“Future Fossils” Exhibition by Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer and Kathryn Yusoff

(Image: Helen Prichard and Kathryn Yusoff 2014)

(Image: Helen Pritchard and Kathryn Yusoff 2014)

Future Fossils? Specimens from the 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition

One of the key challenges posed by the Anthropocene concept is that it forces us to engage with both an entangled present and its uncertain futures. While seemingly anthropocentric (in its claim that the influence of humanity is all pervasive), the idea of an Anthropocene highlights how the non-human and inhuman world is firmly embedded within and through us. How will future generations of lively entities differentiate between human and other species, their forms of knowledge-making, space-marking and relations to broader geomorphological, biological, socio-economic processes?

The Anthropocene provides a provocation to think life differently and to make prominent the geo-politics of an epochal event, whose present and future telling offers opportunities for alternative ways of writing the Earth.

So, imagine it is the year 5000AD. A group of future earth-writers convene an exhibition of specimens from their recent Earth expedition, dating from the period informally known as the Anthropocene. What messages would these remnants of our contemporary age convey? What fragments of material practices would survive? How will current human and non-human relations imprint their legacies into geological, biological, social, atmospheric and virtual strata? What sense might distant future critters make of our stratigraphic legacy? How might the research preoccupations and contestations of the present endure in the fossil record and what we might learn from that tenacity?

In this forum, we invited contributors to speculate on “future fossils” and reflect on the process of speculation itself as a mode of engagement (click through on the titles below to find out more about each exhibit).

FF1: “ACA/GEO/21/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF” By Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF1: "ACA/GEO/21/IBG/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL-ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF" by Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF1: “ACA/GEO/21/IBG/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL-ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF” by Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF2: “Millennium Microbe” By Maria Fannin

FF2: 5th Millennium Microbe by Maria Fannin (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by John T. Lisle)

FF2: 5th Millennium Microbe by Maria Fannin (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by John T. Lisle)

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology” By Jeremy Bolen, Sara H. Nelson and Emily E. Scott

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology: Ghostly Fossils from the Early Anthropocene" by Jeremy Bolen, Sara Holiday Nelson, and Emily Eliza Scott (c. 5000 AD)

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology: Ghostly Fossils from the Early Anthropocene” by Jeremy Bolen, Sara Holiday Nelson, and Emily Eliza Scott (c. 5000 AD)

FF4: “Matrimandir, Auroville” By Tariq Jazeel

FF4: "Matrimandir, Auroville" by Tariq Jazeel

FF4: “Matrimandir, Auroville” by Tariq Jazeel

FF5: “Specimen 0198: Cargotecture” By Ella Harris

FF5: "Specimen 0198: Cargotecture" by Ella Harris

FF5: “Specimen 0198: Cargotecture” by Ella Harris

FF6: “Atypical Situation” By Hayden Lorimer

 FF6: "Atypical Situation" by Hayden Lorimer

FF6: “Atypical Situation” by Hayden Lorimer

FF7: “Trace Fossil FOBU-1379” By Helen Pritchard

FF7: "Trace fossil FOBU-1379" by Helen Pritchard

FF7: “Trace fossil FOBU-1379” by Helen Pritchard

FF8: “The Pacemaker” By Andrew Dwyer

FF8: "The Pacemaker: Tracing cyber (re)territorialisations" by Andrew Dwyer

FF8: “The Pacemaker: Tracing cyber (re)territorialisations” by Andrew Dwyer

FF9: “Atomic Age Rodent” By Dominic Walker

FF9: "Atomic Age Rodents: in search of the first animals of the Anthropocene" by Dominic Walker (© Center for PostNatural History, 2011)

FF9: “Atomic Age Rodents: in search of the first animals of the
Anthropocene” by Dominic Walker (© Center for PostNatural History, 2011)

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF11: “Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene” by Uli Beisel

FF11: Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene" by Uli Beisel Sealed in a body bag, the deceased is carried out on a stretcher and added to the other bodies in the pick-up truck, waiting to be driven to the King Tom cemetery. ©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

FF11: Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene” by Uli Beisel (©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie)

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Free the map: Gazing at Belting’s Anthropology of Images from a map studies perspective

k9550Tania Rossetto reflects on Hans Belting’s An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body through a map studies perspective. The book was originally published in German in 2001 with the title Bild-Anthropologie: Entwürfe für eine Bildwissenschaft and first translated into English by Thomas Dunlap in 2011. A new paperback edition by Princeton University Press appeared last year.

