Ophélie Véron

Anarchist Geographies and the Politics of Hemeratopias: Changing the World Here and Now

The Foucaldian concept of heterotopia is used in geography to refer to “spaces of otherness”, that is to say alternative spaces that challenge hegemonic practices and representations, such as temporary autonomous zones. To this concept, I will oppose the notion of hemeratopia. Based on the Ancient Greek word hemera (“day”) and on the goddess of the daytime, Hemera, this new concept underlines the centrality of the everyday in creating alternative spaces. A hemeratopia is not only an “other” space, it is an “everyday” alternative space, i.e. a place where a utopia is enacted in the here and now. Whereas heterotopias are unstable, temporary spaces, detached from our everyday space and time, hemeratopias are stable, lasting spaces, integrated into our space and time. Whereas instantiated heterotopias are often specific to a particular place, hemeratopias are reproducible and thereby represent paradigmatic alternatives. We create them in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, on social media and in the street, in our routine and sometimes most ordinary actions.

This concept is in line with an anarchist perspective on activism and space, and may be used to understand the spatial politics at work in practices of social change. Anarchism is indeed a praxis – it is driven by the confluence of theory and practice. It is a form of prefigurative politics that seeks to transform everyday life via everyday life. In that sense, hemeratopian spaces are deeply anarchist spaces. They do not refer to a utopian project that is pursued via spaces and actions separated from the everyday – but instead, an embodied process that is being created here and now.

Analysing hemeratopias helps us understand how our daily experience may be the place of truly anarchist, emancipatory geographies. I will illustrate the analysis of this concept by taking several examples of hemeratopian spaces, including but not limited to the vegan movement, the ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes in France and the self-managed quarter of la Baraque in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium).