The High Line, “The Balloon,” and Heterotopia

Daan Wesselman in Space and Culture 16.1 (2013): 16-27

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The High Line, a new park on an old elevated railway on Manhattan, is an otherworldly space that invites an understanding in terms of Foucault’s concept of heterotopia. However, this often-used term requires critical reflection, particularly to extend it beyond the immediately spatial to include the realm of the discursive. To this end, an analysis of the High Line is paired with a reading of a similarly different space in Donald Barthelme’s short story “The Balloon.” Bringing together a real park and a literary space shows how Foucault’s concept requires combining the focus on the spatial in “Of Other Spaces” with the focus on structural order in The Order of Things, if it is to be used for understanding not just theoretical or fictional but also actual spaces.

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