Recently, there has been some insistence on the need to include images as objects of study within geographical research inspired by non-representational theories. While digging through promising non-representational theories, Ben Anderson and Paul Harrison felt the need to specify that “everything happens, everything acts. Everything, including images, words and texts” (2010, page 14). While discussing photography in urban studies, Gillian Rose recently identified the shift towards a consideration of images as more than representational: an approach that requires a “bodily and emotional stance rather than interpretive or hermeneutic work” (2014, page 9). The geographies of embodiment, multisensoriality and practice, thus, include work on images, provided that those images are thought of as performative, relational, corporeal and affective. In this apparently paradoxical inclusion (the nexus of body-image) lies one of the main points of interest in Hans Belting’s book from the point of view of current cultural geographical debates. The leitmotif of this book, well emphasized by the subtitle chosen for the English version, is in fact the relationship between bodies and images, and in particular, the idea of considering the human body to be a living medium for images.

For Belting, art history has alienated the image from the body. First published in Germany in 2001, his book appeared as an intervention (or a manifesto) directed mainly at art historians, with the precise aim of contesting the established idea of the work of art in favour of a wider notion of Bild (which in German means both ‘image’ and ‘picture’, but is used here in the sense of ‘image’). Advancing the need for a “science of the image” (Bildwissenschaft) in order to transcend the borders of art history, Belting was contributing to the field of studies now identified as visual culture studies, visual studies or image studies (with distinctions from the field of media theory, as he maintains). An Italian image theory reader (Pinotti and Somaini 2009), for instance, includes Belting among scholars like W.J.T. Mitchell, Gottfried Boehm, James Elkins, Louis Marin and David Freedberg, while presenting the polyvocal reflection on the set of problems inherent to the image which animates contemporary debate.

In this review, however, I do not wish to directly engage with the (already much discussed and criticized) contributions of an influential scholar (for example, see Wood 2004). Instead, I would like to direct an oblique gaze on this book by adopting the perspective of the map scholar. Continue reading Tania’s review here.

Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis reviewed

9781908996367Denis Linehan reviews Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis, a volume edited by Gerry Kearns, David Meredith and John Morrissey and published by the Royal Irish Academy in 2014.

Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis is an important collection of geographical essays which provides a coherent and sustained critique of the 2008 crisis and its impacts on Ireland. Building on research projects by its main contributors, the volume aims at identifying the injustices found in the underlying spatial structure of Irish social life. The collection also opens a debate on the application and use of the phrase ‘spatial justice’, offering throughout reflections on its merits, potential and applications. Continue reading Denis’ review here.

New Society and Space editors – Alexander Vasudevan and Darshan Vigneswaran

In June, we announced the sad Society and Space news that long-time editor of the journal, Stuart Elden, had stepped down. Today, we have happier news as two new editors join our editorial collective: Alexander Vasudevan and Darshan Vigneswaran.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.43.02 PMAlexander is Assistant Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham. His research addresses performance cultures, experimental geographies and the urban politics of interwar Germany, contemporary landscape photography, the wider geographies of neo-liberal globalisation and alternative urbanisms, and the history of squatting. Alexander has a forthcoming book in the RGS-IBG book series titled Metropolitan Preoccupations: The Spatial Politics of Squatting in Berlin, and two others in the works, including a monograph on the popular history of urban squatting in Europe and North America, and a co-edited collection on the geographies of forced evictions.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.43.10 PMDarshan is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam. He is also a Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Migration and Society, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Darshan’s research investigates how the state’s claim to territory has been reconfigured in response to changing patterns of human mobility. He brings with him intellectual interests in international politics, the regulation and policing of migrants, and territoriality.  He is the author of Territory, Migration and the Evolution of the International System (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), and co-editor of both Slavery, Migration and Contemporary Bondage in Africa (Africa World Press, 2013) and Mobility Makes States (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

As the continuing editors, we welcome Alex and Darshan, and, with them on board, look forward to continuing to make the journal and its Open Site vibrant spaces for the publication of politically engaged and theoretically innovative work. In coming months, we will make announcements about changes at the Open Site, as well as editorial statements from the new collective on the journal’s short and medium term goals. So, more to come…

Deborah Cowen, Natalie Oswin, Mary Thomas


Discards, Diverse Economies, and Degrowth Forum By Josh Lepawsky and Max Liboiron

Photograph: Max Liboiron

Photograph: Max Liboiron

Discards, Diverse Economies, and Degrowth

Since the last economic recession, discussions about how to reimagine ecologically and socially just economies have proliferated. A recent conversation at the 2015 American Association of Geographers Conference in Chicago focused on the role of waste, pollution, and other discarded materials that pose fundamental problems for economic production in these imaginaries. We are pleased to announce a series of short, open-source publications on Society and Space Open Forum that look at the intersection of discards, diverse economies, and degrowth. They will query how different regimes of value and circulation can redefine waste, and how the material agencies of waste will shape future economies.


