An experimental technique of walking or moving through the urban space in a manner contrary to its design yet consistent with one's own desire, devised by the Situationists. Its purpose is twofold: on the one hand, it is meant to expose a particular city's psychogeography; on the other hand, it is a deliberate attempt to break away from what the Situationists deplored as ordinary life. Owing an obvious debt to the Surrealist practice of aimlessly strolling through the city so as to experience it unconsciously, but highly critical of its dependence on automatism dérive does not involve surrendering one's will in this way, nor is it interested in chance or the happenstance. Instead its purpose is to notice and become aware of the way different parts of the city resonate with different states of mind, passions and desires. Interestingly, the Situationists thought that this attitude to space could only be sustained for a day or two without risking mental collapse; they also thought it could only be applied to the city. Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust: a History of Walking (2000), suggests they were wrong on the second count. While Deleuze and Guattari's caution against deterritorializing (a term with obvious if unacknowledged debts to Situationism) too far and too fast in Mille Plateaux (1980), translated as A Thousand Plateaus (1987), would seem to confirm that they were right on the first count. See also cognitive mapping; détournement ; deterritorialization; flâneur.
K. Knabb (ed.)Situationist International Anthology (2007).S. Plant The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International and After (1992).
Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.