotope that is giving shape to his/her reading.


RE: Jim Flanagan


            2)  I appreciate Jim’s further comments on holography.  What has drawn me to Jim’s discussion of holography as a helpful methodological metaphor when approaching the reading of the Bible, are the categories it offers to organize and make sense out a number of the perspectives on what could be called my own “teaching lived space.”


            In an undergraduate setting I face daily, students who regard the reading of the Bible akin to studying a “photograph” of the biblical world mediated to us as God’s singular word preserved for us reliably through the inspiration of God’s chosen spokespeople.  To suggest otherwise, under the guise of teaching a class at a liberal arts college, is frequently experienced by some students as my efforts to project my image onto the Bible of what I want to find in the text, which makes it like a “mirror.”   To think of the biblical world holographically opens up new options.   Coupled with Bakhtin’s understanding of the thinking process as a matter of managing orientations, I find   these proposals attractive in that they give us a means to embrace the fuller richness of a multi-voiced and multi-spaced environment.


            I am also frequently amazed at how strong a hold on our seeing our initial academic training into a field has on us.   I am becoming more and more convinced that that invisible world we bring with us “to the front of a text” is an orientation that needs to be factored into our scholarship.  That does not require, I think, that we give up on what we have learned from older methodological strategies, but it does need to be more than an add-on after we have done the serious work.  Claudia is right: I may have slipped a little too easily into accepting Friedman’s “more traditional” convergence of narrative and archaeological data.  Bakhtin offers some categories to revisit that topic.


Bill Millar

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Date: Mon, 06 Oct 2003 11:26:11 -0400
From: Burke Long <>

Hello everybody:
1. As I read papers and comments, and struggle to make my own contributions
, I keep returning to the difficulty of holding together all dimensions of spatiality in our actual analyses. Jim has reminded us, yet again, (p. 14 discussion) that Soja's space is all three (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) all the time, and that "space is some sort of multidimensional spatial construction from experience."  Keeping the juggled balls in the air is one of the challenges for me, since we think and parse so wonderfully well and pull apart what is together and multidimensional and enacted or lived. I would add, multi-relational or multi-dialogic, too. Can we think of all dimensions of spatial construction as variously related to, and shaped in interaction with, all other dimensions, simultaneously? If that is a reasonable theoretical claim, then perhaps at the end of our analyses of spatial matters, we should strive for a public, descriptive prose that in its very form would keep these dimensions of spatial practice suspended, or at least, never out of sight of their interactive, interpenetrating liveliness in experience and, more actively, in practice. As Jim reminds us again, this points us to postmodernism as it manifests itself in the struggle to find ways of thinking and talking that refuse modernist habits of binary constructions--even to thinking of postmodernism itself. The metaphor of hologram helps.

2. I wonder if we may make too much theoretical difference between Soja's "first space" and the other dimensions he isolates. To me, the suggestion that runs through our discussion that first space is somehow "actual" (meaning not constructed?), or experienced directly and physically, and thus empirically objectifiable , is useful in very limited ways, and problematic. (See, for example, David Penchansky's reflection on the things he has heard from us on this, p. 3-4 of discussion.) In struggling with the metaphysical or ontological implications of such talk, I was drawn back to an early 20th century philosopher, George Herbert Mead, who in 1934 was laying out a theoretical basis for understanding our intuitive sense of an objective world "out there" in terms of social process. I don't know a lot about Mead, and i hope i do him justice here, but one thing that I value is his attempt to steer a course between empiricism and idealism, and to rethink these old philosophical problems relationally. In his view, the bringing of "objective" reality to consciousness is already a social process, a focusing of "world" out of human (and this means social) interactions with the undifferentiated flux of nature.

So, to return to Soja's first space: maybe we ought to conceive of first space not as something directly experienced, but as something already constructed, as a constructed and socially habituated sense of physical space that arises out of an interactive process by which we human beings interact, select, and construct the "objectivity" of first space. In short, I wonder if first space ought not to be seen as constructed in this basic sense of social materialism (or social empiricism? what can we call it?).  For the Mead reference, see George Herbert Mead, Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist (
Chicago , 1934).

Another way to think of this, I suppose, is as I mentioned above: to imagine all dimensions of space as interrelated to all others in socio-spatial practice.  This would diminish the tendency to separate out first space as somehow different in kind, or untouched by, the constructing, reinforcing, or resisting activities of spatial practice.

3. I, too, would like to hear more from Hayim Lapin about central place theory. As did others in our group, I very much appreciated his way of conceiving of ancient Palestine history (can we say a historian's spatialized Palestine of late antiquity?) in terms of fluid, permeable lines of commercial, political, and indentity-making practices.

4. Claudia's question (p. 6 of discussion) haunts me: what "more" does spatiality theory add to "the analysis of either the historians' own chronotopes or their productions of that 'ancient
Israel '"?  The question haunts me because I'm not sure I have an answer. I wonder, for example, if my contribution to the seminar this year might also be seen as trying to get more fully at how historiography is socially situated in practices that have material, economic, political, ideological and intellectual dimensions. Although I talk of socio-spatial practice, is this merely a convenient metaphor because I've chosen to focus on the practice of historiography as imagining space, and the texts of historiography as locations (spaces) where readers and authors meet? Do I need a theory of critical spatiality to do this? And yet, could I have done it in the way I've attempted without the perspective that comes from de- essentializing naturalized notions of space with the help Soja and Lefebvre? 

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Flanagan (2) October 28, 2003


Three comments on the most recent postings:


First, I have argued for nearly two decades that the expectation of “convergence” between literary claims and archaeological data is at best foolhardy and at worse naïve (see, among others, David’s Social Drama).  This realization is what drove me to find and use holography as a metaphor and model for the way that mental and behavioral information interact.   Might I now say, mental and spatial?   Keith is certainly on solid ground with his criticisms.


Second, Bill Deal raises a question about archaeology and Thirdspace.  This is an issue that has plagued me for some time and comes up in spades in the Information Technology Research project I’m involved in with a digital library.   Looking as his comment together with Keith’s statements about archaeology, I ask – assuming the validity of the categories – what space is at play in archaeology:  First-, Second-, or Third-?   Bill negates Thirdspace, but I wonder if Keith is not affirming it?   “Cognitive archaeology” may be one type to investigate in order to decide.  To dig a tell is, of course, to dig a tell, but that is not why we dig.   There are hundreds or thousands of conceived spaces to be unearthed, or are they Thirdspaces?


Third, Bill’s discussion of textual space, etc., leads me to think of Marvin Harris’ mental/behavioral and emic/etic distinctions and the difficulties in knowing the emic mental via the etic mental:   “Clearly, anthropologists should use the etic approach to mental life sparingly and should not attempt to override every emic explanation with an etic alternative” (Cultural Materialism, 1979: 40).   Is this what Bill is saying?

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October 29, 2003
From Burke Long

1. On Jim Flanagan's question #2: what "space" is in play in the archaeologist's work? How about seeing things this way:  archaeologists uncover evidence of ancient socio-spatial practices (e.g., a pottery making workshop in a "village" near a "market place"   where shards and coins are found), but reading that evidence is a form of contemporary socio-spatial practice, including deciding, not always in a consciously reflective way, on what basis to call a configuration of remains a "village," and a certain area a "market place," and applying a dating scheme, and so forth.  The socio-spatial practice of an archaeologist would also include a complex of ideological commitments, social placedness and political assumptions/aims that go into such a contemporary reconstruction of ancient history. These aspects of practice are what Keith calls "worldly connections," I believe.  

2. In this sense, I'd propose that Keith, in his own act of resistive reading (a socio-spatial practice to that of Dever's ) shows us Dever's socio-spatial practice in imagining the spatial configuration of those ancient peoples called Israelites. Or in Bill Deal's terms, we are watching Keith's textualization of Dever's linguistic acts, despite Dever's naive claim to rely on "common sense" and plain "facts".   May we also emphasize that Keith is commenting on Devers's practice, his "living" his political and spatial construction of ancient Israelite monarchy as nation state? And Keith adds that in addition to Dever's personal imperialistic desire, there is a social component:   people within Dever's orbit and intellectual amcestry (e.g. Albright), and policy makers and politicians in the late 1990s USA (the PNAC and people on whom it relies). And maybe more yet to be uncovered.

3. For Dever, the antiquity and facticity of Israel 's hierarchically ordered nation state is real in a simple naive way, highly valued for some of the reasons Keith suggests, and according to Keith's argument, seems to be of almost ultimate importance to Dever . To hold to the "fact" of a centralized nation state in 10th century BCE Palestine somehow is critical to saving civilization (or we might say, Dever's idea of the West's version of civilization). Albright attached a similar urgent ultimacy to his history of monotheism published in 1940, and explicitly deemed his efforts part of the West's   (Democracy's) defense against Facism and the Nazi reversion (note the Darwinian overtones) to pre-empirical, irrationally driven, primitive, pre-civilized chaos, a topic I've written about, as many of you know. Nowadays, in the light of Keith's analysis, its interesting to consider that Dever, a "grandson" of Albright by way of Ernest Wright, engages in a similar kind of apocalyptic alarmism and polemics.  ( Dever told me once that during his graduate student days, Wright always told him to "get right with Albright." He's apparently done it in What did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? [Already the title embeds the book in post-Nixon US political discourse].)   All these matters belong to the socio in what I mean by socio-spatial practice.

