A postcard from my envelope of space-time

Mariana Marcondes

Dear Liz,

Since leaving Edinburgh in February and trying to settle back into my hometown, São Paulo in Brazil, I have been thinking a lot about space and place. Doreen Massey, whose work you recommended to me (thank you again!), has been particularly helpful, as her idea of a progressive sense of place nicely brings together time and space. 

I have been musing about my feeling of dislocation between the city I left in 2016, and the one I arrived back in this year. If places are, as Doreen said, always constructed out of articulations of social relations, well… this society I am back in has experienced a political turn in the few last years, and I cannot say I feel warmly towards what seems to be the mainstream values of my fellow compatriots. Which can feel isolating. More personally, as we are under lockdown, and I have been so since shortly after arriving, and will continue for the foreseeable future, I am away from my family and friends just as much as I was living in Hong Kong and then Edinburgh, timezones aside. Additionally, I am living in a new apartment, in a new neighbourhood, which is a place that is older and more urban than my previous addresses in this city, so in a sense it is more similar to where I lived in Hong Kong.

Then there is time. As one would expect, I am significantly different from the person I was four years and some countries ago. As I unpack both what I have brought from abroad and all the stuff that had sat packed up for years here in Brazil, things that have never previously shared the same space or the same time are now coming together, which makes me feel a bit like a time-traveller. I am still noticing some sort of breaks on the time-space continuum which are  caused by this and that testify to very different ways of living.

So, right now, I am trying to knit together a present in which these stories from different places and times can come together. There is time for that now in my life, as I am sheltering in a place with no conditions about planning for the future. I wonder how things are and who is writing what about the histories happening  in those apartments that were a home for me when I was abroad in Hong Kong and Edinburgh. Now I am trying to find some coherence and identity in this non-place and non-time that I am in. Which is fine because, as Doreen said, the identities of places are always temporary, uncertain, and in process.

As is customary everywhere at this trying time, I finish by saying that I hope this finds you, your family, friends, places, and all other affections, healthy and fine.

Mariana Marcondes

São Paulo (Hong Kong, Edinburgh), July 2020

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Liz Stanley

Liz Stanley is Professor of Sociology @ University of Edinburgh, email liz.stanley@ed.ac.uk. I’m a feminist sociologist who works on everyday documents of life, particularly letters, to research social change over time.

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