The Productive Disorder of the Atlas

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In The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin suggests that a kind of “productive disorder” is the canon of both the collector (Sammler) and involuntary memory. This chapter investigates how this “productive disorder” can apply to the conceptual figure of the atlas. Following closely – although
with some detours – Georges Didi-Huberman’s Atlas, or the Anxious Gay Science and its characterization of the atlas as a visual form of knowledge, it explores a thought space in which fragmentation and reconfiguration emerge as fully operative notions. The different sections complement each other and unfold the “essential dialectic” of the atlas: on the one hand,
a materialist dimension linked to the sovereign individuality of things; on the other hand, a psychic dimension linked to association, memory and imagination. The atlas takes part in a struggle against dispersion and chaos and makes productive certain principles of observation linked to
morphology and physiognomy. In addition, it entails various forms of exercise related to aesthetic and political issues, to correspondances and to the infinite interplay between childhood and adulthood. Two features make up the ambivalence of the atlas and threaten its productivity: the risk of the ever-new and the risk of forgetting the ragpicker (Lumpensammler), a figure whose spirit of “collection” becomes an intrinsically economic and urban matter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConceptual Figures of Fragmentation and Reconfiguration
EditorsNélio Conceição, Gianfranco Ferraro, Nuno Fonseca, Alexandra Dias Fortes, Maria Filomena Molder
Place of PublicationLisboa
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)978-989-97073-6-8
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
EventSeminário Figuras Conceptuais da Fragmentação e Reconfiguração - FCSH – UNL, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 22 Jan 201927 Jun 2019


SeminarSeminário Figuras Conceptuais da Fragmentação e Reconfiguração
Internet address


  • Atlas
  • Productive Disorder
  • Exercise
  • Involuntary Memory
  • Childhood and Adulthood


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