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Hayim Lapin

Oct. 31, 2003

I want to thank Claudia Camp, David Penchansky, and Jim Flanagan for comments to my presentation. Let me say that I feel like a lurker in a conversation that is not entirely my own--indeed, my presentation was written without any knowledge of Soja, and when the current Constructions group was just forming--and that leaves me at a bit of a loss as to how to respond productively. Let me address here three issues that came out of comments to my piece.


1. What is Central Place Theory (CPT)?

2. CPT and "critical spatiality"

3. "motors" and rhetoric


1. CPT was (is) a very PRE-postmodern attempt to bring "space" (or location) into economics. It focused on the location of industries and retail establishments on the assumption that (as economics textbooks like to say, all other things being equal, so theorists began with a flat featureless plane with even distribution of resources) distance was a major factor in shaping the demand curve. Goods therefore had regional "ranges" beyond which they would find no customers from a given point of production or distribution; and "thresholds" smaller than which the producer or seller could not make ends meet. How we imagine threshold and range (still highly abstractly) further depends on how we imagine population distribution (highly dispersed or concentrated in villages and towns ....). The result of this thinking with goods and services and their thresholds and ranges is networks of nesting and overlapping market areas whose particular confgurations described a regional "landscape."


Resulting landscapes (which can vary, even within this highly limited and limiting model, depending on what other variables--roads, intervention of administrative concerns ...--one introduced) are hierarchical: more locations have, say, bakers provisioning a small area, than have diamond exchanges. Within these hierarchical landscapes nodal points in the network may occupy different levels in the hierarchy (from metropolis to trading post) but each is a "central place" in that a wider area of settlement is drawn to it for the goods and services they provide. (A village is at once "central" and also dependant on a higher-level "central place" for its supplies ....)


So much for the theory in its 1930s formulation. In the 1960s and 1970s it had a bit of a vogue as a way of thinking about how the organization of economy might relate to other things. William Skinner suggested that in rural "traditional" China the unit of the "little community" described by Redfield was not properly the village but the network of market-linked villages that shaped patterns of credit, sociability, etc. And Carol Smith linked CPT to the problems of one ancestor of post-colonial theory (dependency theory) and programmatically attempted to corelate the satial organization of exhcange with political structures and locations of elites.


My own use of the theory has asked how administrative boundaries of Roman provinces and their organization around cities overlapped or--more interestingly--failed to, with an "economic" landscape as described by CPT models. This, I think, is why David Penchansky got the impression that he did of CPT from my contribution. That question was interesting to me because it gave a point of entry to the debate by Roman historians at least since Moses Finley about the extent of a market economy in the Roman empire. I was also particularly interested in ways of describing the shaping of provincial space: what did a (or THIS) Roman province look like and how might "non-economic" features map onto (or, again, fail to) "economic" or "administrative" ones. In language borrowed from Soja about "secondspace" perspectives and replacing "urban" with "regional," etc., at this level I was interested "the construction of an [regional] epistemology, a formal framework and method for obtaining knowledge about [regional]-space and explaining its specific geography" (Postmetropolis, 11).


We can debate the merits of all of the above: I'm not entirely convinced by it myself. For me it had the satisfaction of a set of geometrical puzzles to work through, as well as a very specific and controlled way of bringing archaeological material (site-specific in the way it is collected and gathered) and literary material (frequently episodic and localized) together, one that did NOT share the disciplinary assumptions of archaeologists, classicists, rabbinics or patristics scholars. Judging by the conversation I've been lucky enough to eavesdrop on I suggest that it is this last element (as Claudia Camp asked, what does critical spatiality--this? or any?--do for us) that intersects most with the interests of the group.


2. This leads me to the question of CPT and Soja and the debate about First/Second/Thirdspace. Let me say at the outset that I have no great confidence in my understanding of Soja. On a practical and genealogical level, Brian Berry, whose work plays an important role in the development of the "secondspace" prespective is one of the people who rearticulated and applied CPT in the 1960s and 1970s, adding both ecology and more sophisiticated modelling and tools into the mix. From that genealogical point of view I would have supposed that Central Place theory leads to a "secondspace" perspective: the spatial articulation of what people do in a context shaped by structures that are governmental, economic, and cultural. I suppose that my entire last chapter may be described in that sense to describe "thickly" (Geertz) the implications of a "secondspace" perspective.


But I am struck by two of the aspects of what Soja describes programmatically as a thirdspace perspective in Postmetropolis (11): "lived space" and "putting cities first." The second of these relates to my use of the rhetoric of the "motor" and I'll come back to it in a bit. The first does sound to me like what I have tried to do with the landscape I tried to reconstruct. I wonder if it might be useful to think about secondspace/thirdspace in terms of Bourdieu's critique of structuralist anthropology. Levi-Strauss developed structural models of gift exchange and woman exchange (kinship). Bourdieu's critique is twofold. 1. this valorizes what the outsider can see (not the inhabited cultural "space" of the giver or recipient, the bride, the groom, or the families ....) as the scientific understanding of the true function and meaning of the systems of exchange. 2. When we address this epistemologically, politically, and culturally embedded blindspot, we are faced not with "structure" but with "strategies": what in a gift exchange "system" is balanced and reciprocal, becomes a highly situational and delicate matter of recognition, timing, cultural status, honor, etc. It is not that Bourdieu renounces "structure": it is because "gift-exchange" exists as a practice in Kabyle that the precise features of the strategies become relevant. The focus turns to the habitus (a useful intertext for "lived space"), the inhabited, largely unspoken, set of learned and inherited dispostions.


I've probably not done justice to Bourdieu here, but I wonder whether we might think of the insistence on dispositional strategies, what one does IN the "system" and thereby continuously reproducing and enacting it, but also opening the possibility of contesting it (and it is here in particular that I have oversimplified Bourdieu) as analogous to the perspective that is gained when we turn to thirdspace as "lived space": not just objectively handed to people but built up through countless acts of institutional, governmental, and elite acts, but also of everyday use-acts of "people" (think of de Certeau's thoughts about "walking"). There is a political edge here for Soja as well, because it returns agency to people as both the makers of their space and as the hope for the making of a better, more just, space.


3. This has become a rather long response, so let me deal briefly with David Penchansky's comment about my rhetoric of motors. In principle I agree with his observation. I recognize too that it is a rather crude re-presentation of the old structure/superstructure problem in marxist historiography. My reason for using it is both specific and strategic. The history of Judaism and the history of Palestine are marked by a number of deeply embedded ethnic, religious, and territorial essentialisms. That I share some of them makes me all the more interested in approaches that destabilize those essentialisms: If I can make landscape, ethnicity, religion, all in some fundamental way "outcomes" of a historical understanding and not the starting pieces in a game in which they never change although the pieces may get moved about, I've gotten somewhere. So there is a rhetorical gain (is the cost worth it? it's worth discussing!) to making a case in which the role of "structure" (economy; the distribution of resources; the aspect of the administrative structure of the Roman empire that operates far away from Palestine) drives seemingly "autonomous" and unproblematically indigenous or given local features. This would be my take on Soja's putting "cities" first: I've tried to put landscapes of a particular kind first and work back and forth between the levels of landscape and government, landscape and economy, landscape and demography, and so on.


As for the specific question about synagogues, I guess everyone WOULD agree if asked that there are complex forces at play. But by and large scholars have been content to argue that Jews built synagogues because they were Jewish and Jews build synagogues. (The destruction of the Jerusalem temple or diaspora are invoked here as the ethnic or religious necessity that generated the response.) So synagogues in Palestine = Jews, and areas with synagogues = Jewish areas. What I am suggesting, instead, is that synagogues are a feature of a peculiar reconfiguration (perhaps even, as Seth Schwartz has argued, a reinvention) of Judaism in late antiquity that has spatial and ethnic features that can be linked to patterns of longterm Roman rule in Palestine, a broader reemergence of "community" at the village level in late antiquity (so synagogues are a feature of a not-specifically Jewish phenomenon), as well as Christianization of the empire (and a rhetoric of marginalization of Jews).


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Mary Huie-Jolly          Critical spatiality discussion 

4 Nov 2003


In reading the papers for this year differences of world view or orientation regarding what is presumed about space are becoming more stark to me.


On the one hand a way of speaking about constructs, of which space is presumed to be one, seems to be taken for granted. For example when Hayim Lapin refers to the tension between space as artefact ( a human product) and as space (which may include humanly constructed space) as constraining of human activities, he assumes that humans   can in fact be distinguished from space and are not rather part of it.

  Deal takes that assumption further by attempting to narrow meaningful language about space to human interpretations of space expressed in language. If space is interpreted through language then space (as the constructs group is using the term) is primarily a textual practice for academics. Deal is up front in his take on this. He is following White’s notion that, events occur but we only have access to language about them. Therefore, if as White argues, history is a textual practice, why not space too? Here he makes the assumption explicit, that all our human interpretations come via language.


I have to disagree, though there is of course a certain sense in which what Deal says is correct, but it is only technically correct. By this I mean it is only dealing with what can be quantified by language, where language functions as a sort of proof that there is something. However, the metaphorical imprecision and generality regarding place and space that Deal criticises in Eliade, nevertheless communicates poetically, even religiously, so that The Sacred and the Profane continues to help people feel the embodiment of spatiality in relation to a larger whole. This is I suggest not just a matter of language. The spatial dimension that Eliade effectively communicates through metaphor recreates a feeling of spatiality because metaphor, even metaphors that are reified into text, like ‘the navel of the earth,’    are made from physical, concrete spatial material, before they are expressed verbally as a spatial feature of consciousness  transformed into utterance, and for academics at least, further transformed into text. The text Deal cites from Eliade communicates as it does because it stands for feelings embodied in experienced spatial relationships. The spatiality of the text is in part its ability to connect to connect emotionally, physically, with what is in fact the physical, sensual, spatial environment from which humans are constructed and sustained. Space does not belong to humans in the first instance, but humans belong to space.


