A conception of space as a naturally given, grid-like platform for human conduct has become a notion that critical investigators can neither completely live with nor without. Although a ready tool for conceiving the spatial dimensions of human practice, it is also a recently invented and problematic metaphor. Cultural historians of the invention of space as an abstract framework of extension have shown that pre-modern thinkers were not prepared to imagine that qualitative settings of life could be suspended in a homogeneous medium or system of points. The ancient Greeks, for example, disassociated the three-dimensional coordinates of Euclidean geometry from the physical volumes of daily experience.1 Not until the seventeenth century did Europeans consider it reasonable to reduce concrete volumes to a homogeneous system of points. Today, by contrast, geographers, historians and sociologists ask how modern social life generates and is constituted by such frameworks of abstract space. Mary Poovey clarified this modern notion of space by analysing it as isotropic (as everywhere the same) and as reducible (or already reduced) to a formal (that is, empty) schema or grid.2 It establishes a featureless, purely extensional arena for action apart from its occupation by an embodied agent. Poovey, as well as Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey and Edward Casey, have endeavoured to show how a confluence of events – including acceptance of the Cartesian worldview, new bureaucratic states, and homogenizing flows of commodity exchanges – sponsored the emergence of abstract space in practice.3