Topographies/topologies of the camp: Auschwitz as a spatial threshold

Paolo Giaccaria, Claudio Minca*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper, largely inspired by Giorgio Agamben's conceptualization of the camp, reflects on the relationship between the 'topographical' and the 'topological' in reference to Auschwitz-Birkenau and its spatialities. After having discussed the concept of soglia (threshold), we briefly introduce the ways in which the historiographical literature on the Holocaust treats the relationship between modernity, rationality, and Nazism. The second part of the paper is dedicated to an attempt to read 'geographically' the entanglements between the camp, Nazi spatial planning, bureaucratic rationalities, and the Holocaust. The notion of the camp-as-a-spazio-soglia is central to this interpretation. Auschwitz, conceived as a metaphorical and real space of exception, is contextualized within the broader regional geography planned by the Nazis for that part of Poland; while 'Mexico', a specific compound within the camp, is described as a key threshold in the reproduction of those very geographies. The aim is to show how the topological spatialities of the camp were a constitutive element of the overall biopolitical Nazi project of 'protective custody' and extermination and that, for this reason, they deserve further investigation and need to be discussed in the relation to the crude calculative and topographical aspirations of that same project.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-12
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Geography
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Agamben
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau
  • Camp
  • Nazism
  • Threshold
  • Topographies/topologies

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