Jeanne Haffner – Flight from modernity – aerial photograpahy and the emergence of a social conception of space



Event date: 8 December 2010
Bedford Square London
WC1E 6DP

Royal Holloway University of London Department of Geography

Vertical Geographies


Recent geographical scholarship has highlighted the importance of ‘verticality’ – aerial and three dimensional perspectives – in conceptualizations of space, territory, sovereignty and power. Within the subdiscipline of critical geopolitics, this interest has been, in part, provoked by recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan and mobilized though broader discussions of warfare, surveillance, air (and space) power, communications technologies and military hardware.

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Jeanne Haffner (Harvard University)
Flight from modernity – aerial photograpahy and the emergence of a social conception of space

As a technique of representation, aerial photography has osen been associated with “top-down”  urban planning programs initiated by twentieth-century modern capitalist states. This book seeks  to demonstrate that, in fact, the new social conception of space developed by French urban  sociologist Henri Lefebvre and others in the 1960s and 1970s was actually engendered with the aid  of this novel twentieth-century tool of vision. Beginning in the 1930s, French social scientists  working in a variety of different academic fields used aerial photos to investigate the spaces of  human habitation in French colonies as well as in France. The technique, which was closely linked  to the French colonial state and military, helped them to see the connection between spatial  organization and social organization Aser World War II, these anthropological theories of spatial  organization were turned back onto the metropole. By the 1960s and 1970s, as we will see, the  anthropological critique developed in the 1930s had become a full-fledged attack on contemporary urbanism. As a technique of representation, aerial photography has osen been associated with “top-down”  urban planning programs initiated by twentieth-century modern capitalist states. This book seeks  to demonstrate that, in fact, the new social conception of space developed by French urban  sociologist Henri Lefebvre and others in the 1960s and 1970s was actually engendered with the aid  of this novel twentieth-century tool of vision.  Beginning in the 1930s, French social scientists working in a variety of different academic fields used aerial photos to investigate the spaces of  human habitation in French colonies as well as in France.  The technique, which was closely linked  to the French colonial state and military, helped them to see the connection between spatial  organization and social organization. Aser World War II, these anthropological theories of spatial  organization were turned back onto the metropole.   By the 1960s and 1970s, as we will see, the anthropological critique developed in the 1930s had become a full-fledged attack on contemporary  urbanism.

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