Pepe Romanillos reviews Jeanne Haffner’s The View from Above: The Science of Social Space at H-Net

9780262018791Pepe Romanillos reviews Jeanne Haffner’s The View from Above: The Science of Social Space at H-Net. Here’s the first paragraph:

Views of the earth from above have increasingly become the subject of critical interrogation. Jeanne Haffner’s fascinating book The View from Above: The Science of Social Space charts a history of this perspective by exploring the birth of aerial photography and its deployment within twentieth-century France. Valued as a symbol of modernity and for promoting an objective or “scientific” way of seeing, the view from above played a crucial role in shaping French cultural history, opening the spatial configurations of French society to analysis, intervention, and critique. Haffner reveals how, from the 1920s onwards, aerial photography came to signify and carry a number of modernist assumptions over the particular representational “truth” offered by aerial photography and the ability of this technology to provide complete access to “reality.” By providing a cultural historical reading of this perspective, Haffner foregrounds how different ways of seeing mediate and constitute the very reality claimed as “accessible.” In chapters devoted to military photography, ethnography, and urban space, Haffner demonstrates how aerial perspectives triggered new kinds of urban intervention, understandings of colonial space, conceptions of national and regional identity, and reflections upon the very practice of planning.

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