Frank, Michael C.

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Michael C.
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Imaginative geography as a travelling concept : Foucault, Said and the spatial turn

2009, Frank, Michael C.

In his 1982 essay on Traveling Theory , Edward Said argues that the transfer of ideas in the humanities and the social sciences is influenced by both conditions of acceptance and resistances . The journey of theories, he explains, is never unimpeded. Following this observation, the present study wishes to explore further the factors determining the itinerary of theories. It puts forward the thesis that the interdisciplinary reception of theory is a selective and historically variable process, depending on the receiving discipline s dominant paradigm, which directs the researchers attention to those aspects of the received theory that can best be adapted to their present purpose. In the process, individual concepts are isolated from their original context and reintegrated into a new theoretical and disciplinary environment. My example of this is the divergent use of Michel Foucault and Edward Said in the contexts of the respective linguistic and spatial turns, firstly as pioneers of discourse analysis and secondly as precursors of spatial thinking. As the current interest in Foucault and Said as explorers of imaginative geographies shows, each turn emphasizes other concepts of a travelling theory, leading to highly productive though always partial (mis-)readings.