Of Hedonism and Heterotopia: Pathways for Researching Legacies of Entertainment Culture in Port Cities

Vincent Baptist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To enrich and advance debates on the future of port cities, special attention needs to be paid to the unique cultural legacies of these liminal spaces. Inspired by the growing amount of publications that favor a more socio-cultural angle in investigating the past significance and present resonance of maritime urban hubs, this article specifically considers the potential of researching ‘pleasurescapes’, or public spaces of entertainment, within port city history. The notion of pleasurescapes is first dissected into its two main components to spark thoughts on both the spatial and experiential implications inherent in this term. Subsequently, two conceptual pathways are put forward to instigate more concrete research operationalizations into the historical entertainment culture of port cities. The topic of hedonism, on the one hand, proves fruitful to link to the notion of pleasurescapes and to better understand the past pleasure-seeking behavior of port residents and visitors. On the other hand, Michel Foucault’s much-debated ‘heterotopia’ can effectively be employed in the context of pleasurescapes and port history as well, especially when taking the ascribed ‘otherness’ of the port city as starting point and scrutinizing the omnipresence of borders within this particular urban setting. The article’s concise discussions of these broad topics generate an array of viable starting points from which to operationalize investigations into port cities’ pleasure districts specifically and historical entertainment culture in general. Ultimately, the article also calls for placing port cities’ pleasurescapes within a long-term perspective, which can stretch from former sailortowns to current revitalized waterfronts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2020

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