Chronotopes and Architectonics

15 March 2004

Two words I should know more about... since they really cover the spacetime and everything-connects notions I've been working with all my life. Is this another case of just realizing (with Moliere's Monsieur Jourdan) that I've been speaking prose all along?

addendum, 12 April: come to find out that CS Peirce used the term 'architectonic' ("The subject matter of architectonic is the structure of all human knowledge", says Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy); The OED notes a 'metaphorical' use of the term, having to do with "the systematic arrangement of knowledge"

Some pointers:

"...questions are subsumed under the general topic of 'architectonics', which refers in general to the 'general study of how entities relate to each other (p150)"

Princeton Freshman Seminar: The Architectonics of Nature

It seems obvious that one would be hard pressed to find a branch of knowledge which did not consist almost entirely of a series of structures, subtended by other structures and circumscribed within still others. Absolute, independent a priori definitions are scarce, and often unnatural. Even in the world of mathematics, one of the most secure regions of human understanding, the only things we have are equalities and relationships.

Architectonics of Humanism: Essays on Number in Architecture by Lionel March

from an essay by Erin Murphy:

Human life is a continuous cycle of interconnected experience. Gurney Norman's "Night Ride" and David Huddle's "Only the Little Bone" contain related scenes in which the realization of this interconnectedness pervades the consciousness of each of the main characters in the two stories. Significantly, this human tendency toward sudden and important illumination has long been a subject of interest to philosophers, theologians, and literary artists and theorists, among others. For example, we see much the same concept at work when reading Romantic poet William Wordsworth's discussions of his 'spots of time,' modern fiction writer James Joyce and his exploration of human epiphanies, and postmodern theorist Mikail Bahktin and his discussions of 'chronotopes.' Interestingly, we see Bahktin's theories applied to Appalachian culture in a book such as Kathleen Stewart's A Space on the Side of the Road. Stewart explains that, often, an entire story can be communicated through a symbol which, "initiates a line of thought and gathers events into it" (97). (

From Peter Hichcock's "Chronotope of the Shoe (Two)" in Imaginary States [HM621 .H58 2003]

I want to examine in more detail the contemporary chronotope that links culture and capital in the aura of the shoe. In the manner of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, one could state that the aura of the shoe spreads, rhizomelike, across the globe as an (almost) metaphysical index of desire in capital (indeed, to be "over the shoes" is an expression of desire). But while this allows an understanding of the theological and theoretical inside/outside of the shoe it does not coordinate the affective points of responsibility that historically have left the trace of a Jakarta woman shoe worker in a rubber sole and, as we will see, a working-class African American male dead in the streets of Chicago with his shoes removed. (119)

The shoe is magical, both within the history of the commodity and the psychological compulsions of modern "man." The shoe is the emblem of the fetishism that links the commodity to desire. And the most magical shoe of all is currently the athletic shoe because it is simultaneously a symbol of cultural capital, physical prowess, self-esteem, economic and psychic overinvestment, and crass economic exploitation; in fact, it epitomises late capitalist flexible accumulation and continbuing masculinist regimes of desire and disavowal. (121)

Nike is not really in the business of making shoes: What it does is market shoes. The shoes themselves are made through contracting and subcontracting in 12- to 18-month production cycles outside its major market, the United States. Currently, Nike uses more than 700 factories worldwide that employ more than 500,000 people (110,000 in Indonesia). (122)

Most of Nike's shoe lines play to and reinforce conventional definitions of masculinity. Just as the Greeks used Nike to symbolize victory in war (at one point they clipped her wings to keep "victory" in Athens), so Nike laces the sports profile with the language of aggression. Featured shoe models have included Air Assault, Air Barrage, Air Force, Air Magnum Force, Air Raid, and even Air Stab... (144-45)

(for more on Nike, see Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air, and the New National Activism (Randy Shaw)

AUTHOR       Katz, Donald R.
TITLE        Just do it : the Nike spirit in the corporate world / Donald
IMPRINT      New York, N.Y. : Random House, c1994.
CALL NO.     HD9992.U54 N555 1994.