Why is the theoretical side of  Millar’s paper so refreshing? Perhaps because he has side stepped the social construction of space assumption and seems, following Bakhtin and Dostoevsky (and even Einstein), to apprehend himself as part of something larger than what he is able to interpret or stand outside of. We don’t make it, it makes us. The way we posit space shapes the way meaning is perceived.


Lampin’s subsequent observation, in the discussion about Soja’s thirdspace, helps by introducing habitas as another way of talking about experienced space. Spatial conciousness is immersed in habitas . As Lampin says, habitas relates less to structures than to strategies in a system that is balanced, reciprocal, situational, delicate, concerning matters of recognition, timing etc, and in which humans are part of a dynamic spatial whole. Emmanuel Levinas, in Totality and Infinity, took another approach to habitation that we need to explore for  critical spatiality. Humans live from the earth. This reorients us in a metaphysics of habitation and rejects   priority on ontology as if human consciousness were the be all and end all of reality. A certain humility in light of the absolute dependence of humans on earth is in order.   If we can reorient ourselves toward habitation, instead of to construction of space through consciousness, the change  allows for a spatial orientation that, true to our life form within the ecosystem, lives within and from the elemental world .

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Jim Flanagan

November 12, 2003


The Historiographers:

To David Gunn, the 42 members of the Seminar (himself excluded?) are the foxes in the Samson story.   He has tied our tails together, set them afire, and sent us back into the harvest (our productions) we had thought we might reap.   The outcome is inevitable.   At least that is how I read him.


His masterful summary of interpretations of Judges’ stories reflects his long-standing interest in the history of interpretation and the thrust of a soon-to-be published work on the Book of Judges.   I first learned of the former years ago when his launched a series in Almond Press dedicated to the subject; the latter has been awaited for some time by his wide circle of acquaintances and readers.


It seems to me that the paper exposes the ever-present bias that inhabits all biblical interpretation.   The bias (or presupposition) may change from generation to generation, but one or another will always be there.   No doubt the Space Seminar is or will be as guilty as all the others.  Hence, the foxes and tails and destruction analogy. 


I was struck by David’s references to Bob Boling, a prince of a guy whose last book (?) was published in the series I edited for Almond Press.  Bob was a die-hard Albrightian whose biases and presuppositions David exposes.   That forced me to think again about Keith’s contribution, especially his comments on Bill Dever, the person and his work.   Bill is not Bob, but he is in the Albright school, which of course brings us to Burke Long’s long-standing (no pun) interest in that school and its haven, the Biblical Colloquium.  


What goes around comes around.   Ironically, the first paper I gave on space in the Constructs Group in 1996 was also presented in the Biblical Colloquium, I think the same year or perhaps the year before.  Whichever, I dedicated the paper to Bob who had been killed in an automobile accident on the Petra rode a few months earlier.  My treatment, obviously, was not an Albright-type.   In the Colloquium, the sessions run three hours with a break in the middle.  Usually, interruptions abound, arguments flash, and humor descends into ideological struggles.   In my case, nearly stone silence.   At the break someone asked me when I was going to get to the paper?!


I think the story confirms what Burke, Keith, and David are saying, namely if you don’t share presuppositions, one of you is in trouble, depending on who holds the high ground at the time.   Keith has probably been trampled by more foxes than most of us, but Burke too – in his absence – has been fairly well drawn and quartered within the Colloquium himself.  When his book was used as a topic of discussion, I suggested that he be invited to give his own view.  Nice people, but they are good at giving you the cold shoulder when you make an unwanted and uninvited suggestion!   Two cups of coffee during the break that year.


Tina’s paper:

I found the paper fascinating and stimulating.   As you might expect, I was drawn to the sections dealing with LeFebvre and those discussing cyberspace.  I had not thought of the connections she makes, even though I’ve been looking for them.  I think one can build on what she says in ways that will advance spatial analyses – at least as this group is thinking of them – and clarify both the models and their applications.


I am currently enmeshed in World Wide Web, Digital Libraries (DL), archaeological data, and archaeology.   The last is a thread that runs through the historiography papers.   One of the motivations for entering such a mix is an awareness of the power the electronic world exerts on forming communities.   November 12, today, is the deadline for Library of Congress proposals from groups who can demonstrate that working together they can form new communities of learning, etc.  The U.S. Congress has appropriated $99.8 million for the project.   Somebody must believe in it.   In the DL project, we are using something called the 5S model, a high level abstraction that guides computer programmers in identifying, describing, and programming the “pieces” that need to be brought together in a DL.  One of the S’s is Societies.   It means, among other things, that we must be conscious of the societies we are studying, the societies that are doing the studies, the societies that will be formed around the studies, and on and on.   As this seminar can testify, electronic technologies do make a difference, and they do allow for or cause new societies.


I ask is the Book of the Apocalypse to its Ur-world what the DL aspires to be in an electronic world?   Or again, to David, Burke, or Keith, is any presupposition or set of presuppositions that inspires the formation of a “school” different in kind from a technical capacity – albeit hard to learn and difficult to manage without technical skills – that we face in today’s world?   I think, for example, of the tremendous clout that the VP for IT has gained on campuses in only a few years.   Years ago, that would have been the librarian or no one at all.


Return to holograms:

Bill Millar’s nudging has pestered me throughout this year’s discussions.  I made a few pious remarks about his use of holography in my response to his paper.   I came to it again while reading David’s.   If there are always going to be biases and presuppositions, if they cannot be avoided, how can we account for them?   When I wrote the book on holography (I did not say The Book), I was trying to make explicit some of the presuppositions that surround interpretations of the biblical image, David.   I think I stated that the illuminating beam in holography provides a useful model.  It enables one to identify and make explicit his or her presuppositions.   It does not make them go away.   It makes them known to the reader.   For me, the illuminating beam was Sheikh Almana’s story of the rise of Ibn Saud.  I’m as guilty as the rest, but I was trying to be a little more honest.


I hope some of this makes sense.


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Christl Maier

Hello everybody,


Reading through all the papers and comments posted, I rather felt intimidated to raise my voice in such a multi-layered and multi-focal discourse. At least, I dare to get in at some point.


I would like to address some reflection William Deal whose paper raises very important and thoughts. I appreciate his notion that sacred space is often presented by discourse and thus structured by language. This would apply to all renderings of sacred space in the Bible where we lack a direct notion of space-as-experienced. I think, Burke Long’s comment that often our use of Soja’s Firstspace as “actual” is of limited usefulness, points in the same direction as William (correct me please, if I am wrong).


In William’s treatment of Eliade’s description of sacred space, he can plausibly show the underlying binary oppositions in Eliade’s language. I wonder if this binarism is inherent in Eliade’s thought or in language as such (if these could be separated) and if we can use language in a different way at all. William sees a similarity between Saussure’s distinction of langue and parole and Eliade’s description of Firstspace. But, what if “langue” is structured by binarism ? Can we ever use it in a non-binary way? Marie Huie-Jolly pointed out in her comment, that Eliade’s communicate through metaphor and thus recreates a feeling of spatiality. Is metaphor thus a means to overcome an only two-dimensional perception of space?


My concern is with the narrative of a center-periphery model which is so often used to describe a sacred space, for example Jerusalem, and so far seemed plausible to me. As Lefebvre and Soja quite successfully try to overcome binary thinking, how could we employ their theoretical insights in order to revise such a binary narrative of sacred space? William uses their theory to show that Eliade does not deal with Thirdspace at all. But if we want to address Thirdspace and at the same time talk about biblical spaces whose experience is lost today, should we approach them with three different narratives of space? Would all those narratives have to use metaphors?


I am looking forward to our discussion at the SBL/AAR meeting.


Christl Maier

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Burke Long
November 14, 2003

David Gunn's Paper:

Is is fair to say the following?--  David tracks "readerly spaces" that have been occupied by actual readers who have been busily constructing biblical spaces (whether "first" space or not, I'm not sure), which are filled with all sorts of materiality, or even in some cases, material "stuff" that has been transmuted into a more valued immaterial "reality", e.g., theological or philosophical truth.   If this is a fair characterization, he surely points us, as some of this year's discussions have also shown, to the possibility that construction of space is a linguistic, or textualizing, process.  But I keep coming back to what is a central point for me, (perhaps a tiresome one for others to hear from me!):  "spatializing" language is practice, and  linguistic processess are lived, acted out, practiced, in concrete social circumstances--this I gather is where we might find the "baggage" that readers bring with them to the linguistic process that is a text. This side of things, David is obviously aware of, but chose not to focus on in his paper (p.1). But that is to leave unaswered, e.g., a broader cultural understanding of the shift in practice he noted: from worrying about the meaning of "stuff" to a determined drive to  prove, or be reassured, that the "stuff" was there,  in situ.  (I love his ringer of a last line.)    

