Terminal Philosophy: A Cultural History of Airports

By | January 24, 2012

Many thanks to Roy Christopher for pointing us in the direction of his blog, and specifically his post on Terminal Philosophy: A Cultural History of Airports. Trust me when I say that reading his article will make you re-think airports!

'Is there a more interstitial space than an airport? It is the most terminally liminal area: between cities, between flights, between appointments, between everything. The airport is a place made up of on-the-ways, not-there-yets, missed-connections. The airport is a place made up of no-places'

He goes on to look at a whole range of artistic responses to airports, including Brian Eno's airport music ('What kind of music ought to be in an airport? What should we be hearing here?… I thought that most of all, that you wanted music that didn’t try to pretend that you weren’t going to die on the plane' questions Eno), Alain de Botton and our very own new book The Textual Life of Airports by Christopher Schaberg. By textual life of airports Christopher refers to 'a densely layered and highly reflexive form of existance. It is apparent in the everyday operations of air travel as well as in literary representations of airports, and also in other popular culture depictions of flight'. Below is an extract from the Introduction, telling us as much about the book as it does about the airport as a cultural space.

Textual Life of Airports‘This is a book about airports. It is a book about the common stories of airports that circulate in every day life. And about the secret stories of airports – the disturbing, uncomfortable and smoothed over tales that lie just beneath the surface of these sites. I am interested in how airports incapsulate certain ideas of modern life in the United States: airports are sites where identity is confirmed or questioned; they are spaces of public display; they are contest zones where privacy and national security vie for priority; they are complex factories for the production of patriotism and the priviledge of mobility. At the same time, airports can be considered as generic spaces, forgetable and often uncomfortable.they are designed to be passed through, and in rapid fashon; this is what the anthropologist Marc Auge means by the term "non places"….

This book speculates about the textuality of airports… how stories are spun around airports. I locate these stories in both literature and in the every day life of airport culture. I focus on how airports are read, or how they are interpreted. These readings and interpretations can tell us a lot about how and why humans travel by air: what beliefs humans invest in flight, and what mysteries still lie beneath the sky, on the ground.’

We will be posting up a chapter from the book, to read online, in the next week so do visit the blog or follow us on twitter.

And thanks again to Roy Christopher for such an excellent article. As with all the posts on his website, it was a feast for the mind.

Jenny Tighe

Marketing Executive

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