Thoreau, Heidegger, and the Modern Politics of Place
Pages 403 - 418
Modernity and modernization have often been associated with an increase in mobility and, therefore, an emphasis on space rather than place. Yet there has also been a distinct tradition within modern intellectual history that wants to disengage the self from the maelstrom of constant movement and cultural change. Hence modernity cannot be fully comprehended without attention to this self-imposed lack of mobility that cuts across the realms of philosophy, cultural criticism, political and social thought, religion, and the fine arts. In this essay I focus on two core modern thinkers, Henry David Thoreau and Martin Heidegger, who represent different aspects of what may be called a modern culture of ‘im’mobility, rather than the staggering mobility and acceleration observed by critics such Paul Virilio, Zygmunt Baumann, or Stephen Greenblatt. What is more, both Thoreau’s and Heidegger’s emphasis on rootedness and their close attention to particular places and regions reveal a far-reaching modern politics of place whose poststructuralist reverberations inform the ‘topoanalysis’ of Foucault, Deleuze, and Michel Serres.