goto Appendx main menu Spatial Rhetorics :
David Theo Goldberg
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The spaces of knowledge and learning are various, even—one might say especially—in the context of the academy. Considerable thought has been given to the design of such spaces, less to their symbolics, and virtually none to the significance of more extended academic contexts in which knowledge and power are interactively generated. Power presupposes knowledge, and different forms, objects, and contents of knowledge make possible differentiated powers. Spatial ordering enables (or may disable) knowledge acquisition and the expression of power even as it is licensed by them. The academy offers a context, then—quite literally a variety of contexts that fall under the range of academic practice—in terms of which to focus critically on the symbolics of knowledge, space, and power. 

Elite private universities or colleges and public urban universities, to draw the sharpest sustainable distinction, differ precisely in the spatial significance they impart to the ordered relations of knowledge and power. Harvard and the University of Chicago, Columbia and Princeton, Georgetown and Stanford, for instance, are inward-looking, protective, insular. They seek to promote introspection even as their massive neomedieval monastic, neogothic, or neoclassical architecture dominates the wider spatial formations they occupy. They are literally as well as symbolically walled in, cut off from their surroundings even as they loom over them spatially and economically. Their presence is made obvious both by their spatial difference from, and their more or less explicit representation of power in relation to, their immediate surroundings. Small but wealthy liberal arts colleges like Swarthmore and BrynAppendx 3 page break 166 | 167 Mawr, Oberlin and Earlham, the seven sister colleges and Reed, are set in idyllic circumstances expressive of a romantic commitment to the pursuit of a disembodied knowledge, knowing for its own sake that no money can buy. This, perhaps paradoxically, is a polite way of saying that the pursuit is for the most part available only to those who have the means to support it. And underlying this restricted opportunity, purporting to rationalize it, is the libertarian image underpinning the effect of "depublic-izing" funding, whether for the arts, the humanities, transport, health, or education. User friendliness (accessibility previously promoted by appeal to the principle of equal opportunity) is to give way to user fees, which in code means user friendliness for those who can pay the user fees. (Those who can pay get to play the "college bored game of education," as a popular college T-shirt puts it.) The space of the private institution of higher learning signifies the privilege of learning—the privilege, that is, of a class of learning, and a learning of and about class. 

Public institutions in an urban setting, by contrast, usually are accommodated in corporatelike buildings that place them in and around the city. In the sense that there is any campus at all, it is the city itself. This is to say that the university, by mandate, design, or mistake, is outward-looking, belonging to and with a mission vis-a-vis the constituencies it serves. The constituency may be the—quite often mythical—public at large, citizens of the state or city, or increasingly, local corporate interests. The politics of the university more than intersects with the politics of the city; they are wedded in a sometimes nurturing, sometimes fractious relation. The Graduate Center and Hunter College of The City University of New York are paradigmatic examples. The city literally passes through them: Hunter is cut through by Lexington Avenue and 68th Street; the Graduate Center adjoins the curved Grace Building and overlooks downtown Manhattan, its walk-through mall connecting 42nd and 43rd Streets close to Times Square. Academic knowledge and streetwise experience meet at the intersection of university mall and public square. Other examples include Georgia State in Atlanta, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., San Francisco State, and so on. 

The spatial representations of big land-grant universities of the mid- and southwest likewise signify relations between knowledge and politics.  Agrarian in conception, populist in mission, largely modernist—which in their contexts is to say utilitarian—by design, they service by reproducing model(that is, more or less uniform) citizen cogs to service state needs and interests.  Campuses for the most part are sprawling but self-contained, open to their sometimes semi-(sub)urban surroundings Appendx 3 page break 167 | 168as they are bounded at once symbolically by playing fields, stadia, and student recreational centers where iron is pumped, bodies paraded, and the triumph of the will reimagined. Here America the beautiful comes perilously close to being reduced to Madonna's material meaning. 

So space, knowledge, and power, as Michel Foucault so cogently brought to our notice, are tied intimately together, not only as they order the spaces and places in which we find ourselves, but also as they signify to us in some broader social sense what we are about. The relative spatial differences between private, public urban, and large landed universities are deeply related to their missions, to the interests they serve, to their administrations, and to the sense of purpose faculty and students have about their lives and futures, and to the prevailing conditions of labor and intellectual endeavor. These missions, interests, purposes, and conditions are deeply racialized and engendered, coded in the exclusionary cultures of racial and gendered histories. There are, of course, somewhat different notions of knowledge involved, but beyond that these different epistemological and political assumptions (in the literal sense of both epistemology and politics) are inextricably tied up with spatial ordering, design, and sensibility. It is not just a matter of cost, then, that keeps private and land-grant institutions largely white. next page

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