Review of Liisa H. Malkki’s The Need to Help: The Domestic Arts of International Humanitarianism

Malkki_Need to HelpRitu Mathur reviews Liisa H. Malkki’s monograph The Need to Help: The Domestic Arts of International Humanitarianism (Duke University Press 2015).

To remove the varnish from the “gloss” of humanitarianism this book poses a simple question: “who ‘the needy’ are in the humanitarian encounter”? The thoughtfulness with which this question is posed demonstrates Liisa Malkki’s unwillingness to take assumptions about the neediness of the Global South for granted. On the contrary she situates her ethnographic fieldwork in Finland: a country known for its neutrality, where a large number of the population devotes its time to voluntary service and the Finnish Red Cross holds special influence and prestige.

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Society and Space ‘Politics of the list’ theme issue now online

The first issue of the 2016 volume of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (volume 34, number 1) is now online. It includes an excellent theme issue edited by Marieke de Goede, Anna Leander and Gavin Sullivan on ‘The politics of the list’, as well as two fascinating stand-alone articles – one by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos on the ontology of atmosphere, the other by Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini on the politics of human shielding.

The guest editors’ introduction to the theme issue is free to access for the next month. The remaining contents require subscription to access, but see a freely available photo essay by Gordon and Perugini as a supplement to their article here.

The politics of the list: Law, security, technology theme issue
Guest editorial: The politics of the list Marieke de Goede, Anna Leander, Gavin Sullivan 3-13
Indexing – The politics of invisibility Urs Stäheli 14-29
Letting the right ones in: Whitelists, jurisdictional reputation, and the racial dynamis of online gambling regulation Kate Bedford 30-47
The politics of whitelisting: Regulatory work and topologies in commercial security Anna Leander 48-66
The politics of security lists Marieke de Goede and Gavin Sullivan 67-88
The cross-colonization of finance and security through lists: Banking policing in the UK and India Anthony Amicelle and Elida KU Jacobsen 89-106
Keep adding: On kill lists, drone warfare and the politics of databases Jutta Weber 107-125
Global governance through the pairing of list and algorithm Fleur Johns 126-149

Withdrawing from atmosphere: An ontology of air partitioning and affective engineering Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos 150-167
The politics of human shielding: On the resignification of space and the constitution of civilians as shields in liberal wars Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini 168-187

Spatializing Blackness: Syedullah on Shabazz

Shabazz_Spatializing BlacknessJasmine Syedullah reviews Rashad Shabazz’s monograph, Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago (University of Illinois Press, 2015).

Rashad Shabazz’s Spatializing Blackness: Architectures of Confinement and Black Masculinity in Chicago maps a historical landscape of the everyday contradictions of Black life, laying bear the blind corners and liminal spaces of “possibility and punishment”—the places of precarity, criminalization and confinement so many call home (page 69). Drawing out both the causal and structural links that conjoin the underdevelopment of Black neighborhoods and the captivity of incarceration, Spatializing Blackness argues that even before Black men enter the prison system they are already inhabiting the prison-like environments and carceral politics of the prison industrial complex in their everyday lives. Shabazz situates his study in his hometown of Chicago, in the seven-by-one-mile stretch on the city’s South Side, an area colloquially known as the Black Belt. His genealogy of Black masculinity begins in the late 1900s and traces the layers of deeply sedimented social, political, and physical containment that define the contours of race and gender formation in the geopolitics of a city notorious for the terrific tragedy of its racial tensions.

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From experiments to contradictions in climate change governance – Vanesa Castán Broto

In the article ‘Contradiction, intervention and the low carbon transition’, which appears in issue 3 of the 2015 volume of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and is currently free to access, Vanesa Castán Broto follows Kojève’s reading of contradiction in Hegel’s oeuvre to present an analysis of contradictions in urban low carbon transitions as engines of change. The text below is offered by the author as a supplement to the piece. 



I fell in love with the idea of contradiction when I stumbled upon Alexandre Kojéve’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel at the University College London Library on a cold autumn afternoon. The material sensations of holding the book have preserved this moment in my memory: the lovingly-made hard cover with its fabric coming out; the dusty smell that starts with the passing of the page and settles down slowly until you pass it again; the remnants of the many hands that have gone through these pages, underlining some passages without giving any thought to what future readers will think of it. I can feel the contents of the book grabbing me from the inside, moving me towards a debate around the notion of contradiction and the possibility of change.

