Complete Story

TOPINKA, Robert J.

Winter 2011, 42:1, pages 65 - 84

Resisting the Fixity of Suburban Space: The Walker as Rhetorician

Abstract:  This essay examines homogeneous, suburban commercial streets commonly found in the United States. These streets employ minutely regulated systems of order organized under the logic of automobile traffic. In a society where consumerism reigns, these streets and the spatial order they entail contribute significantly to the ideologies of everyday life. Because these streets rely almost entirely on driving, the walker opens a space of difference and rhetorical invention within these homogeneous spaces. Using Roxanne Mountford's notion of rhetorical space, I examine the fixity of these streets. Drawing on Henri Lefebvre's theorization of abstract space, or overdetermined spaces that attempt to crush any agency, I consider how tactics such as walking can open permanent room for rhetorical agency in abstract spaces. By attending to a common but particular rhetorical space that figures materially in the everyday lives of American consumers, I explore the possibilities of agency in a fixed rhetorical space.