“Toward A New Sociospatial Dialectic;” An Analysis

In the chapter titled “Toward A New Sociospatial Dialectic” in his City of Rhetoric, David Fleming argues that, to a degree in every scenario, the environment one is allocated in plays a major role in influencing the outcome, accessibility or lifestyle of an individual or group. As the chosen opening quote for the chapter suggests, no one being is so inwardly secure that they are not impacted by what goes on outside of them (Fleming 179). The quote, from George Eliot, lays out the skeleton of Fleming’s upcoming content.

The author explains that all of the locations of Near North Side Chicago examined have a purpose. The diverse set of places determine how one holds oneself in society, and how one deals with conflict in a rhetorical situation (Fleming 180). Place determines so much of what an individual holds for him or herself. In fear of allowing the spatial environment negatively affect beings in terms of rhetorical relationships and reproach to conflict, Fleming eagerly proposes that the city itself should be taken as a model that allocates all of the necessary talk for healthy rhetorical situations. The city, in short, is a ‘commonplace,’ as Fleming refers to it, somewhere everyone comes together in a political atmosphere and feels comfortable enough to shed their skin and put forth their opinions (180). This type of environment holds something significant for the author since, as he pointed out, the three sites examined in the book are not complete successes in housing residents because they fail to allow any diversity and the phenomenon that comes with it shine through. Healthy conflict is important for human development, and the restricted suburbs or the dangerous ghetto do not allow space for the aforementioned to take place. Even a halfway option, like North Town Village, is not all the way good enough because the conflict that could arise there would be minimal, for the lack of diversity is maximum.

Fleming, in this chapter, direly looks for a space that goes far beyond the barriers of socioeconomic classes and brings together people of widely varying backgrounds in places of vibrant rhetorical situations because, for him, this is consequential of a collaborative community. The main point Fleming wants to nip at, though, is that “[p]lace matters” in terms of individuals and the collective, in terms of employment and education, in terms of society in general (184). Though circumstances like poverty and unemployment are not necessarily caused by space, the latter definitely shapes them.

Nowadays, we believe the ‘who’ is more important than the ‘where’. We think that no matter where one is from, one can get to wherever one wants to be. Fleming does not shoot this down, but he specifies that as much as we try to avoid it, our spatial environment does determine how we live for some part, especially in the developmental teenage years, when we first come out to the world, see different areas of conflict, and start discovering our own selves in terms of those and that which surround us. The concept of being unable to separate oneself from the external forces that affect one is further perpetuated by indirect effects of one’s relationship with space. The spatial relationship with the individual, depending on where one lives, is magnified by what surrounds it (194). In other words, if a neighborhood is disregarded and seen as a poor, low-income community, schools of an equal caliber are built to complement it. Though location does not declare one’s poverty, location certainly enhances one’s ability to escape poverty if opportunity is absent.

Finally, Fleming insists that, obviously with a list of varying factors, human situations are contingent upon the space one lives in. He specifically mentions that effects are nonlinear and dynamic. Thus, they are things hard to control but necessary to curb. Institutions like schools are disregarded as an important space for political and social development. Those with the least are the ones who suffer the most from this. Therefore, what Fleming attempts to put forth is that more attention and action should be put on creating inclusive educational/academic environments, on creating spaces that discontinue the lack of opportunity in certain communities, and on creating locations where civic discourse and conflictual rhetoric is welcome because all of the above lead to what the author considers a better societal relationship, among diverse communities, with the spatial component in general.

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