Embracing contradiction may be the only avenue for progressive climate change action. This is the central argument that I present in the paper ‘Contradiction, intervention and the low carbon transition’, recently published in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. The ideas in this paper emerged from a sense of frustration with current debates about the governance of climate change. I had long observed that ‘contradiction’ was frequently invoked in discussions of climate change governance, but rarely defined. I was sitting at a meeting discussing urban sustainability transitions, when a colleague referred to ‘contradiction’ to explain away the paradoxical nature of climate change governance in certain exemplary European city. This upset me. Like in other occasions, invoking contradiction was a means to end the discussion, rather than to open it up. Reviewing the literature on climate change governance, I struggled to find a coherent means to make sense of what contradictions were and why they mattered.

Until I found, pretty much by chance, Kojéve’s book on Hegel. I read it first out of a sense of curiosity, mostly because there is a part of me which yearns to open dusty covers of books. However, once I read this book, I found myself drawn into its ideas in a manner that I never felt before, not even reading Hegel’s own Phenomenology of the Spirit. Kojéve established a bridge between Hegel’s and my own thinking, and in doing so, it revolutionized everything I ever held sacred about contradictions and the possibility of progressive action in the context of global environmental governance.

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Two reviews of Haim Yacobi’s Israel and Africa: A Genealogy of Moral Geography

jacobiTwo reviews of Haim Yacobi’s Israel and Africa: A Genealogy of Moral Geography (Routledge, 2015) by Sherri Plonski and Kareem Rabie are now posted on the open site.

Professor Saba Mahmood to give Society and Space lecture at the 2016 AAG

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 1.51.37 PMWe are delighted to announce that Saba Mahmood, Professor of Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley, will give the Society and Space lecture at the 2016 AAG meeting in San Francisco.

Her talk, titled “Secularism, Sovereignty, and Religious Difference: A Global Genealogy?”, will analyze secularism as a modality of sovereign power in the context of unequal geopolitical relations between the Western and non-Western world. Taking the Middle East as a point of departure, she will reflect on the central role religious difference plays in the making of political secularism.

The talk is scheduled for Thursday, 3/31/2016, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM in Imperial A, Hilton Hotel, Ballroom Level.

In Memoriam: Benedict Anderson (1936-2015) by Vicente L. Rafael

Benedict Anderson, Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government and Asian Studies at Cornell University, and author, most famously, of Imagined Communities (1983) passed away in December, 2015. Here, Vicente Rafael offers some reflections in memoriam.


102 West AV, Cornell 1983

I first met Ben Anderson in 1979 when I began my graduate work at Cornell. He invited me to his home for dinner some 20 miles from Ithaca in a town improbably called Freeville—once the location of a juvenile detention facility called the George Junior Republic that had been the model for the Iwahig Penal Colony in the Philippines. Appropriately enough for Ben—a connoisseur of irony—his home used to be the warden’s who had to leave town hurriedly because of some scandal.

My office was directly above his in an old house that served as the site for the Modern Indonesia Project, more commonly known as 102 West Avenue by its denizens. It was a former fraternity house whose members had been kicked out of campus for some transgression, so we were essentially in frat row. The chairs and tables were scarred and stained with cigarette burns and coffee cups, the doors were cracked, the stairs creaked and the parts of the balustrade at times came off as you held on to them. Faculty, students and visiting professors worked in various offices, often late into the night, meeting during evening seminars and weekly brown bags featuring speakers ranging from diplomats to foreign scholars. In the summers, the frat boys sunbathed on the roofs, held beer balloon wars and played very loud rock and roll around us. The basement was full of boxes of file folders, which I always thought were Ben’s research notes, turning the place into a veritable firetrap. 102 West Ave., in short, was an ideal place to work. It’s ramshackle quality lent to it the feel of a refugee camp: precarious, resistant to domestication, but also ripe with insurgent possibilities. At 102, unexpected connections grew into friendships that led people into paths other than those they thought they had embarked on. Its informal atmosphere allowed for explorations of all sorts that deconstructed and deviated from the disciplinary formations that fixed and fixated many of us. Firmly but gently, Ben—sitting in his office, presiding over seminars, asking questions that always surprised and dis-oriented—served as the tutelary spirit of 102.

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Society and Space Editorial team changes

Some months ago, we announced the departure of Stuart Elden and the arrival and Alexander Vasudevan and Darshan Vigneswaran alongside Natalie Oswin and Mary Thomas as Editors of Society and Space. We now have many more changes in our team to announce, including changes in Editors, Review Editors, and Editorial Board members.

