RELATED TERMS: Alienation effect - Verfremdungseffekt; Avant-garde movements; Defamiliarisation, Ostranenie or making strange; Detournement; Method and methodology; Psychogeography; Situationist International

In Debord’s theorisation of Situationism, derive, detournement and psychogeography are closely aligned practices. Derive translates literally as drifting but it is a more active and purposefully disorienting strategy than this rather neutral term suggests. Debord defines derive as an experimental mode of behaviour linked to the conditions of urban society and the urban environment. It is a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances, according to Debord.

The combined effect of the ‘derive’ and ‘detournement’ is that an urban environment is encountered, as if by an acutely observant stranger, as an event or situation in all its limitations, risks and possibilities. In being newly experienced and perceived, it is thus in effect destabilised, as is the urban mentality of the psychogeographer (Brooker, 2003: 210).


Brooker, P. (2003). A Glossary of Cultural Theory, 2nd ed. London, UK: Arnold.