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LAURENCE CHELLALI

Non-place

“If a place can be defined as identity, relational and historical, a space that cannot be defined as identity, relational or historical will define a non place. »

Marc Augé, “No places, introduction to an anthropology of over-modernity”.

To illustrate this definition, Marc Augé cites the examples of highway interchanges, modes of transport, and even refugee transit camps where people do not live but are on the move (or in the process of moving). For him, these spaces are non places. To these, he opposes the places where people live, settle and can define themselves as coming from here. They weave social relations on a common foundation and produce their history.

But he also adds that places and non-places never exist in pure forms and that they are rather elusive polarities. Thus, the first is never completely erased and the second is never completely accomplished.

It is in this imperfection that I saw the poetry of the non place. Above my head, it is a tangle of high-speed track interchanges and overhead subway lines. At my level, a new tangle of road/railway crossings, and even the work in progress is not slowing down the traffic and the frenetic occupations of passers-by, car and scooter drivers.

And yet, the 4-season merchant is there when the train’s barriers are lowered, and takes advantage of the forced stop of people to offer its fruits. Further on, the bus driver has parked his vehicle in the terminal parking lot and his working day is over. These two workers, who are derisory in terms of the huge flow of passers-by, suddenly give a different meaning to this space because it becomes their place of work.

This place touched me because it revealed to me the beauty of the “insignificant” and the poetry of the human condition that strives to accelerate time and to relatively narrow the space by the multiplication of these non-places in the contemporary urban planning. It allowed me to understand that non-place does not mean absence or emptiness, but that it is part of a parenthesis without History where we are there without being fully there.

We go through the non place to get back to our lives.

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