Discursive Landscapes of the Institution

Authors: Hilda Fernandez Alvarez*, SFU Department of Geography
Topics: Geographic Thought, Geographic Theory, Qualitative Research
Keywords: psychoanalysis, discursive landscapes, mental health.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this talk, I argue for a definition of discursive landscapes from the perspective of the theory of discourses proposed by Jacques Lacan, who understands discourse as a social bond founded in language, which subsists even in absence of speech (Lacan, 1969-70). The term “discursive landscape” has been deployed in the pioneering work by Duncan (1990), whose discursive landscapes are conceived as sociosemiotic fields of confluent tensions which materially impact and shape social institutions and groups. Other authors, such as Schein (2018), have studied landscapes to emphasize material and historical practices. I will argue that discursive landscapes, from a Lacanian perspective, provide a significant advantage in the critique of sociocultural and political productions by factoring in the individual contributions in the creation of social bonding, as well as identifying the incompleteness of any system by locating the places of the unsymbolized, which inquires the limits of its possible historicization. Lacan formalized four structural relations of social bonding (Master, University, Hysteric and Psychoanalysis) that account for interactions of individual intrapsychic conditions in intersubjective relations. Understood this way, we can map the spaces that people and objects occupy in language, such as the positions of agent, other, material production and truth; but also, the places of Master signifier, knowledge, the unsymbolized and the subject. If, as Copjec argues, structures are indeed part of the Lacanian real (Copjec, 1994), the discursive landscapes allow for a highly nuanced critique of institutions, to disrupt the repetition of taken-for-granted practices sustained by superegoic imperatives.

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