First, and sadly, Deborah Cowen has recently stepped down, after seven years as one of our Editors. Deb brought a wonderful, collaborative spirit to her editorial work, as well as a strong commitment to fostering inspiring and adventurous writing, especially from junior scholars. She also brought a keen awareness of the problematic political economy of academic publishing, of the challenges of producing critical scholarship in the contemporary university, of the value of public scholarship, and of the importance of championing work that makes theory speak to social justice imperatives. Her influence will be evident in the journal’s pages, and on this open site (see, for example, the forums on Occupy and Militarism that she convened, and the virtual theme issue on Geo-political economy that she co-edited) for a long time to come. We wish her well in all her future endeavours and, though her voice in our near daily email correspondence and frequent skype meetings is sorely missed, we are very pleased that she will continue to work with us as an Editorial Board member.

We also bid farewell to Review Editors Veronica Della Dora and Kathryn Yusoff and thank them for their efforts to commission book reviews, commentaries, forums and more over the last few years. We thank Kathryn for drawing out the issues of geophilosophy and the Anthropocene, and we are grateful for Veronica’s devoted commitment to posting reviews of books in a variety of languages and want to recognize the hard work she has done to ensure the open site’s vibrancy since 2012.

In their place, we are delighted to announce new Review Editors Bobby Benedicto and Lauren Martin (note though that Lauren will begin work in late March of this year, so any queries should be directed to Bobby until then).

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 10.59.28 AMBobby is Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. His research, which examines how queer public cultures are shaped by the built environments of postcolonial cities, is located at the intersections of queer theory, postcolonial theory, cultural geography, and cultural anthropology. Bobby’s first book, Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2014 (see a review forum on it here), and he is currently working on a second book project, tentatively titled, “Queer Afterlives: Dictatorship Architecture, Transgender Performance, and the Place of the Dead”.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 11.01.15 AMLauren recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Geography at the University of Oulu (Finland) and is now a Lecturer in Geography at the University of Durham. Her research explores the spatial politics of US noncitizen family detention, the geopolitics of migration control, and the government of intimacy. She has also published on detention visitation, anti-detention organizing, and security in outlets such as Environment and Planning A, Geopolitics, Social and Cultural Geography, and Gender, Place and Culture.

Finally, we offer our sincere thank you to our outgoing Board members for their contributions to the journal and open site. Their years of work have helped us to maintain Society and Space’s commitment to conceptually innovative and politically engaged scholarship. They are: Deborah Bird Rose, Emily Brady, Justin Clemens, Mathew Coleman, Marieke de Goede, Mustafa Dikeç, Marcus Doel, Roxanne Doty, Juliet Fall, Peter Gratton, Craig Jeffrey, Shiloh Krupar, Abidin Kusno, Achille Mbembe, Eduardo Mendieta, Marie-Eve Morin, Patricia Noxolo, Ananya Roy, Elena Trubina, Anna Tsing, Cindy Weber, and Haim Yacobi.

Our new board reflects our continuing commitment to disciplinary, topical and geographical diversity. Further, commensurate with the demands presented by rising numbers of manuscript submissions, and our commitment to offering additional, open access content through this open site, we have expanded the board membership. We are pleased to welcome the following scholars to our new Editorial Board and look forward to working closely with them during their 3-year terms:

Aren Aizura (Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota)
Teo Ballvé (Peace and Conflict Studies, and Geography, Colgate University)
Gautam Bhan (Indian Institute for Human Settlements)
Joe Bryan (Geography, University of Colorado)
Brenda Chalfin (Anthropology, University of Florida)
Rosemary Collard (Geography, Concordia University)
Melinda Cooper (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)
Deborah Cowen (Geography, University of Toronto)
Ayona Datta (Geography, University of Leeds)
Ilse Helbrecht (Geography, Humboldt University)
Caleb Johnston (Geography, University of Edinburgh)
Anja Kanngieser (Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong)
Anja Karlsson Franck (School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg)
Nadim Khoury (Philosophy, Arctic University of Norway)
Ashok Kumar (Geography, Queen Mary University of London)
Loren Landau (African Centre for Migration and Society, University of the Witwatersrand)
Angela Last (Geography, University of Glasgow)
Agnieszka Leszczynski (Environment, University of Auckland)
Francis Nyamnjoh (Anthropology, University of Cape Town)
Rupal Oza (Women and Gender Studies, Hunter College)
Álvaro Reyes (Geography, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill)
Álvaro Sevilla Buitrago (Urban and Regional Planning, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid)
Rashad Shabazz, (School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University)
Kendra Strauss (Labour Studies and Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University)
Zoe Todd (Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University)
Helen Wilson (Geography, University of Manchester)
Woon Chih Yuan (Geography, National University of Singapore)

Top ten Society and Space posts of 2015

It was a busy year on the Society & Space open site. As a partial recap, here is a list of the top ten most visited pages amongst those we published in 2015.

10. Sacred Space Unbound
A virtual theme issue edited by Veronica Della Dora pulling together articles from the archives of Society and Space as well as Environment and Planning A. 

