Displacement and Nostalgia

Another tumblr-style post with excerpts from Casey’s Getting Back Into Place:

“… each of us is caught in the toils of displacement. As moderns and postmoderns in the Eurocentric West, we too are displaced persons … and inescapably so.”

The symptoms of this displacement, Casey claims, are “disruptive and destructive”:

“Among these symptoms, nostalgia is one of the most revealing. At the moment, our own culture suffers from acute nostalgia. Proust, living on the edge between the modern and the postmodern periods, described the drama of an entire life delivered over to nostalgia. But we do not need to turn to literature for evidence of the pervasive presence of nostalgia; we witness its cinematic expression in certain of Woody Allen’s films and its commercial exploitation in Disney World.”

This was, of course, before Midnight in Paris.

In Casey’s view, our displacement is in part a function of a faulty conceptualization. The triumph of abstraction over the particular:

“… the placeless is the thoughtless; and if we fail to honor and remember places, this is a direct reflection of our unthinking and increasingly ill condition. Another telling sign is the fact that ‘for the modern self, all places are essentially the same: in the uniform, homogeneous space of a Euclidean-Newtonian grid, all places are essentially interchangeable. Our places, even our places for homes, are defined by objective measures.'”

“The uniformity of space and the equability of time have replaced, or more exactly displaced, the priority of place. If nostalgia is a characteristically modern malaise, this may be due to its covert recognition that a time once existed when place was ‘the first of all things,’ when time and space in their modern (dis)guises were not yet fatally at work. For in the pathos of nostalgia, ‘space and time [are] not yet separable concepts, [they are] scarcely concepts at all.’ But in the modern era we have accepted and incorporated space and time in their objectivity and (in)difference … We calculate, and move at rapid speeds, in time and space. But we do not live in these abstract parameters; instead, we displaced in them and by them.”

For related musings see Fatal Nostalgia and Generalized Anxiety.

2 thoughts on “Displacement and Nostalgia

  1. New to your blog here, but I like what I’ve seen so far. I’m a PhD student in art history studying the impact of technology on the body, so our interests would seem to overlap.

    I particularly like the quote about nostalgia, and I think that it can be seen even further in both fashion and television. Fashion trends repeat and a much higher rate now.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. And yes, it would seem that we have overlapping interests. On the intersection of art and technology (better, the ideology of technology) you might be interested in these two earlier posts:


      Also, on nostalgia and fashion, etc. you may be interested in this recent essay by Kurt Anderson in Vanity Fair:




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