Marc Augé’s Introduction to Anthropology of Supermodernity of Non-Places, published in 1995, distinguishes between the near, the elsewhere, to a place to a space, to a non-space.
Non-Places begins with a prologue that places the reader in the shoes of the situation being expressed-Pierre Dupont enters an airport, makes purchases at the duty free shops, waits to board his plane then makes his way onto it. He pulled out a magazine, buckled his seat belt, and sat there; content in this natural state- a state of space. He expressed his gratitude very accurately as he said: “One day the need for space makes itself felt…it comes to us without warning, and never goes away. The irresistible wish for a space of your own.” Here Dupont outlines the peace and understanding of having ones own “space”. How space can be felt, can appear unexpectedly and most importantly the desire to have it. Space is an opportunity, which is also closely related to “the near” and “the elsewhere”. Ethnologists have studied the two and have come to the conclusion that near is here, near is local, and elsewhere is the absence of near, elsewhere is the examination and curiosity of where we are not. Simply put, near is a space we can reach, and elsewhere is a space we cannot reach unless we aspire to reach it.
We now move on to the explanation of places versus non-places. Introduced by Jean Starbinski, Starbinski claims places incorporate the presence of the past in the present, resulting in a sense of modernity. He brings about a theory of the “base line”- where modernity doesn’t obliterate ancient places and rhythms but rather pushes them into the back ground as time continues. What Starbbinksi recognizes is that every place has a past, where at one point had a specific meaning to a period of time, whether it be a cherishable monument or an area surrounded by homes filled with memories. But as time continued, these places derived a whole new kind of meaning, replaced by the condition of modernity. Although, modernity also preserves the temporalities of place, in the form of artwork for example.
Therefore, a place can be defined as; relational, historical, and in relatable to identity. As noted by Michael de Certeau: “A place has to come to life and journeys have to be made.” Here Certeau recognizes that places are man made, and that they are identified based on how we use them and what we make of them.
Non-places on the other hand are; classified, do not integrate earlier places, and are incorporated in the conditions of supermodernity.
Non-places are also seen as real measures of time that can be quantified, like a means of transportation, help us track time spent in a day. Therefore anything we humans do not mean to create, build upon, or place great meaning towards. Non-place can be a routine, or an indirect relation. Non-place is the absence of place.
All in all, a place can be seen as a haven, a keepsake of time, and a non-place can be left to personal interpretation of what a place is not.