I  have a few thoughts along the lines David chose not to emphasize. My research of late  suggests that the shift he noted had  wider parallels in a broad range of practices in Anglo-European Victorian society.  The excessive worrying about historicity in the Bible, and hence fixation on the realia of stuff,  is often seen as a symptom of anxiety over the Bible's truth because of the perceived threat of the historical method.  Thus the shift in biblical commentaries that David noted, and the wonderful 19th century Bible atlases filled with illustrated arcania of flora and fauna and geography, and of course, the rise of a kind of theology that supposedly "takes history seriously," and on and on--everybody can fill in the list for changes that took place in our field.
But the 19th century in America and England was also a great age of collecting "stuff" for parlor display cabinets and for big display cabinets that were the new spaces of public museums  (which by the way fought wars over what was "high" and "low" and thus legitimate, cultural collecting against the likes of W. T. Barnum who established  the exotica of  stuff and freaks of nature--even if you had to make it up (e.g., W. T. Barnum's Museum of wonders in Brooklyn NY);  the Victorian age was also a century of  presenting spectacularly staged melodramatic renderings of the past, glorious productions of prodigal materiality, with claims to being fussy about your facts and fastidious about your costuming (that's something I'm deeply into right now because some of those extravaganzas took biblical stories as their subject matter); it was the age of world wide expositions, of huge paintings of historical and mythical subjects, of empire and aspiring empire,  of archaeological exploration, and the beginnings of global capitalism, of middle class travel,  the articulation of a theory of history as class conflict. And so on. All these things were from one point of view "shifts" in cultural practices, and all dealt obsessively with "stuff" and with constructing the spaces of stuff.  Just getting the stuff in hand, or accurately depicted, was the obsession.  But why this obsession?  What explains the enormous social shifts taking place?   How might we understand, or can we even posit,  relationships between what David observed about the Book of Judges and its interpreters' shift to "realia," and the wider evidences of similar concerns and practices going on apace in the larger society?   

Tina Pippin's Paper:

Tina's paper glistens like brilliant fireworks all over the sky. It is filled with ideas and pathways of multi-disciplinary exploration.  And she nicely bridges the gap between two sides of our seminar's concerns: with reading biblical texts, and with reading images.  She suggests ways to deal with both by touring first the spaces  imagined in the Apocalypse of John, and then by sketching, or alluding to, ways in which spaces "inside the text" have been connected to "spaces outside the text."  

Let me return, alas yet again, to social circumstance:  If  Tina asks, as she said on p. 1,  "Above all, I am asking how the [spaces] of Apocalypse works its way into our social and political spaces and practices....." then I found myself hungry for more of her analysis of "our social and political spaces."  In short, for more grounding in social and cultural history in which those "spaces" were constructed-in-living..  She is certainly suggestive here, and perhaps lays out a program of research that could easily become a book.

Tina's comments on p. 16 about the British painter John Martin, and how he was an example for her of the "creative (re?)imagining of apocalyptic spaces" reminded me that Martin and other artists of the era satisfied a public taste for melodrama and spectacle on the stage, and for grand historical or mythological epic scenes in the art galleries. And the public demand went far beyond biblical images of Apocalypse. There was a fascination for picturing catastrophe--on stage, in open air spectacles and amusement parks, in world's fairs, in traveling circuses, in cycloramic paintings, in stereoptic photographs, and so on.  Why I wonder?  Why, then, and why there, in England and Europe and the USA?


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Claudia Camp (3)

Response to the Space Seminar
Nov. 16, 2003


1.  On David Gunn’s “stuff”:  On-going in-person conversations with David keep coming back to the question “What IS space?”  What are we talking about when we use this term?  Our discussions readily define it in the negative (it is not ideologically neutral “emptiness”) but when we turn to positive expression, we say things like “it is socially constructed.”  But this still begs the question, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, of what “it” is.  Even though I’ve affirmed the notion of social construction intellectually, what I’ve realized for myself is how rapidly I fall back into the language of “space as emptiness.”  There is a powerful default mode that keeps me wanting to talk, for example, about objects as being “in space.”  David’s focus on objects in a sense AS space (or space as objects in relation) has been a helpful anchor against this linguistic and conceptual drift.

            But it’s got me thinking even further than that, by pointing to what I think is a kind of bifurcation in the way I “do” space (to use Bill Deal’s phrase).  On the one hand, I’ve got this linguistic/conceptual tendency to think about and express space as emptiness.  I notice, further, that when I focus my mind on this idea and ask “where do I go from here? what are the implications of this framing (metaphorization, if you will) of space?” what shows up is the idea/image of drawing lines in the emptiness, separating this bit of empty from that.  Sounds like Genesis, yes, also like maps, also like binary thinking in general.  That’s on the one hand.  On the other hand, when I move from thinking/talking about space to the way I actually experience space in the physical world, it shows up as … objects.  To some degree I experience objects in terms of lines against emptiness (silhouettes, outlines), but really, mostly, I experience objects in terms of the multitude of features related to their bulk, what’s inside the outline rather than the outline itself.  There’s a bifurcation, then, between the way I think/talk about space as emptiness and the way I live with space as objects that I think is quite profound, in part because it’s so masked.  I have to think about it really hard to notice it! 


            2.  I hardly know where to begin with Burke’s and Keith’s wonderfully rich papers. (Finishing Keith’s, I was inclined to say no more than “Amen.”) It may be obvious but is also I think noteworthy that the three papers whose agenda was to connect space and historiography went immediately to “stuff.”  The archeological stuff that is Keith’s main interest transubstantiates into pictorial stuff related to the archeological stuff in Burke’s, and to literary as well as visual reflections on stuff in David’s.  Also Burke’s critique of Miller and Hayes’ “threshold of credibility” as an aspect of their historical method relates to Keith’s critique of Dever’s notion of “common sense.”  What’s drawn us together in this Seminar, I think, is the recognition of how powerful supposed common sense is in our culture with respect to stuff (thus my language problem noted above).  “What you see is what you get” is not just an expression of common sense, but an expression of how we privilege seeing because of our reliance on empirical method.  Touching might be even better than seeing when it comes to ancient stuff, but that’s only allowed for the experts because the relevant stuff is so Rare and Valuable (thus allowing for, as Keith points out, Dever’s vested interest in his methodological imperialism).  Some degree of separation is crucial to make sure we hold the stuff in enough awe.  To see it is to place it within our common sense realm of reason, and thus validate the Bible itself within this realm; not to touch it keeps it outside that realm, still “in touch” with the supernatural.

            I want to “touch” (!) on Burke’s observation of how Crossan and Reed construct Nazareth as an “iconic state of sacrality,” as a “unitary space.”  I think that this drive to the singular is another way in which we connect stuff, commonsensically understood, with the sacred, and thus validate one with the other.  Just as any given bit of stuff can, commonsensically, only be what it is, only be one thing and not anything else, can only be in one place and not any place else; just as all questions of reason can commonsensically only have one True Answer; so also God can only be One, the Bible (also an icon) can only say One Thing.  (See also Tina’s reference to “the number one deity and worship of the One.”) The way we think about stuff determines how the sacred is conceived. Iconized spaces are especially important not only because “Jesus lived there and I can go there too” but because, as space is commonsensically understood, that space will Always Be There: it is permanently one, as God is permanently one.  Pictures can be even better than Going There because the picture will always remain Just Like It Is, while I know (though I might not want to admit it and may well not want to test it out), that the features of the space can change. 



3.  Bill Deal’s paper seemed to me to make a nice fit with the three papers that focused on historiography. Keith’s paper most obviously frames itself as a discourse analysis of space-talk, though Burke’s and David’s are also doing this.   If we wanted to, I suspect that Burke’s, Keith’s, and David’s discussions could all be framed in terms of Hayden White’s schema of emplotment, explanation, and ideology. Not that I’d want to reduce them all to this one framework, but I do think Bill is right that these elements of White’s metahistory could also work for a metaspatiality, that is, as one more set of critical categories providing leverage on our topic.  Also useful because one of our major questions (or at least my major questions) is what more can we say about history by thinking spatially, and this schema brings the two rather neatly together. 

            I was also struck by Bill’s reference to George Lakoff’s (variously on his own or with Mark Johnson or with Mark Turner) work on metaphor.  I’d already made reference to this in my response to Bill Millar’s paper, before reading Bill Deal’s, and a number of things other people said along the way kept turning my mind in that direction.

 Two observations at this point: First, I note again, as others have now often pointed out, how wedded we are to metaphor in this discussion, and how often the line between the metaphorical and the literal (if there is such a line) gets blurred.  Bill’s examples from Eliade seem clear enough:  space is like a mathematical plane, sacred space is like a navel.  Yet notice that metaphor has become simile in these renditions; I think the power of Eliade’s discourse lies in how natural (literal?) these ideas seem even when expressed more resolutely: space IS a mathematical plane.  (Can I think about heaven without looking up?) Also my heavily naturalized/lingui-sized discourse of space as emptiness.  But what about Bill’s own definition of space:  Space is narrative practice.  Is this statement literal or metaphorical?  (And practice OF WHAT?)  And what about David’s space as objects? Object (-ivity) would seem to be the opposite of metaphor, the substance of the literal, but does it really work this way?

