In an essay and book of the same title, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995), Marc Augé coined the phrase "non-place" to refer to anthropological spaces of transience that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as "places". Examples of a non-place would be a motorway, a hotel room, an airport or a supermarket.
Marc Augé’s career can be divided into three stages, reflecting shifts in both his geographical focus and theoretical development: early (African), middle (European) and late (Global). These successive stages do not involve a broadening of interest or focus as such, but rather the development of a theoretical apparatus able to meet the demands of the growing conviction that the local can no longer be understood except as a part of the complicated global whole.
Augé’s career began with a series of extended field trips to West Africa, where he researched the Alladian peoples situated on the edge of a large lagoon, west of Abidjan on the Ivory Coast. The culmination of this endeavour is the masterly Le Rivage alladian: Organisation et évolution des villages alladian (1969) [The Alladian Riparian Peoples: Organisation and Evolution of Alladian Villages]. The sequel, Théorie des pouvoirs et Idéologie: Études de cas en Côte d’Ivoire (1975) [Theory of Powers and Ideology: Case Study of the Ivory Coast], followed a series of three further field excursions to the Ivory Coast between 1968 and 1971. Augé coined the term ideo-logic to describe his research object, which he defined as the inner logic of the representations a society makes of itself to itself. A third and final instalment in this series of studies of the Alladian peoples was added in 1977, Pouvoirs de vie, Pouvoirs de mort [Powers of Life, Powers of Death].
The second or European stage, consists of a sequence of three interrelated books: La Traversée du Luxembourg (1985) [Traversing Luxembourg Gardens]; Un ethnologue dans le métro (1986); trs. as In the Metro (2002); and Domaines et Châteaux (1989) [Homes and Palaces]. In this period of his career, Augé took the novel approach of applying methods developed in the course of fieldwork in Africa to his local Parisian context. Augé focused on four key aspects of contemporary Parisian society: (i) the paradoxical increase in the intensity of solitude brought about by the expansion of communications technologies; (ii) the strange recognition that the other is also an ‘I’; (iii) the non-place, the ambivalent space that has none of the familiar attributes of place - for instance, it incites no sense of belonging; (iv) the oblivion and aberration of memory. The work in this period emphasises the anthropologist’s own experience in a way that neither the earlier or later work does. Augé does this by comparing his own impressions of these places with those produced by some of French literature’s greatest writers. What this comparison illustrates is the apparent insuperability of the gap between language and experience. Yet it is that very gap, he argues, that his anthropology must be able to close if it is to be of continuing relevance in contemporary society.
The third or global stage has so far yielded four books: Non-Lieux, Introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité (1992); trs. as Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995); Le Sens des autres: Actualité de l’anthropologie (1994); trs. as A Sense for the Other: The Timeliness and Relevance of Anthropology (1998); Pour une anthropologie des mondes contemporains (1994); trs. as An Anthropology for Contemporaneous Worlds (1998); and La Guerre des rêves: exercises d’ethno-fiction (1997); trs. as The War of Dreams: Exercises in Ethno-Fiction (1999). Taken together these works comprise an extended meditation on the disparity between observations made in the course of anthropological fieldwork in the first and the second stages of his career. It is at least partially the result of Augé’s travels—for instance, his concept of the non-place refers to those spaces one typically encounters when travelling such as airports, bus terminals, hotels and so on, which one often only remembers in very generic terms. Ultimately, his aim is to theorise *globalisation as it is lived in properly global terms; it is also an attempt to reinvigorate the discipline of anthropology as a whole. To that end he deploys a number of novel writing techniques, describing the synthetic results as ‘ethno-novels’.
Reception, Praise and Criticism
Many of the studies of Marc Augé were applied to mobilities and the exploration of globalization. His contributions considered the philosophical potential of an anthropology of "non-places" like airports and motorways that are characterized by constant transition and temporality. Augè’s contribution to the understanding of global modernism has pivoted in many applied investigation worldwide. Rather, Maximiliano Korstanje has criticized Marc Augé and his development of non-places by two relevant aspects. First and foremost, airports, far from being non-places, represent spaces of discipline where travellers are socialized into the cultural values of society, which means trade (customs), mobilities (migration) and security (police). Once travellers are tested and validated, they are channeled to a hedonic bubble of consumption. Secondly, airports are real meetings charged with high emotional arousal. This is the example of expatriates meeting with their relatives, celebrations to welcome the favourite teams or celebrities, or even zones of dispute between workers of air-companies and air-carriers. Therefore, the idea of considering airports as signs of non-places cannot be validated from the empirical fieldwork. The sense of place is individually determined by the meaning conferred on the soil.
- In the Metro. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
- A lyrical and dynamic consideration of the Paris metro.
- Oblivion. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.
- A renowned social thinker considers the nature and necessity of forgetting.
- "Place, A Short Introduction", Tim Cresswell
- Adey, P. (2006). If mobility is everything then it is nothing: towards a relational politics of (im) mobilities. Mobilities, 1(1), 75-94.
- Augé, S., Schmit, P. O., Crutchfield, C. A., Islam, M. T., Harris, D. J., Durand, E., ... & Taulelle, F. (2009). NMR measure of translational diffusion and fractal dimension. Application to molecular mass measurement. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 113(7), 1914-1918.
- Adey, P. (2004). Surveillance at the airport: surveilling mobility/mobilising surveillance. Environment and Planning A, 36(8), 1365-1380.
- Korstanje M. E (2015) A difficult World, examining the roots of Capitalism, New York, Nova Science
- Merriman, P. (2012). Mobility, space and culture. Routledge.
- Korstanje, M. E. (2015). The portrait of Dean MacCannell–towards an understanding of capitalism. Anatolia, 1-7.
- Tzanelli, R. (2016). Thanatourism and Cinematic Representations of Risk: Screening the End of Tourism. Routledge.
- Korstanje, M. (2015) "The Anthropology of Airports, criticism to non-place theory". Advances in Hospitality and Tourism Research. Vol. 3 (1): 40-58
- Korstanje, M. (2006). El Viaje: una crítica al concepto de no lugares en Marc Augé. Athenea Digital, 9, 211-238.
- Korstanje M. E 2015. Philosophical Problems in the theory of non-places, Marc Augé. International Journal of Qualitative Research in Services. Volume 2, Issue 2. December 2015 (pp. 85-98) Disponible en http://www.inderscience.com/jhome.php?jcode=ijqrs. Inderscience Publishing, Reino Unido. ISSN 2051-0519
- Nencini Francesco & Pirovano, Stefano; I Non Luoghi ("The Non Places"), Silvana Editoriale, Milan, 2005
- a Francesco Nencini Photographer
- Interview with Marc Auge in Barcelona Metropolis Magazine, autumn, 2009.
- Lena Lindgren "In Need of Conceptual Clarification", Places and Non-Places of Modernity (2015)