The Body as Heterotopia

Martijn Loos, Johanna Kaszti, Rick van der Waarden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Utopianism contains myriad tensions between the individual and collective, which are often acted out on the body. To engage with these tensions, this paper postulates a theoretical framework conceptualizing the body as heterotopia: simultaneously a real corporeal space and a performed locus of social values. Such a conceptualization, which draws heavily from the works of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and Ruth Levitas, enables the negotiation of these tensions and draws out the entanglements in and between the body, utopianism, the individual, and the collective. This framework is then both demonstrated and complicated by way of two literary case studies: we explore the notion of ‘hyperempathy’ in Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and tattooed bodies in Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. These concepts are put to work to flesh out our central claim: heterotopia—signifying the body and its relationship to utopianism—remains the best conceptualization to approach and understand tensions relating to the individual and collective in utopianism. This provides a theoretical basis on which others can build to help tackle moral and political issues related to the tensions laid bare.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-32
Number of pages14
JournalJunctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2021


  • the body
  • utopianism
  • heterotopia
  • performativity
  • transculturality
  • Octavia E. Butler
  • Ray Bradbury

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