            Second, if someone wanted to run with it, I think that the Lakoff/Johnson/Turner discussion would provide another means of critical leverage for thinking about space (whatever it is!).  I’m thinking of their discussion of “metaphors we live by,” many of which are spatial because our bodies exist in (ouch! as?) space and it is through the metaphors provided by bodily experience that fundamental concepts become real to us. (Their premise, by the way, is that “most of our normal conceptual system is metaphorically structured.”) For example, in a discussion of why UP and DOWN are so important to us:

Objectively speaking, … there are many possible frameworks for spatial orientation, including Cartesian coordinates, that don’t in themselves have up-down orientation.  Human spatial concepts, however, include UP-DOWN, FRONT-BACK, IN-OUT [thank goodness, I’m vindicated!!], NEAR-FAR, etc. It is these that are relevant to our continual everyday bodily functioning, and this gives them priority over other possible structurings of space—for us.  In other words, the structure of our spatial concepts emerges from our constant spatial experience, that is, our interaction with the physical environment.  Concepts that emerge in this way are concepts that we live by in the most fundamental way.  (Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson, pp. 56-57)

Now, one problem with the Lakoff approach is that it has no built-in ideology critique (it deals with embodiment, e.g., with no discussion of gender), leaving one asking whether THEIR discourse is naturalized ideology (on this see Mieke Bal, “Metaphors He Lives By” in Semeia 61).  Still, I think there’s something to work with here.


            4.  Christl Maier offers a nuanced example of how focusing on space can enrich our thought about biblical history and literature: thus, source criticism of Isaiah, dependent on an assumption of changing political circumstances, can also be understood as the effects of changing materialities of space effecting different symbolic representations of space.  And, further, how imagining the perspectives of people experiencing different lived realities of their materiality might complicate scholarly analyses of where the margins and the centers of power may lie.  Regarding the experience of the now-marginalized elite in the Babylonian exile, she asks, “what do the margins mean if the center is lost?”  It has often struck me that one of the ways the Bible deals with this question is by offering an alternative imaging of space.  Thus, while some texts can be represented in terms of “center” and “margins,” which is a way of talking about where power lies, others move more to the construction of boundaries dividing (all of) us from them, which puts the focus more on identity construction. 

I do think that the language of center and margin remains useful as a way of talking about degrees of socially legitimated and exercised power, as long as we recognize that any given person or community operates within many intersecting centers and margins, and also that there are less obvious forms of power at the margins as well as the center.  I also think that confusion enters in when we assume that Soja’s spatial categories have degrees of power built into their definitions.  I think that this is what Christl is really questioning, but I did find the Sojan language confusing at points along the way.  I thought it was helpful when she implicitly defined the categories on p. 4 as materiality, symbolism (more generally one might say “codes”), and experience.  I’ve tried to use this terminology in my response here, and perhaps avoid some of the problems we’ve had with the First, Second, Third language. Considerations of power can then be brought into each of them.

Christl distinguishes between the voice of warning (from the margin) as opposed to the presentation of the prophet as speaking for God and offering salvation (a space of legitimated power), and proposes a development in the thought of Isa 1-39 from the first of these to the second.  I’d like to expand on what I think is suggested but not completely elaborated in Christl’s argument at this point (p. 16 of my copy) by bringing in the question of “who is the subject?” that David Gunn has often pressed.  Christl’s allusion to the salvation emphasis of the latter part of the book as “the mainstream position of the late pre-exilic establishment” (my emphasis) presumes that this journey from margin to center was not that of the prophet himself but is a construction of a later (centered) editor.  In this case, then even the warnings that appear early in the book, which may have originated on the margins, have been co-opted by the center: “Look how far we’ve come!” Thus, she observes, “although the feminization of space seems to present an alternative of lived space, it cannot be counted as a voice of marginal people or of a so far suppressed female experience.”  This makes me wonder whether the feminization of space here should be called lived space at all.  Is the female imagery part of the dominant symbol system from the get-go? Did the feminization of space ever “produce space as an entity to be shared by women and men”?  If so, for whom did it do this?  For the prophet?  For his audience?  Did women—even those rescued from destruction—find a means of living in the notion that their bodies needed to have their dross smelted out? Likewise in 40-66: have “significant traits of female experience” really been added to the space, or is it men’s ideologized conceptions of women at work here? I worry about, for example, the slippage between Zion as daughter and bride (the two are evident together in 62:1-12).  The failure of Leviticus to regard a father-daughter sexual relationship as incest is often noted; YHWH at least commits no sin here from a patriarchal point of view.

I may be having some problem sorting out the assumed dating with respect to 1-39.  The salvation of rhetoric of ch. 37 (thus at the end of the textual development from warning to salvation) is said to be late pre-exilic establishment, but the “production of the text” is said to be in Persian period Judah, with a salvation text like 2:1-5 being re-used by those on the margins (of Persian power) though in the center of Judean power.  But how do these post-exilic people relate to the warning texts?  Are these the ones responsible for the overall shaping of 1-39, with its development of thought?  If so, what is their connection with the mainstream late pre-exilic establishment?  Among other things, the text creates the reader as an experiencing subject, and I’m not quite clear what Christl assumes about the sort of spatial encounter the text as a whole is meant to produce for the reader.

            Finally I’d like to hear her say more about the contrast she draws between female imagery as “a container of meaning” and whatever the alternative is to that. I think it is the idea of female imagery producing space.  I wonder if elaborating on the implications of this distinction would contribute to our discussion.  It struck me that the “container” image is already spatial.


            5.  Tina’s paper got me thinking about the relationship of the space we produce that is connected directly and explicitly to materiality and the space that is produced purely imaginatively, as in the Apocalypse.  All the biblical literature is of course a product of imaginations, but it seems to me that perhaps the spatial practice of readers (at least in the post Enlightenment world) is different when encountering, say, the book of Judges as opposed to the book of Revelation.  Different because Judges is about the past while Rev purports to be about the future.  Thus, Judges becomes more Real and more True to the degree our empirical lust is satisfied with the discovery of material stuff that relates to it.  Stuff from the past is probably the best stuff, but sometimes stuff from the present will do, as long as it comes from folks who have Been There (thus David’s traveler who spent the night stuck in a wadi listening to jackals has a reasonable degree of credibility).  But what then makes Rev Real and True?  Partly it’s because it comes to us in a particular kind of stuff, the paper and ink making up the Bible, and it appears at just the right space in that book, that is to say, the End comes at the end.  Partly it’s because we’ve been indoctrinated into the view that our current materiality—especially our bodies and especially female bodies—are corrupt and need purifiying and rematerializing.   What else?

            I join Burke in asking why, social-historically speaking, does this book attract imagination more obviously/powerfully in some time-spaces than in others?  And why does that imagination get expressed in the various spatial practices that it does?  Burke refers to the spectacles of the 19th century, including the “fascination for picturing catastrophe.”  Closer in time, I’ve always been interested in the Hal Lindsay phenomenon of the 1970s and 80s.  Here was a guy doing a Real and True number via the connection of apocalyptic texts to current stuff, in particular, spaces, that is, nation-states that could be equated with those in the texts.  When I began teaching in 1980, I had few students who weren’t at least passingly familiar with Lindsay, and many who were quite captivated by this way of thinking.  In the last decade, however, there are few that have ever heard of him.  Yet the fascination with apocalypse remains (I had a student tell me recently—trying to impress—that he “loved the symbolism” of Revelation.  Oh yeah.)  Of course the Bushies are master manipulators of this language, but in more subtle ways.  “Evil” does not have to be located in one “empire”; rather, it lurks everywhere, though it can be embodied here and there (on an axis, for example).  I think in this way apocalypse becomes naturalized, taken for granted, rather than the object of fascination because of its otherness.  This, I think, is a new direction for the politicization of this language.



Enough for sure.  See you all in Atlanta.


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Mark George
Nov. 17, 2003

Greetings, all:

There is too much on which to comment, between the papers and the postings, so I thought I'd try to address a larger issue I see working through the Seminar this year.  As I reflect on the papers (with the exception of Tina's, which I hope to read this week), I see two different directions for our work, based on two different understandings of we mean by "space" and the success we think we can have using the biblical texts to understand "space" (I read Jim Flanagan as seeing a similar split in directions, too, based on comments in his first post).  In Hayim Lapin's (and perhaps Keith Whitelam's) paper, I see a use of texts to address spatial practices "on the ground" as it were.  I am very interested in the work Hayim is doing in the paper/book, largely due to my own work on the tabernacle, and think there are ways in which spatial theory could help him think in different ways about the spaces of late Roman Galilee and that region.  (My suggestion would be to look carefully at Lefebvre rather than Soja, because Lefebvre is so clearly interested in social practices and spatial production, and the socio-political setting of the Roman period lends itself well to Lefebvre's work.)  Keith's work is addressing Dever's book and the recent historiography debates, but I read him as keenly aware of the practical effects these conceptions of space have on the ground and in social realities today (and into the future), an awareness in which Lefebvre would have been keenly interested.  The other direction, and where I see the majority of the papers this year going, is to break away from the material reality of space and treat everything as text.  The suggestion that Soja's (and, by implication, Lefebvre's?) trialectic of space collapses when applied to biblical texts (at least, according to Claudia last year and Christl Maier this year, those like Sirach; what biblical texts would be excluded from those like Sirach, if any?) highlights this direction within the Seminar's papers, but other comments, such as Jim's comment that the Bible "is more about lived space than it is about either perceived space or conceived space," do the same.

