Urban Topologies of Epistemic Change: The Zoo and the Heterotopia of the Map

Gisler, Priska (2019). Urban Topologies of Epistemic Change: The Zoo and the Heterotopia of the Map Contemporary Social Science, Special Issue ‘Urban Animals’ Taylor & Francis

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By tracing the history of maps of the Zurich Zoo since its inception in 1929, I enquire how ideas about human-animal relations in an urban context have changed. Linking Foucault's concept of the heterotopia with the ordering power of space allows to see that a map does more than show the way to one's favourite animals in a zoo. I suggest that the map can be understood as a necessary element in creating a heterotopia, an ‘other space', contributing more to visitors’ ideas about the zoo than generally assumed. Underlying the Foucauldian concept are endeavours to juxtapose several incompatible emplacements in one real place. These can be understood as efforts to accomplish an illusion that allows to reify the respective model of the zoo that each map pretends to illustrate. The maps aim to create an apparent ecology of proximities between animals and humans, and between the urban and the wild. All in all, the maps offer both a layout for human-animal relations and an instructive account of them, as depicted and imagined by the zoo authorities.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Practices and Theories in the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > HKB Teaching


Gisler, Priska0000-0002-9812-4014


D History General and Old World > D History (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR


Taylor & Francis


[UNSPECIFIED] Swiss National Science Foundation


[UNSPECIFIED] Wir sind im Winterschlaf!




Priska Gisler

Date Deposited:

30 Nov 2020 13:52

Last Modified:

18 Dec 2020 13:29





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