Non-places: An introduction to supermodernity

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Auge ́Marc (2009) London: Verso. 

Marc Augé’s book directly challenges the ways we visualise our reality. He encourages us to think of place and space as something that is different from the straightforward idea we normally have of it. Usually, we do not give places a second thought. But I am sure that all of us have noticed in the past certain eerie details about how radically different spaces contain surprisingly similar details. Thinking from that feeling, Marc Augé expresses his theory of non-places. For him, places are made both of the symbolic and the material aspects of place which interact together to create a place that makes perfect sense to the people existing within that culture. This initial thought then leads him to question various places that we take for granted in order to show us how some spaces actually become non-places. Non-places are those locations or environments that have only been created to serve a specific end (e.g.: an airport) and create a unique individualist relationship between the people and the space. In these non-places, Marc Augé argues that identities seem to disappear, putting the individual in a strange spatiotemporal existence made of solitude and individuality. 

That is Marc Augé’s theory. But it is best understood when compared to our shared human experience. To understand non-places, picture the last time you were in a train, in a plane, an airport or a bus station. Could you then relate to the feeling of simultaneously being there and not being there at all? Travelling spaces are excellent examples of non-place because the transitional aspect of it robs you of your individual culture and identity; you are not at home, but you are not away from home either. You are nowhere, whilst being somewhere extremely specific and for a very specific purpose. 

To me, Marc Augé’s theory really a core human feeling, making us reflect on the places in which you exist and what they mean to you as well as the people around you. I believe that Marc Augé’s conceptualisation of non-places could be stretched to other environments and feelings to understand people’s relationship with certain environment. Relating this to peaceful places particularly could help us understand which places hold meaning and why and what processes (non-physical) can contribute to destroy or restore these meanings. 

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