I think Claudia Camp's question about what spatial theory adds to "this" discussion (by which I take her to mean Bill [Millar's?] paper and Keith Whitelam's paper) gets at these differing directions, although I would apply it to all the papers (save Hayim's and Keith's, for reasons we can discuss), and perhaps Claudia would not see it this way.  I don't think spatial theory is necessary for most of the papers; rather, what is necessary is reading spaces in texts and analyzing how space functions metaphorically or as a trope or some other literary feature of biblical texts.  In short, what is necessary is literary criticism, not spatial theory.  I keep thinking about Lefebvre's opening pages in The Production of Space, where he argues the emerging postmodern thinking in France (it was the early 1970s when he was writing this book) talked a lot about space, but without ever taking seriously the social aspects or social reality of space.  In his view, what the postmodernists were discussing was mental space and only mental space.  Are we doing the same thing as those postmodernists?  Have we concluded that the biblical text only allows us to treat Secondspace and Thirdspace (to use Soja's terminology; Lefebvre's categories are representations of space and spaces of representation)?  Perhaps the Seminar has reached its conclusion, and we need to reconfigure, with a new focus, namely, space as a - what? trope? image? metaphor? - in biblical texts.  Then the study of how texts relate to real spaces can be taken up by archaeologists, who already are beginning to realize they need a more sophisticated means of analyzing space in their work (cf. the recent essay of Ziony Zevit in Sacred Time, Sacred Place [ed. by Barry Gittlen; Winona Lakes: Eisenbrauns, 2002], in which he argues studies of the Jerusalem Temple should utilize a trialectic of geographical space, thematic space, and mythic-symbolic space [p. 76] for its analyses of such space).

I think we have reached the point of saying there is only (or predominantly) Thirdspace/lived space in the biblical text because we have relied so heavily on Soja, and thus I would argue it is time to turn to Lefebvre.  Lefebvre and Soja are not interested in the same things, nor are their trialectics the same.  Lefebvre's socialist/Marxist commitments deeply informed the way in which he developed his trialectic, and I think it can help us move beyond the place/space of our discussion.  Let me give a modern example as a means of explaining why I think Lefebvre can be helpful.  I live in an area of Denver that is rapidly expanding: box stores are going up everywhere one turns, gobbling up prairie land and pasture land.  Each box store is accompanied by a huge parking lot, which is situated so that every lone person in their SUV driving by can estimate, at a glance, how crowded the store might be, based on the number of cars in the lot.  This spatial practice is built and designed with the automobile in mind (no one around here walks to the store; I half fear I'll cause a traffic accident some day as I walk home from the store, because I'll be such a curiosity to the drivers).  The parking lot could go around back, but then customers might not stop, because they cannot judge how full the store is, because they cannot see how many cars are in the lot!  The car (really, the SUV) is king here, and it is what determines how spaces are created and produced.

I think this little example reveals all three aspects of Lefebvre's trialectic at work, and that it can help us think about the biblical texts in light of that work.  Spatial practice, which analyzes real, physical space, is particularly concerned with the ways in which American society in the Denver area produces its social space, in this case commercial retail space: the box store.  Such stores are found throughout the Metro region: hundreds of thousands of square feet in a warehouse building, with internal arrangements almost exactly the same in each store (who said Americans are individuals?  Apparently, we love having stores be exactly the same).  Box stores are American space.  Aren't there similar spaces in ancient Israel, as revealed by the text?  Take, for example, the tabernacle.  Whether or not the tabernacle physically existed, I argue there is a spatial practice for it, because the building described is something designed to be built and set up, then taken down again, only to be put up in exactly the same way somewhere else.  This is a spatial practice: the creation (i.e., production) and reproduction of space (indeed, the exact same space).

The representation of space (Secondspace??) of the box store is the fact that the same basic blueprint can be used for every store, adjusted for scale and site specifics (it sounds like this might be an ancient practice, with evidence for it in the Middle Bronze II era!).  The understanding of grading, physics, structural engineering, placement of the all-important parking lot, and so on are all represented by the "box" and are part of its space as that space is planned and conceived by architects and designers.  In the biblical texts, there is a lot of this type of spatial thinking.  Using the tabernacle as an example, such thinking is revealed in the zones of holiness within the tabernacle.  Another example is found in Bill Millar's paper and the 2 Chr text describing concentric circles going out from Jerusalem (my apologies, Bill, for not being able to refer to this example with more precision, but I cannot find where you mentioned this).  There is a conceptual organization of the land at work here, one that also (arguably) is a spatial practice.  Kalinda Rose Stevenson's work on Ezekiel's vision of Jerusalem also is an example of representations of space.

The symbolic space of the box store space includes, among other things, the car, which has so many meanings inscribed on it in American culture that it is hugely oversignified.  A car is status, freedom, independence, and so on.  Given some of those meanings, who wants to drive their car into a crowded lot to enter a crowded store where you might not find the product you want when you want it (now, of course), and then stand in line to buy your item?  The freedom and independence of the car doesn't correspond with the reality of the box store's spatial experience!  In the biblical texts, the tabernacle has many symbolic spaces, including the symbol of the tabernacle being the space and place where the Israelites can meet their deity.  Another example is Jerusalem/Zion, the mythological high mountain where the deity dwells.

This posting is way too long, so I apologize in advance for indulging here.  I disagree with Jim, Claudia, and Christl that we cannot move spatially beyond the biblical text, because the trialectics of space collapse when confronting the text, or because the text is predominantly lived/Thirdspace.  If we make such concessions, then we will never get beyond mental space, and the social effects of these texts, whether ancient (as in Hayim's paper) or modern (as suggested in Keith's paper), will remain beyond our abilities to address.  I think Lefebvre has much to offer us here, and that being more intentional in utilizing his work can help us think beyond this mental space.

Mark George

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Constructions of Ancient Space Seminar

From David Gunn
Nov. 17, 2003


First, my thanks to David Penchansky for neatly encapsulating the terminological confusion that has dogged our use of “first/second/thirdspace.” He suggests that we have been using these terms in two ways :


First way

First space: The actual configuration of the space, the topography, the physical dimensions, the direct physical way that the space is experienced.

Second space: Space as ideological construction; space infused with meaning, significance and the exercise of power.

Third space: "lived space" - how people actually inhabit the space.


Second way

First space: Same as above

Second space: The way the ruling classes control space in order to keep themselves in power

Third space: The way powerless people actually inhabit space in order to assert their existence in the face of hegemonic second space


Claudia and I wrestled with this very early on (it’s great to have a “biblical” colleague along the corridor). I concluded that Soja’s uses of the terms “secondspace” and “thirdspace” involved a simple category mistake, mixing apples and oranges if you like, since he uses both these “ways” of talking about space – and as a result both have found their way into the seminar’s language. Clearly, as Claudia has spelled out in her Ben Sira paper and David indicates in his observation about the White House, thirdspace cannot be just the “lived space” of the marginal; if so, do the powerful have no “lived space”? By the same token, secondspace cannot just be the “conceptions” of the powerful; do the marginal not get to write graffiti and decorate the sides of trains? So the “second way” definition is not so much a theory of space as an analysis of the workings of power in relation to “space” or materiality.

            As Burke and others have insisted, “firstspace” is hard to disentangle from how it is sensed (David uses the language of  “direct physical experience”), since sensing is so often bound up with experiencing and experiencing, in this theory of space, is quintessentially a matter of thirdspace. Likewise with secondspace, how is one to distinguish “conceptions” of materiality from “experiences”? since it is hard to conceive of experiences that are not informed, whether consciously or not, by conceptions. Here we are back to David’s point about the dual usage of the term “ideology.” On one understanding, ideology is most successful precisely when it is naturalized, that is unconceptualized by the experiencing or sensing subject. Perhaps, then, secondspace is more a matter of formally expressed codes, thirdspace of unconceptualized feelings or experiences. The question then is who is gathering or formulating this data? And here we find ourself having to deal with the emic/etic problems Jim and others have noted.

            No wonder some of the group are expressing how difficult it is in practice to distinguish these categories analytically. Yet it is also clear that working with one or other definition, or maybe both, some group members have found these categories at least heuristically valuable and conducive to new insights in relation to their chosen subject matter. From my point of view, however, as a reader or listener, the dual usage does make it difficult to follow arguments; which I think is David’s point.


            My own starting point was an offer (recklessly made, as it turned out) to give an account of how some examples of biblical “historiography” from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries dealt with space. The problem I quickly found was that I didn’t know what “space” meant, what might count as “space” in the books I was looking at. In the English language “space” generally means the interval between boundaries. Indeed, curiously from our perspective, the OED starts by defining space as denoting time or duration, and offers any numbers of variations on this theme of the temporal “interval” before arriving at space as a matter of area or (material) extension. (I think Lakoff would have a field-day here). Space is the area bounded, the interval between boundaries, the “between.” Our discussion has resisted the notion of the “empty container” yet semantically that is where our language readily leads, because “space” is precisely different from those people or things that occupy it, if it is occupied at all. It is essentially an abstract term, rather like a nominal preposition (as in “the between”). (Occasionally that is not so, as when a “space” becomes a metal object that creates the white space between words.) On the other hand, I realized that much of our discussion is actually about things, either the things that bound an area and so create a “space” or the thing within the boundaries, as a “city” (houses, streets, etc.) or a “mountain.” Hence my conclusion that when talking about “space” or “spatiality” or “space as a product or construct” we are actually starting with materiality, with the “stuff” that bounds or is bounded – “stuff-in-relation” I called it to include the “between” – the stuff that is physical and sensed. Moreover, I also took the point that human bodies are equally a part of this “space,” a point that Mary makes cogently in pressing for a different subjective relationship between humans and environment, and which feminist scholars, among others, have explored as Claudia and Christl remind us. Thus, too,  I resonate with Hayim’s interest in “the dynamic interplay between space as constraining human activity and as the plastic product of human activities.” (With human bodies interacting with other materiality we have introduced temporality into the picture and might well decide with Bill Millar that the operative analytical category is the “chronotope.”)

