Michel De Certeau

The practice of everyday life

Berkeley: University of California Press. 1984 [1980].

Table of contents

la perruque

This discussion should, of course, be related to Levi-Strauss on bricolage

Foucault & Bourdieu

Chapter 7 - Walking in the city

First , if it is true that a spatial order organizes an ensemble of possibilities (e.g., by a place in which one can move) and interdictions (e.g., by a wall that prevents one from going further), then the walker actualizes some of these possibilities. ln that way, he makes them exist as well as emerge. But he also moves them about and he invents others, since the crossing, drifting away, or improvisation of walking privilege, transform or abandon spatial elements. Thus Charlie Chaplin multiplies the possibilities of his cane: he does other things with the same thing and he goes beyond the limits that the determinants of the object set on its utilization. In the same way, the walker transforms each spatial signifier into something else. And if on the one hand he actualizes only a few of the possibilities fixed by the constructed order (he goes only here and not there) , on the other he increasest he number of possibilit ies( for example, by creating shortcuts and detours) and prohibitions (for example, he forbids himself to take paths generally considered accessible or even obligatory) . He thus makes a selection, "The user of a city picks out certain fragments of the statement in order to actualize them in secret." (Barthes)

He thus creates a discreteness whether by making choices among the signifiers of the spatial " language" or by displacing them through the use he makes of them. He condemns certain places to inertia or disappearance and composes with others spatial "turns of phrase" that are "rare,""accidental" or illegitimate. But that already leads into a rhetoric of walking.

In the framework of enunciation, the walker constitutes in relation to his position, both a near and a far, a here and a there. To the fact that the adverbs here and there are the indicators of the locutionary seat in verbal communication --a coincidence that reinforces the paralleism between linguistic and pedestrian enunciation--we must add that this locat ion( here- there) (necessarily implied by walking and indicative of a present appropriation of space by an "l") also has the function of introducing an other in relation to this "I" and of thus establishing a conjunctive and disjunctive art iculation of places. I would stress part icularly the "phatic" aspect, by which I mean the function, isolated by Malinowski and Jakobson, of terms that initiate, maintain, or interrupt contact, such as "hello." "well, well," etc. Walking, which alternately follows a path and has followers, creates a mobile organicity in the environment, a sequence of phatic topoi. And if it is true that the phatic function, which is an effort to ensure communication, is already characteristic of the language of talking birds, just as it constitutes the "first verbal function acquired by children," it is not surprising that it also gambols, goes on all fours, dances, and walks about, with a light or heavy step, like a series of "hellos" in an echoing labyrinth, anterior or parallel to informative speech. (p. 98-99)


September 2017 [2003]