--and Strategic Public Relations, Sweatshops, and the Making of a Global Movement (B.J. Bullert), and ACADEMICS STUDYING NIKE, REEBOK, and ADIDAS- INDONESIA SUBCONTRACT FACTORIES... and Spotlight on Nike

A pair of shoes selling in the USA for US$150 has a direct labour cost of only US$4.90. With such a margin Nike profits in 1995-96 alone were US$553.2 million. In contrast to the poverty wages paid to Asian workers, Nike pays the Olympic champion runner [sic!] Michael Jordan US$20 million a year to promote its products.

Nike Chief Philip Knight is one of the world’s richest men. In a letter to Nike shareholders in 1996 he said that the reason for Nike moving into such a repressive country as Indonesia was because the US State Department asked them to. He quoted a US State Department official as saying, "Nike’s presence in that part of the world is American foreign policy in action".

--and see The Sports Spectacle, Michael Jordan, and Nike: Unholy Alliance? (Douglas Kellner), and The Nike Issue… How It All Began

Later, it occurred to me to look into chronotopia, and I found Simon Norfolk's Afghanistan Chronotopia ...and "Kingdoms rising, kingdoms falling, Bowing nations, plumèd wars...

Afghanistan keeps similar artefacts in what seems to be a Museum of the Archaeology of War. Abandoned tanks and troop carriers from the Soviet invasion of the 80s litter the countryside like agricultural scrap or they have been used as footings for embankments and bridges, poking from the earth like malevolent fossils. The land has a different appearance where there was fighting in the early 90s. In this instance the tidy, picked–clean skeletons of buildings are separated by smooth, hard earth where de-mining teams have ‘swept’ the area. In places destroyed in the recent US and British aerial bombardment, the buildings are twisted metal and charred roof timbers (the presence of unexploded bombs deters all but the most destitute scavengers,) giving the place a raw, chewed-up appearance.

Mikhail Bakhtin called this kind of landscape a ‘chronotope’: a place that allows movement through space and time simultaneously, a place that displays the ‘layeredness’ of time. The chronotopia of Afghanistan is like a mirror, shattered and thrown into the mud of the past; the shards are glittering fragments, echoing previous civilizations and lost greatness. Here there is a modern concrete teahouse resembling Stonehenge; an FM radio mast like an English maypole; the Pyramids at Giza; the astronomical observatory at Jaipur; the Treasury at Petra; even the votive rock paintings in the caves at Lascaux.

Quotes from Bakhtin ...linked on Time Fold by Steven H. Cullinane, Oct. 10, 2003 --found via a search for 'chronotope tesseract' as I sought others who have the image of "the Folds in Chronotopia", and image which emereged as I thought about musics of cultural borderlands

Singular Authors / Plural Spaces: Communal Architecture for Personal Homepages (Unabridged version of paper presented on May 24, 2001, at the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric Conference in Quebec city, Canada. by John B. Killoran)

The ethereal domain of the Web offers an especially fertile ground for the construction of chronotopes

16 March
Thinking back to Ron's mention of chronotope last spring, I did a search for 'chronotopes harvey' which dropped me into a discussion thread, an MIT conference on Globalization and Convergence (via a paper by Jan Ekecrantz "Cultural panics and other responses to media-driven modernities"), a book by Paul Smethurst (Reading Space and Time in Contemporary Fiction. ), Maureen Flynn-Burhoe's ORGANIC GLOSSARY "...a part of a process of constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing a never-ending map ­--- the art of cartography", a pointer to Joost van Loon's "Chronotopes: Of/in the televisualization of the 1992 Los Angeles riots" (Theory, Culture and Society 14(2):89-104, in Torin Monahan's Los Angeles Studies: the emergence of a specialty field ...and 40-odd other things that would be interesting to follow up.

And I have the sense that I need to assimilate all this and then start a course on Geography of Human Cultures... which I don't anticipate that I'll have occasion to do again. But there I am thinking about things in the frame of a course, which I know to be a mistake...