            At this point, however, it becomes hard to know what in a given work of historiography is not about “space” in some sense. Hence my decision to restrict my exploration to materiality and see what “stuff” (focusing on inanimate things) appears in the text of Judges and how later writers represent the book’s stuff to their readers. Of course, in doing so I found myself representing other writers’ representations of biblical writers representations. While I appreciate Mark’s desire to persevere in seeking the materiality of the Bible or biblical world in or through the text (if I understand him right), I do think there are significant problems in the way of access. Even my assumption that the dagger I found in the text was literally a dagger was just that, an assumption – which certainly might have been argued about in the Middle Ages. Claudia has rightly drawn attention to the fluid interrelation of “literal” and “metaphoric” in the work of Lakoff and others and in my larger study of Judges I have found with fascination just how pervasive this fluid interchange is. Texts are protean things.

            To go back to Burke’s observation about how already “constructed” much of our sense of  firstspace” (read materiality) is: I quite agree, and I certainly found that fact emerging as I tried my own exercise in reading for “stuff” only. Nonetheless, by eschewing as far as I could the urge to track the particular social and ideological factors governing some of my writers’ choices, I do believe that in the broad picture I isolate better the growing appeal of “realia,” from the end of the seventeenth century, as things important simply because they were “objective” things, quite apart from particular values invested in them. (Claudia: “It didn’t need to be the jawbone of a saint – the jawbone of an ass would do.”) Quite reasonably, Burke asks why this interest in “realia” should have grown as it did, and contributes a wonderful survey of other, especially nineteenth century, “stuff.” He also offers some answers, among which, for example, was increased travel in the nineteenth century. That certainly led to a proliferation of representations of “Oriental” objects and landscapes, for a start. That increase points to a major reason for the explosion of nineteenth century “biblical stuff” – namely the invention of the steam engine and so the steam ship. It was a lot easier, safer, faster, and cheaper to travel. The major immediate impetus, I would suggest (for I’m also interested in this), was the industrial revolution, starting in England. Stuff simply became easier to produce – more abundant and cheaper. For example, stereotyping changed the economics of popular publishing. Indeed (as Claudia has also remarked) “stuff” became the hallmark of the century in Europe and North America, and we still share this value today. Having “stuff,” and preferably more of it, increasingly defined status and shaped identity, not only for the upper class but perhaps especially for the growing middle class and indeed right through the class structure. And biblical stuff was more than grist to the mill – being holy it was icing on the cake also. Behind all this lies the rise of empirical science, especially in the seventeenth century. Materiality as a primary value had arrived, or at least sneaked in.

            Enough stuff for now. Thanks to all who have contributed papers and comments – a veritable feast.


– David

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Jim Flanagan (4)
Nov. 18, 2003

First, thanks to everyone who is participating in our discussion.  At the business meeting, I will provide some comparisons among the last three years.  Suffice it to say that the volume is up and the excitement is growing.  More importantly, some previously unspoken issues are now being aired.

In that spirit, I want to add a few comments on the most recent discussions.  I think that Mark George has it right when he suggests that much of the work appearing in the seminar is literary criticism and not spatial criticism.  I have no easy way to describe the difference, but the tendency toward sequencing and tracing raises suspicions.   However, I do not agree with his characterization of my own position.  One of us has missed something, and it may be me.  When I said  that the Bible "is more about lived space than it is about either perceived space or conceived space," the comment followed a reminder of Soja's "Thirding-as-Othering" and the fact that Soja insists that all spaces are all three all the time, which I accept.  My emphasis, I thought, was to stress lived spatiality because it has been largely ignored in biblical studies, which strikes me as peculiar in a field that purports to examine religion and religious experience, experiences of a most personal, lived kind.  In any case, I join Keith in his concerns about what is "on the ground," or even under the ground!

Another problem is what strikes me as a mysterious claim that we are all using spatiality and space in similar but confused ways.   Firstspace, for example, can be many things in addition to physical space.  Soja and other postmodern geographers rank demographic and similar studies in that category.  So too with Second- and Thirdspace.  "The brief commentaries following each statement [in this article] amplify and I hope help to clarify the fundamental points being made, while at the same time providing cumulative and fugue-like variations on the many ways of defining Thirdspace"  (Soja, "Thirdspace: Expanding the Scope of the Geographical Imagination," Human Geography Today, ed. Doreen Massey, et al. Polity, 1999, p. 260).  "[F]ugue-like variations on the many ways..."  So much for the precision some are seeking.

One way to read the two ways proposed by the two Davids is that they are either the same or one is a subset of the other.  Isn't it possible that a power play (second way) is an ideological position (first way), and the space of a powerless people (second way) is a lived space (first way)?

Two twentieth-century transformations are basic to our work.  Neither should be ignored.  One is the series of changes wrought by E=mc2.  The other is the development of postmodern geography and cartography (see, e.g., J.B. Harley's and David Woodward's launching of the History of Cartography project).  The Einstein revolution that opened new meaning for space by offering alternatives to Cartesian and Newtonian concepts changed forever the ways we can think.  New dimensions and a multiverse continue to be hypothosized.  Our challenge, it seems to me, is to continue similar quests within our own subject matter -- try to keep up -- and resist the ever-present temptation to slip back into a single container-like imagery of space as emptiness.  The subtexts of space and time have changed in ways that offer new possibilities.

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Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 09:52:50 +0000
From: "Keith W. Whitelam" <>
Subject: response to papers  

Dear All,

I have been enjoying myself over the last two days reading the papers and the discussion. I must say that am mightily releaved to see that I am not the only person struggling with some of the problems of Soja's categories. As Jim keeps reminding us, Soja said that all three categories are active at the same time. I have always struggled with the idea of trying to separate out these categories. So when asked in previous years which space I'm talking about, First/Second/Third, I've not been able to answer because I find it difficult to disentangle them. I've always been  puzzled as to why Thirdspace is represented primarily as marginal, the site of resistance, marginality.  Obviously, such an understanding appeals to me but thirdspace as lived space is dominated by political power, imperialism, etc., as well as being a site of resistance. The elite, imperialist, etc., don't just conceive of space or represent it, they have to live somewhere (as David pointed out in his posting). Claudia noted last year of Sirach: 'This is Thirdspace as power.' The male temple that Claudia described last year is to be found at the centre of (within) the female
Jerusalem describe by Christl (?) this year.

Similarly, the problem with the definition of Firstspace as that which can be empirically mapped is that, as we know, maps are ideological constructions. How do we map a coastline? At high tide, low tide, somewhere in between? The boundaries between his categories collapse every time I try to deal with them. (Bill Deal's paper brought home to me why I have always found Eliade almost unreadable and certainly unproductive). I think it was Stephen Daniels who said something like, 'To imagine a nation is to envision its geography'. Despite his appeal that we need to privilege Thirdspace, at least temporarily, in order to redress the balance I find it much more difficult to do this than say keep Braudel's concepts of time separate and privilege la longue durée. I was out in the Derbyshire countryside at the weekend which brought home to me how I engage with, how it is already heavily constructed, the ways in which the countryside is used to represent some essential 'Englishness', and how it is also full of all kinds of things. I was running in the
High Peak relay (a long distance relay through the Peak district south of  Sheffield made up of different stages). While running my leg, starting up a 1 in 14  hill, if you had asked me how I was experiencing this space, I would have replied in no uncertain terms, 'Painfully' (or words to that effect).

Like Mark, I have often found Lefebvre more helpful than Soja, though the papers this year have helped me to appreciate Soja much more than before (despite my many puzzlements above). Equally, I find Harvey, Gregory, Harley, Wood, Cosgrove, Livingstone, open up questions much more readily than a reading of Soja. I take the force of  Claudia's question about what does spatial theory give us. There are many times when I wonder the same about my own work. But it was only in reading Lefebvre, Harvey, Gregory, etc., (and continually going back to them) that opened up questions for me that were either ignored in biblical studies or just not seen as problematic. It helps me to question my own assumptions, the models I have used and use, and to explore the implications either in trying to write a history of
Palestine or understanding the politics of biblical studies.

Mark suggests that the seminar is pulling in different directions. Although I have had a similar view about previous years, I think that this year we are dealing with different but overlapping themes. I prefer to think of them as different emphases rather than different directions that will pull apart. In a sense, the textual and the social space themes are like Soja's categories, I think that they are operating (or ought to be operating all the time).

My wider project is looking at the poetics of history, the rhetorical strategies used to represent
Palestine  from the 19th century (and possibly earlier) to the present. Burke is doing very similar things with his studies, particularly focusing on images. Although I draw on Haydyn White (as in Bill Deal's paper, or Mark's posting), I find Berkhofer (Beyond the Great Story)particularly useful here. My own and other papers in the seminar can be approached from the same way of course. As Claudia says, "If we wanted to, I suspect that Burke's, Keith's, and David's discussions could all be framed in terms of Hayden White's schema of emplotment, explanation, and ideology." In looking at rhetorical strategies, emplotment, etc., of our histories, one of the key aspects which has been ignored is space. Time is oftern examined but space remains in the background, neutral, on which biblical events are played out. That is one of the issues I want to address in such a wider study.  I see this as related to the attempts to analyze ancient texts and its notions of space. My own problem is that whereas I can contextualize the modern discussion and explore its worldly affiliations, it is much more difficult to do this with the biblical texts. As David Clines puts it, when discussing Ezra 2, 'living in a world where texts generate actions can seriously damage one's health' (1998: 365; originally 1989). All too often biblical scholars, particularly historians, have adopted the perspective of the text, bought into the ideology of the text if you like, and I want to know what this is, including its representation of space, before buying into it or resisting it. Thus if  modern historians adopt the framework and conceptualization of the past offered by our limited biblical traditions, they continue to perpetuate their exclusions: history is truly on their side.


