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Sartre's circular dialectic and the empires of abstract space: a history of space and place in Ballymun, Dublin

Boyle, Mark (2005) Sartre's circular dialectic and the empires of abstract space: a history of space and place in Ballymun, Dublin. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95 (1). pp. 181-201. ISSN 0004-5608

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Abstract

Ballymun in Dublin, one of the most famous of Europe's grandiose housing estates, has had an especially dramatic history since it was first built in 1965. At the heart of the unfolding drama has been a series of conflicts between the spatial imaginations of the state officials and planners who designed, built, and managed the initial estate and who are currently undertaking its wholesale regeneration, and the place-making activities of the local residents who have inhabited, endured, and occasionally sought to reclaim this space. Concerned to prise open some fresh ways of thinking about the hyperextension of "abstract space" into everyday life, this article presents a reconstruction of the history of space and place in Ballymun. In their exploration of the onslaught of abstract space, critical human geographers have drawn upon a wide range of social theorists including Benjamin, De Certeau, Debord, Deluze, Foucault, Giddens, Habermas, Heidegger, Jameson, Weber, and, of course, Henri Lefebvre. Strangely absent from this list, however, has been the work of Jean-Paul Sartre. And yet, contained within Sartre's Critique de la raison dialectique (Critique of Dialectical Reason) resides a tremendously powerful account of the ever-growing occupation, dispossession, and reterritorialization of everyday life by the abstract grids and geometries imprinted on the Earth's surface by capitalism and the capitalist state. It will be the central task of this article to read the history of Ballymun through the lens of Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason, and, in so doing, to rework the Critique so that it speaks to the concerns of contemporary critical human geography.