Sacred Space, Anti-Space, and Junk Space: Political Eschatology and Medicine
Jacquelyn Harootunian-Cutts, PhD student, St. Louis University
We should consider the physical locations where care for the sick is practiced as carefully as we consider the role of social forces (e.g. economics) on this care. Facilities where care for the sick takes place are particular spaces that are situated in particular contexts. I will argue that attending to these spaces can indicate the ways in which this care is shaped by the moral and sacred order of the polis. First I will explore the relevant concepts of space, anti-space, and junk space. Space, in architectural terms, is defined and purposeful where anti-space is open, undefined, and purposeless; junk space is the devolution of anti-space into increasingly meaningless areas characterized by human debris and disorganization. Next, drawing on the work of Phillip Bess, I will argue that the space, anti-space, and junk space within the walls of the care facility and the location of the care facility within the polis point beyond themselves toward what is thought to be transcendent. These locations also aspire to legitimate authority and virtue with respect to health. When this is done well, the architecture of care facilities can direct people toward their telos, anticipating an urban Christian eschaton (the New Jerusalem) through a sacramental participation. When this is done poorly, space and polis become absurd rather than meaningful, and a care facility fails to counteract the individualist paradigms of liberalism becoming instead a monument to technology and efficiency.