That leads to the one of the other theme that interests me which I think comes out of these papers: namely the concern with contemporary politics and the ethics of biblical studies. Tina's paper illuminates this brilliantly and, like Burke, I would be interested in hearing more about the analysis of social and political spaces. Bill Millar holds a number of the aspects together here and shows how it is possible to operate with the different categories (I was struck by the use of Bakhtin's notion of chronotype in his paper). These and other papers this year show, I think, that it is not possible to split the textual interests since the study of the poetics of representation, the use of Revelation  in novels, film, political speeches and policy cannot be divorced from the textual study. The analysis of its literary structure  of the text, ancient and modern-along with an understanding of its location-is part of our understanding of the ideological shaping and implications of the text. The ethical impulse behind such analyses, I believe, is a vital part of what we do as biblical scholars.

David's paper is intriguing but raises a problem for me. I  relate to Hayim's paper because he is dealing with many of the same problems for the later periods of
Palestine's history than have been exercising those of us focused on the LB-Iron Age. His discussion of the problems of ethicity, boundaries, demography, the motor of history, etc., raises the very same problems we have been struggling with in the earlier periods. His work helps in the construction of what I would term an 'integrated history' of Palestine: one focused on the longer historical perspective and not written as the history of difference, boundedness (ethnic or territorial). As Claudia notes, those of us interested in historiography focus on stuff, but it is also the spatial concepts applied to this stuff. It is not objective stuff-as  Dever tries to represent it-but interpreted stuff as David shows. Ours is just one in the long line of interpretations of this stuff. What then is the implication of David's paper for those of us trying to write alternative histories?

Jim says that I have probably been trampled by more foxes than most-I always thought that they were jackals. I prefer to think that rather than being trampled, I might have contributed to tieing arts of their anatomy together and setting them on fire (just wishful thinking).

Best wishes,




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Wesley Kort
Dec. 1, 2003

Dear Colleagues,


It was good to see all of you, to read your papers and comments, and to participate in the conversation. It’s been a delight to see the interest in the question of place and space grow within the seminar both in intensity and sophistication.


I said that I would make a few comments. Professor Long asked me about the theorist I mentioned who, in dealing with felicitous space, includes the holding together in such space of the past and the future. I had Gaston Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” in mind. I don’t agree with all of what he does, but it’s a very important study of personal space.


This brings me to my first comment: I really think that the exclusive attention given by many in the seminar to social or political space is limiting and, perhaps, distorting for an adequate spatial analysis and theory. I think this because place-relations are differential, and I know something about social space also because it is related to but different from personal or intimate space and cosmic or comprehensive space. In addition, bell hooks and Gillian Rose make very clear the fact that the denigration of personal or intimate space is sponsored, at least in large part, by a male perspective, since personal or intimate space has traditionally been the arena of female construction and has, consequently, been devalued in relation to social, political space.


I would also like to suggest to Professor Long the work of Mary Louise Pratt, who has written on the self-serving habit of Western visitors to other regions of not including the people there in their accounts. The effect of doing that is to convey very strongly not only that the people living there do not count for much and don’t have claims to the place but, most importantly, also are unworthy of the place they inhabit. This is a very strong theme in 19th century European views of distant places, especially places that have attractive physical characteristics. See her essay in Skip Gates’ collection,  Race, Writing, and Difference,” for example. The value of distant lands, by implication, will only be actualized when they are brought into the orbit of Western values. Incidentally, I was intrigued by Long’s analysis of the construction of Israel and the towns in terms of an incarnational model.


I benefited greatly from William Millar’s paper. However, while I take Bakhtin’s point that space cannot be dissociated from time (one of the reasons why I think that spatial language finds its least distorting place in narrative) and that the dialogic or polyphonic in Bakhtin has spatial qualities, I still tend to see his narrative theory as oriented primarily to and by time. More specifically, Bakhtin is interested in social time rather than in natural or in personal time. And there are several theorists of social time that refer to his work. The more general point to make is that there is not much narrative theory that takes the language of place and space in narrative discourse seriously. While several of the students of Joseph Frank move away from his idealism and do more robust studies of narrative space, the “spatial form” school of narrative analysis is quite a limited one.


Pippin’s paper stimulated several thoughts. Is there a need within a culture to have ultimate spaces designated as good and evil in order to stabilize and warrant place-evaluations? There seems to be a need for a culture to have a sense of beginning and ending for its temporal location, and moderns do that by distinguishing their own cultural period as sharply separable from what came before it. Can the modern operate without a shared belief in Heaven and Hell, for example? Do all ancient cultures have ultimate places defined by their good and evil character? What happens to place and space in the modern West when the force of such places is lost? Generally in modernity, the city is identified as an evil place, although that’s a long and complicated story.


There also was excellent attention given by the papers to the gendering of places. All places tend to be gendered female, and time tends to be gendered male. I guess this suggests that place and space just lie there and let actions and events have their way with them and effects on them. No surprise. Cities are usually gendered female, although parts of cities are often male. I suppose the walls and gates have something to do with the trope of cities as female in ancient cultures. Gillian Rose accuses male geographers and cultural critics of treating the city as problematic, chaotic, and even evil because they tend to view the city as female. Views of the city as evil cannot escape the charge of being biased against those who have, in recent times, found greater opportunities to realize their potentials and identities in cities, women not only but also people of color and gay and lesbian people. Anyway, back to Jerusalem. It’s generally gendered female in the Hebrew Bible, isn’t it? I recall vivid instances in Isaiah. It’s interesting that we may not be able to get a steady place-evaluation of cities because they have bounced between the male constructions of the female as either virgin or whore. Anyway, one of the really important matters in spatial theory and analysis is the uncovering of male constructions of space and place, and I’m very grateful for the two papers that furthered that project.


I was also very engaged by Deal’s paper on the relation of place-relations to language and narrative. Narrative discourses include spatial language in the larger context of a human world. Spatial language is a constitutive part of narrative discourse. Deal’s paper also makes clear that space and place are related to textuality. This means that we not only read places but also that we read them in relation to other spatial texts. Places are inter-textually related, and we respond to a place because it is both like and unlike other places. Sacred places are such by virtue of the texts that expose their force and meaning and the way in which the places themselves are read. It has been my aim to try to establish a theory of sacred space that is constructed not as a contrary to profane space, as Eliade and his many contemporaries and followers did, but as related to other positive place-relations. Eliade does not take profane space as textual. He takes it as factual. There is one thing that is certain for Eliade about sacred space, namely, that it is the opposite of profane space, and for Eliade we all know what profane space is. I make quite a bit of this construction of the profane as a cultural “fact” in my attempt to unseat this dominant way of viewing things. Incidentally, I don’t find as much in White as Deal does for spatial theory, since he is far more oriented to and by actions and events in his narrative theory.


I enjoyed David’s paper on the “stuff” of Judges, but I’m not sure what he was trying to establish with it. The tellers of those tales were highly gifted in creating realistic effects, and one of the ways they did that, it seems to me, was to give to their characters specific items--knives, tent pegs, asses, jawbones, etc. I think that Judges could be renamed “The Art of Ancient Story-Telling.” There are clear conventions operating here, and some of the stories seem to be contraries to others, Jael to Ehud, e.g. (treachery, penetration, the exploitation of private space for a very public act, male/female, etc.). I was pleased to be able to place the actants of the stories in the scheme that Greimas supplies in my “Story, Text and Scripture.” I think it works. No biblical scholar has, to my knowledge, taken up that suggestion. Maybe I was wrong to make it.  Anyway, I think that Propp and Greimas are very helpful in understanding Judges. But they are narratives primarily oriented to and by the language of character, and places and things primarily secure that language.


Keith’s paper uncovers the curious confluence of liberal and evangelical/fundamentalist interests in establishing the historical facts behind the Bible. The liberal interest in doing that arises from the shift in the 18th and 19th centuries from reading history as complementary to reading the Bible as scripture to reading history as scripture. I still think that biblical studies are dominated by that shift. It was established by Vico who took it from Bacon’s reading of nature as a scripture that not only could be read alongside the Bible but that needed to be read if one were to know God. Anyway, there is this curious common interest in the factual history behind the Bible shared by liberal and conservative interests in Biblical studies, and it may account for their continuing ability to share at least some of their interests and results. Could somebody tell me if there are archeological data that quite clearly disconfirm biblical accounts. I heard Reed give a talk not long ago on big pots in Cana, which seemed, although not said, to confirm the water/wine miracle. Yes, the 19th –century project of justifying imperialism by means of a philosophy of history extends to America. The main guy is Hegel, who establishes in his Philosophy of History that the African peoples are not part of History. Hegel was big in late 19th-century American culture and theory. I am grateful  to Keith for bringing up the question of the relation of biblical studies, in these ways, to current political interests.


Anyway, thanks to all of you.




Wesley Kort

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