  1.  Why Discards, Diverse Economies, and Degrowth? By Josh Lepawsky and Max Liboiron

Lepwasky and Liboiron instigated this special Forum collection because of a need to bring three relatively new scholarly discussions together: degrowth, diverse economies, and discard studies. They offer an overview of terms and discussions, then make an argument for why the three discourses need one another. On one hand, organizing economic life so it is not premised on profit or increasing production, such as degrowth or even steady-states, would fundamentally challenge the conditions premising modern discards. On the other, discard studies already has robust empirical cases for looking at problems with “circular” economies and the material and social dangers of both “left over” and reused materials. One of the strengths of discard studies is its dedication to empirical case studies to test—and change—theories and assumptions. As such, this collection starts with the most theoretical pieces and moves to case-studies-in-practice, a methodology that must be central to studies and imaginaries of future lives for degrowth, diverse economies, and discards.

  1. An Ethics of Surplus and the Right to Waste By Max Liboiron

One of the main reasons to bring degrowth and diverse economies into waste studies is that different regimes of valuation can redefine waste—that which is thrown away, devalued, discarded, and externalized. Max Liboiron uses the concept of dépense—excess and its expenditure– to explore other ways of valuing and even celebrating waste when growth-based practices of accumulation are changed. In particular, Liboiron looks at a different way to think of surplus and what that would mean for dépense within a normative relational framework of ethics and rights.

  1. Diverse Economies of Urban Mining in Australia By Ruth Lane

Ruth Lane’s empirical study of three electronic waste recovery facilities in Australia shows that diverse economies are already part of mainstream economic practices. Rather than arguing that recycling is a material example of “circular economies,” a concept that is already heavily critiqued in discard studies, Lane shows that while sections of the commodity chains created by and for the three facilities can be explained by profit and growth, several practices cannot be. In particular, she looks at how government subsides, policies, and programs create economic benefits that are not based on profit or growth.

  1. Exchange and refurbish: practicing decoloniality through rethinking discards and degrowth By Erin Araujo

Degrowth theorists highlight the importance of communities of practice; creating working alternatives to growth is central to the overall project of diverse economies. Erin Araujo’s work with El Cambalache (The Swap), a collective that shares and repairs donated items in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, is an example of a degrowth economy in action. Araujo links the revaluation and repair of discarded materials to decolonization as a way to practice alternatives to singular ways of being and thinking that are based on growth, accumulation, and profit, which she argues is central to colonization and capitalization alike. The proliferation of alternatives to naturalized economic practices is central to both decolonization and degrowth. The work brings up the need to link both discard studies and degrowth to other social movements such as decolonization and feminism, as they share core premises of critiquing and expanding normalized value structures.

  1. Reimagining the New Industrial City: articulating an alternative ethos of waste and production through ‘closing the loop’ By Ingrid Elísabet Feeney

Ingrid Feeny provides another participant-observation of an alternative economy in practice. The Plant is designed to “close the loop” on urban food production in a South Chicago neighbourhood. A zero waste philosophy plays a central role in practices as by-products of one set of food production activities and even the renovation of the building itself are used as raw materials in another process—the material modus operandi of a closed loop economy. However, Feeny calls The Plant a “chimera of noninstrumental economic practices including community economy, social economy, and social enterprise which attempt to transcend capitalism and yet exists within and alongside it.” How far can examples of degrowth inside of growth-based systems go? Can they be piecemeal, or incomplete, or compromised and still offer a viable economic politic? This final piece in the special collection leaves us with questions about what happens to politics and imaginaries where practice and theory meets, as essential set of questions for moving forward with the project of degrowth and diverse economies.

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Society and Space early online articles and archives – all currently open access

Our new publisher, SAGE, has put up a number of papers in the early online section of the new Environment and Planning D: Society and Space site. Among these are several papers set to appear in the next issue of the journal, which will be published by the end of August. These include papers that will be part of a special issue on the theme ‘War, law and space’ (guest edited by Craig A. Jones and Michael Smith) by Craig A. Jones, Katia Snukal and Emily Gilbert, S.M. Reid-Henry, Mark Boyle and Audrey Kobayashi, and Rachel Hughes [additional pieces for that special issue by Zoltán Glück and John Morrissey are also available on the journal’s old site], as well as a stand-alone piece by Julian C.T. Barker on nightscapes and travel in 19th century India.

Also online early are papers by Kate Bedford and Fleur Johns, both of which will appear in a special issue on ‘The Politics of the List’ (guest edited by Marieke de Goede, Anna Leander and Gavin Sullivan) to be published in early 2016.

