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Adopting the position of error: Space and speculation in the exploratory signifi cance of milieu formulations

O'Grady, Nathaniel; O'Grady, Nat


Nathaniel O'Grady

Nat O'Grady


As Foucault's writing on the role of population in managing societies through security would attest, the term milieu is not primarily a tool for analysing primary data. Instead, it is a means to model data on population according to specifi c spatial parameters, and a means of structuring examination of populations in a particular way. The importance of space is also apparent in Canguilhem's work on the notion of milieu in his writings on bacteriology and organism development. Although the contexts in which the term is deployed are diff erent, both thinkers show how the notion of milieu allows observation of heterogeneous elements in relation to one another, in terms of the movement of elements studied and what possible points of intersection may be forged between elements. In spite of the diff erent research contexts in which each author uses the term, both can be seen to share an understanding of the milieu according to its epistemological qualities. What is stressed in both Foucault's and Canguilhem's accounts is an indication of the structural parameters which characterise the milieu. These parameters work to enframe the circulation of that which is being observed. From this structure, particular forms of knowledge concerning that which is examined are produced by the milieu model. In this paper I argue that both Foucault and Canguilhem show how the milieu facilitates thinking, and produces knowledge, that is speculative. As such, the paper can explore how, through their understanding of the milieu, the authors make claims which describe speculative thinking in its practice. © 2013 Pion and its Licensors.


O'Grady, N., & O'Grady, N. (2013). Adopting the position of error: Space and speculation in the exploratory signifi cance of milieu formulations. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 31(2), 245-258.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 5, 2012
Publication Date Apr 24, 2013
Journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 2
Pages 245-258
Keywords Foucault, Canguilhem, speculation, space
Public URL
Publisher URL