9. “Future fossils” exhibition
For this forum, Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer and Kathryn Yusoff invited contributors to speculate on “future fossils” and reflect on the process of speculation itself as a mode of engagement.

8. Kimberley Peters and Philip Steinberg – A wet world: rethinking place, territory and time
This photo essay supplements Steinberg and Peters’ 2015 Society and Space article ‘Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking’.

7. Forum on ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and the politics of response
Angharad Closs Stephens convened this forum from an event organized by the Politics-State-Space research cluster at Durham University Geography Department.

6. Review of Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution 
Corey McCall reviews Brown’s (2015) “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.”

5. Antonis Vradis – In-between Spaces
Vradis offers thoughts on left-wing party Syriza’s rise to power in Greece in this commentary included in a forum convened by Stuart Elden on The Greek elections and the future of Europe.

4. Review of Kate Schechter’s Illusions of a Future: Psychoanalysis and the Biopolitics of Desire
Justin Clemens reviews Schechter’s 2014 ethnographic exploration of the political economy of private therapeutic labor within industrialized medicine.

3. Interview with Maurizio Ferraris by Peter Gratton
Peter Gratton interviews Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris on the turn in his to work what he dubs a ‘new realism’.

2. Interview with Michael Watts
In this wide-ranging interview, Stuart Elden talks with Michael Watts about his work on Nigeria, political ecology, geographies of violence, and his thoughts on and contributions to the discipline of geography.

1. Mustafa Dikeç – Hate
This powerful commentary written in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office and other Paris sites in January 2015 unequivocally condemns the attacks while thoughtfully and reflecting on persistent divisions within French society.

In addition, posts from previous years that continued to get good audiences include: interviews with Lauren Berlant, Elizabeth Povinelli, Adrian Johnston and Łukasz Stanek; reviews of Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, David Harvey’s Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Globalectics; commentaries by Craig Dalton and Jim Thatcher (What does a critical data studies look like), Bruce Braun and Stephanie Wakefield (Inhabiting the postapocalyptic city), Ross Exo Adams (On the concept of urbanization), Jennifer Gabrys (Smart cities as sustainable cities), Alison Mountz (Carceral society on Guam and Saipan), and Daniel Goh (The spatiality of migrant labour in Singapore); and an anti-gentrification poem by the late Vancouver activist Bud Osborn.

Thanks to all of our contributors, and to those who have supported our efforts by reading and sharing this engaging open access work.

Jugaad and Tactics – Reflections by Amit S Rai, Anisha Saigal, and Shiva Thorat

In the article “The affect of Jugaad: Frugal innovation and postcolonial practice in India’s mobile phone ecology“, which appears in the current issue of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and is free to access until 16 January 2016, Amit S. Rai examines the Indian form of workaround called ‘jugaad’ to explore how affect is produced through consumer services and goods to modulate human–technical assemblages for commercial and economic ends. The text below is offered as a supplement to the article by Rai as well as Anisha Saigal and Shiva Thorat, two other researchers working on the project from which the article stems. 


exhaust hose jugaad, from fb page of jugaad you

The social practice of everyday hacking, digital and mobile workarounds, information piracy, illegal copying and sharing—in a word, jugaad culture—is an increasing feature of post-liberalisation India. But it has a history that must be understood as always involving repeatedly forgotten experiments in techno-perceptual assemblages. This history is marked by regimes of surplus accumulation that over time have effected a seemingly permanent separation of the body from what it can do. Our research into jugaad returns to this question of affect by situating social practices that remain untimely to the regimes of neoliberal development, enforced austerity and perpetual debt. What makes the contemporary moment jugaad time? This is as much a question of the growing Hindu chauvinism vitiating political and social life under Modi (but begun long before him)— what are Modi’s jugaads?—as it is a question of untimely politics. The social practice of jugaad traverses traditional class, caste, gender, and ablist norms of identity, yet while many people practice jugaad, not everyone can openly lay claim to it as some sort of heroic script of emergent power. Indeed, jugaad’s history has been and tactically must remain hidden; for the millions of jugaadu, visibility is a trap.

The reflections on the developing research practice of jugaad highlight several aspects of the social phenomenon in India; the photos present another kind of problem. Partly this problem has to do with representation. How, through what fetishes, codes, contrasts, and analogies, have images of jugaad proliferated in Digital India? Indeed, what images of jugaad in urban contexts point to is a heterogeneous mix of politics, rhythms, resources, infrastructures, and temporalities. The images themselves present contrasts, new connections, makeshift infrastructures that strike the eye at first as a hallucination: that doesn’t belong with that. This tactic of novel conjunctures allows jugaadus to develop improvised responses to material conditions of inequality.

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