The purpose of this article is to examine how the construction of a desire called area studies was founded on the privilege accorded to fixed spatial units such as the geographical area, culture region, and the directional localities west, east, south, and so forth. The model for such spatial regularities has been the nation-state form, itself a predominantly spatial figure, and its capacity for modernizing transformation leading to the establishment of modern rationalities such as the liberal democratic polity, capital accumulation, and the self-regulating market, which would constitute the sign of an unchanging modern structure. Even in the transmutation of area studies into identity studies, based on permanent ethnocultural determinations, the privilege of the spatial dominant still persists and prevails, announcing what appears as the “end of temporality.” In its place I offer the possibility of a “containment strategy” constituted of specific space/time relationships, recalling what M. M. Bakhtin named as “chronotope,” which restores time to any consideration of space and allows for the identification of changing conjunctural configurations prompted by momentary contingencies.
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Harry Harootunian; “Memories of Underdevelopment” after Area Studies. positions 1 February 2012; 20 (1): 7–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-1471363
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