Spatial turn

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The term Spatial turn refers to the change in thought of social and human scientists to the spaces of built environment as a means to understand both historical and social sciences. The spatial turn is a paradigm shift that occured in the late 1980´s. By shifting the paradigm a new perspective on the world is created, which brings in new actors and institutions that were previously hidden. One key aspect of the spacial turn is that space does not determine social action, but provides a context for it. Space facilitates social action and creates a stimulus for social action to take place. Post-modernism and deconstruction played a large role the spatial turn. The name can sound a bit redundant, because the study of geography has always put emphasis on space.

This turn exists of a different way of examining space and social interactions. It is deemed important to use space in understanding human subjects and the production of cultural phenomena (Warf & Arias, 2009, p. 2). A "problem" with this vision is that it can never be entirely clear how much social interactions are spatially caused. Besides that, the physical world that we call "space" often has no inherent meaning, but a meaning that we stick to it. Through our interpretation of things, they have a meaning. The things themselves may "indicate a social meaning, but they do not "have" that meaning (Hess-Lüttich, 2012, p. 4). This conflict between the meaning that we give to space and the meaning it has, is called the space trap.

The spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences is a response to a longstanding ontological and epistemological bias that privileged time over space in all the human sciences, including spatial disciplines like geography and architecture (Soja, 2008)

Influential thinkers that participated in the Spatial turn are Jacques Derrida, David Harvey, Doreen Massey, Michel Foucault, and Edward Said. All these thinkers contributes with works that were diverse, but had in common that space was a context for social action and not the determinant of it.


  • Warf, B. & Arias. F. (2009). The spatial turn: interdisciplinary perspectives. New York: Routledge.
  • Allweil, Y. (2010) Beyond the Spatial Turn: Architectural History at the Intersection of the Social Sciences and Built Form. Berkeley, University of California.
  • Soja, E. (2008). The spatial Turn Interdisciplinary Perspectives. P.11.
  • Hess-Lüttich, E.W.B., (2012). Spatial turn: On the Concept of Space in Cultural Geography and Literary Theory. Journal for Theoretical Cartography, Vol. 5


  • Created by User: BoudewijnIdema 18 september 2011, 19:55 (UTC)
  • Edited by Peter de Boer (4119711). Oktober 2011
  • Edited by Bert Hegger on October 1st 2012.
  • Edited by Robert-Jan Ruifrok -- 14:27, 24 October 2012 (CEST)
  • Edited by TeunVanDeVen 12:56, 26 October 2012 (CEST)
  • Added category by Michiel van Rijn --MichielVanRijn 13:13, 26 October 2012 (CEST)
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