Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Spatial Configurations of the Anonymous

Niven Kumar.

Social spaces are ‘produced,’ not ‘created’. This implies a process that both accumulates and discards meaning. Hence, spaces consist of produced things, including people’s bodies. The experience of social spaces is bodily since they are able to dictate what practices are or are not possible. In J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K, the protagonist navigates through a highly policed environment where, in order to cross its boundaries, the body must subject itself to Foucauldian technologies of domination – lines, registration, permits. Such a regulated space produces through time specific meanings and social relations that fix the body within prescribed modes of experiencing. K, however, succeeds in slipping through the net into a space that is fluid and ambiguous. The place he seeks resides in the recollections of his now dead mother. Here, he lives far from the planned spaces that characterise the world of men and women and ekes out an existence in the anonymous and symbolic world of the countryside, unfettered by visible boundaries like walls and fences. K’s flight from a planned to a lived space underlines Bachelard’s notion that despite their regulated nature, spaces possess a symbolic order that allows for a dreaming of possibilities; that is, it enables, a la Derrida, the body to write upon the text of space. The paper argues that K produces an anonymous space by submerging himself into a world of symbolic memory and meanings, thereby escaping the spatial practices of discursive environments.


Niven Kumar  (Australia)
PhD candidate
Department of English Division of Humanities
Macquarie University

PhD candidate in Macquarie University; M.Soc.Sci. (Sociology) National University of Singapore; BA (Honours) Australian National University

  • Anonymous Body
  • Architectural Space
  • Spatial Practices
  • Poetics of Space
Person as Subject
  • Coetzee, J.M. Foucault, Michel Bachelard, Gaston Lefebvre, Henri

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)