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Michel De Certeau

Spatial Practices: Walking in the city Coincidatio oppositorum coincidence of opposites. Trying to read/experience the city ~ totalize the most immoderate/excessive of human texts. The city is a text, a picture, a poem, than can be read. However, no spectators or authors exist

Main point of the text:

Certeau claims that the city is created by the strategies if governments, corporations and other influential institutional bodies, who produce things like maps that describe the city as a unified whole. The skyscraper in New York is, in his theory, used as a vantage point, from which he can illustrate the idea of a unified view. On street level you find the walkers, who moves in ways that are tactical, but never fully determined by the plans of organisation bodies, as they for example take shortcuts, despite of the strategic grid of the streets. This illustrate Certeaus argument, that everyday life works by a process of poaching on the territory of others, using the rules and products that already exist in a culture, though the culture may not be completely determined by the rules and procucts that is influencing the culture.

The practice of everyday life

According to Certeau, everyday life is distinctive from other practices of daily existence because it is repetitive and unconscious. Certeau attempts to outline the way individuals unconsciously navigate in everything from city streets to literary texts. Influential aspect: distinction between strategy and tactics. Strategies" are linked with institutions and structures of power who are the "producers Individuals are "consumers" acting in environments defined by strategies by using "tactics".

From the concept of the city to urban practices




The city, founded by utopian and urbanistic discourse is the defined by the following: The production of its own space: Rational organisation must repress all the physical, mental and political pollutions that would compromise it. The substitution of a nowhen/a synchronic system, for the indeterminable and stubborn resistances offered by traditions. Precise scientific strategies, which must replace the tactics of the usersm and who reproduce the opacities of history everywhere. The creation of a universal and anonymous subject, namely the city itself. Thus the city finally provides a way of conceiving and constructing space on the basis of finite number of stable, isolatable and interconnected properties.

Pedestrian speech acts = walking is a space of enunciation



The act of walking walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to uttered statements and it has an enunciate function: The pedestration appropiates and takes on the streets It is a spatial acting-out of the place It implies relations amongst differentiated positions

Important points: The walker transforms each spatial signifier into something else. If the walker actualises only a few of the possibilities fixed by the constructed order, or increases the number of possibilities (by making shortcuts and detours) and prohibitions, the walker is selective. = The user of the city picks out certain fragments of the statement in order to actualise them in secret. Structuralism: In the framework of enunciation, the walker constitutes in relation to his position, a near and a far, a here and a there. (Parts only have meaning when they are considered in relation to each other.

To walk is to lack a place

Walking = the idefinite process of being abset and in search of a proper. The city itself is an immense social experience of lacking a place (which is due to the moving about, which the city multiplies) Places are fragmentary and inward-turning stories, it is something personal.

Space is practiced place

To practice space is to repeat the joyful and silent experience of childhood. To be other and move toward the other. - Thus the relationship of oneself to oneself governs the internal alterations of the place (relations amongst people), or the pedestrian unfolding of the stories accumulated in a place (moving about the city) For de Certeau, who is interested in the tactics of poaching and consumption, everyday stories are guides to spatial practices.

Spatial Practices

Certeau links narratives to movement and to spatial practice. Thus, the labour of stories transforms places into spaces, or spaces into places. Narrative structures have the status of spatial syntaxes: regulating changes in space, made by stories in the form of places put in linear or interlaced series (the way they are connected). Every story is a travel story = a spatial practices. Therefore, spatial practices concern everyday tactics.

Space vs. place

Place: - Implies an indication of stability. - The elements taken into consideration are beside one another, each situated in its own proper and distinct location, a location it defines. Space: - Exists when carriers of direction, speed and time variables are taken into consideration. - Space is thus composed of intersections of mobile elements. = Space is a practiced place. Thus the geometrically defined street is transformed into a space by walkers.

Tours and maps

A tour is a speech-act, a series of paths by which to go about, made up of vectors that are either static or mobile. Maps constituted as proper places in which to exhibit the products of knowledge, of legible result.

Certeau describes the "tour" as an everyday narration of movement and opposes it to the " map," a scientific representation that erases the itineraries that produced it, and whose history shows this process of disengagement. For Certeau, who is interested in the tactics of poaching and consumption, everyday stories are guides to spatial practices.


narrated is the everyday / how do we narrate everyday life? According to Certeaus theory, we, as walkers/cyclists/consumers of the city, make our own stories when moving around the city. The planned city creates a frame for telling stories, but we make them ourselves.