Margins, Flows and Crossing Points: France’s Liquid Territory

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In his accounts of Montmartre and Marseille, Nicholas Hewitt shows how places on margins and frontiers channel flows of different sorts running across city, nation and world. In doing so, they open up suggestive perspectives on the nature of French territory, how it is conceived, and how it can be imagined. In particular, they foreground the productive tension of the marginal place as edge and opening, and interrogate the bounded and regulated space implied by the geometrical trope of the French ‘hexagon’. What emerges instead is a curiously liquid sense of French space-in-time as shifting, shimmering and mercurial, caught up in and contributing to the ebb and flow of global circulation. This article explores how movement, flow and liquidity have featured in recent explorations of French territory and topography, drawing on work by Jean Rolin, Agnès Varda and the photography project France(s) territoire liquide, whose title spells out its assumption about the nature of contemporary French space. At the same time, the article situates those accounts in relation to conceptions of French territory which informed the work of post-war spatial planners, whose substantial material and infrastructural legacies reflected their own sense of territory as flux, flow and liquid force.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-33
Number of pages13
JournalFrench Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the Sage Agreement


  • France
  • modernization
  • spatial planning
  • rivers
  • Jean Rolin
  • Béatrix von Conta
  • Agnès Varda


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