Introduction. Between absence and presence : geographies of hiding, invisibility and silence
journal contributionposted on 01.10.2014 by Rhys Dafydd Jones, James Robinson, Jennifer Elizabeth Turner
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In both capital-P Politics, such as spectacular world events, and the ‘little-p’ politics of everyday practices, absence and presence have been and continue to be particularly potent political tools, utilised to reinforce particular power relations, narratives and control over space. Absence, for example, has a long association of denying others’ claim to spaces, places and participation. Whether excluding particular ethnic groups from certain residential areas (Anderson, 1987), young people from shopping centres at particular times (Staeheli and Mitchell, 2008) or homeless people from urban regeneration sites (Katz, 2001), making absent has been used as a stratagem of control that removes dissenting views and experiences from particular time/places. In short, it demarcates territory where acts, people and ideas cannot belong. Similarly, the opposing part of the binary, presence, has traditionally been used to emphasise deviance. Schivelbusch (1995) has shown how, in the development of the modern metropolises of London, Paris and Berlin, artificial illumination was used as a means to give ‘presence’ to misdemeanours and criminal acts which were previously concealed by shadowy and darkened spaces. For Foucault (1977), the body of the condemned served as a warning to others of the consequences of their transgressions, creating a ‘spectacle of suffering’ (Spierenburg, 1984). In both these cases, fixing unwanted attention on the body was a way of installing discipline both to the perpetrator and to the gazer. Both absence and presence, in this sense, have been used as methods of social control; through a mixture of writing-out and constructing a spectacle, they denote what belongs where and when: what is in place, and what is out of place (Cresswell, 1996). [Opening paragraph]