The remaining eight papers cover the politics of prison transfers within the British Penal Estate (by Luca Follis), the logics of visualization in immigrant integration in the Netherlands and Germany (by Sanne Boersma and Willem Schinkel), the politics of complexity and resistance in anti-genetically modified organism activism (by Leonie Ansems de Vries and Doerthe Rosenow), India’s mobile phone ecology as affective, human-technical assemblages (by Amit S. Rai), transformations to identity and social relations arising from the reinvention of airport infrastructures and facilities (by Anthony Elliott and David Radford), the exclusions and silences perpetuated by Vancouver’s recent Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (by Juliane Collard), human rights, sovereignty and postcoloniality in Pakistan’s tribal belt (by Muhammad Ali Nasir), and the ‘anxieties of control’ of our big data present (by Agnieszka Leszczynski).

All of these papers are currently available open access, as part of a free trial period with SAGE. Also available open access for a limited time are all of the Environment and Planning D: Society and Space  archives from the first issue in 1983 to the most recent 2015 issue.

Disrupting Migration Stories- Ben Rogaly

The following essay is a supplement to Ben Rogaly’s  “Disrupting migration stories: reading life histories through the lens of mobility and fixity” that appears in Issue 3 of the 2015 volume of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.  The paper is now open access for a limited time.

One way of countering anti-immigrant sentiment and widespread demonization of migrants of the kind heard in the recent UK general election campaign is to disrupt the terms of the debate. Anti-migrant discourse relies on an established notion of who is a migrant and who is not. This is a notion based not on the self-identification of the individuals concerned but on the preconceptions and/or political interests of the commentator. To point this out is not simply to call for academic deconstruction of taken-for-granted ideas. After all ‘migrant’ can be a useful category to organize resistance around, and some people see migrancy as part of their personhood. Rather, it can contribute to breaking the tendency of powerful people to separate others into fixed categories such as ‘migrant’ and ‘local’ in order to foster division and (conveniently) to keep the spotlight off themselves.

This post is written to accompany a new open access Society and Space article that takes a fresh look at how concepts from mobility studies, together with a biographical oral history approach, can productively query the way migration is understood, while keeping the connections between structural inequalities and mobility/fixity fully in view. The ‘mobilities paradigm’, like translocalism, offers language that moves away from the automatic association of the word ‘migration’ with its qualifier ‘international’. It allows within nation-state migration to be taken as seriously as border-crossing moves. But it can do much more. Critical mobilities thinking insists on holding together both mobility and fixity in any analysis, while revealing inequalities in who has the choice over whether to move or stay where they are, and who must leave or cannot move.

To continue reading, click here.


A promontory perspective on ‘multiple modernities’: Baker on Hansen

51KJh2dKumL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Julian Baker reviews Peter Hansen’s The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Today, the bald peak of Mont Ventoux rises white and treeless above the vineyards of Provence, an hour’s drive northeast of Avignon, capped with a weather station and the goal of visiting cyclists. In 1336 the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch climbed to this summit and contemplated the view. Later, after a reviving supper at his inn, he wrote out his experiences. For five hundred years readers paid little notice to the climb. Rather, Petrarch became famous for his lyrical sonnets and rediscovery of Cicero’s letters. Then, in 1860, the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt identified Petrarch, for his inclination to climb a peak for the aesthetic fulfillment of the scenery, as the first “modern man”.

This overlap of ascent, identity and modernity is the subject of Peter Hansen’s The Summits of Modern Man. Through a selective history of mountaineering, Hansen attempts to explain “a particular strand of modernity in which modern man stands alone on the summit, autonomous from other men and dominant over nature” (page 2). Continue reading Julian’s review here.

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Brown, Wendy Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution reviewed by Corey McCall

9781935408536_coverWendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. NY: Zone Books, 2015, 292 pages, $29.95 hardback. ISBN: 978-1-935408-53-6 (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/undoing-demos) reviewed by Corey McCall

In this engaging new book, Wendy Brown employs a careful reading and critique of Michel Foucault’s 1978-1979 lecture course The Birth of Biopolitics as a way to think about neoliberal government rationality in advanced democracies today. Her basic claim, as the title indicates, is that neoliberalism increasingly renders democratic political agency impossible. Rather than democratic political agency, individuals are construed (and increasingly construe themselves) simply as economic actors (or as entrepreneurs of themselves as Foucault puts it in The Birth of Biopolitics)The conclusion makes a case for what is lost when practices of democratic subjectivity have little more than formal significance and examines the role that sacrifice plays in neoliberal governmentality. Continue reading Corey McCall’s review here

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