The domestic uncanny and the geographical unconscious: two new reviews

Over the past few years the spatial, social and cultural dimensions of the uncanny and of the unconscious have attracted increasing interdisciplinary interest. Two new books on these themes are reviewed on the Open Site:

9781409467724.PPC_alternative mobilitesFirst is Carol Lipman’s Co-habiting with Ghosts: Knowledge, Experience, Belief and the Domestic Uncannyreviewed by Sara MacKian. Further information about this title can be found here.

Sara is the author of Everyday Spirituality: Social and Spatial Worlds of Enchantment (Palgrave, MacMillan 2012).






Second is Argyro Loukaki’s The Geographical Unconscious, reviewed by Christos Kakalis. For further information on the book, follow this link.







Both titles were published by Ashgate earlier on this year.

The new urban question – A conversation on the legacy of Bernardo Secchi with Paola Pellegrini

2_Secchi_Milano_by%20Lambrecths_2006Bernardo Secchi (1934-2014) was an Italian urban theorist, renowned urban planner, Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura (IUAV) of Venice and Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the Polytechnic of Milano. For almost half a century, he was a central figure within European and Italian interdisciplinary debates on the contemporary city and urban design. His research was located within the wider discourses of space and societal transformations, influenced by post-’68 French theorists and nourished specifically by a wide investigation of European urban territories. In his practice, he developed plans and visions for small and large cities in Italy and Europe, including Milano, Jesi, Brescia, Pesaro, Siena, Ascoli Piceno, Bergamo, Prato, Pescara, Lecce, Madrid, Antwerp[1], Bruxelles and Moscow. In 2008 he was amongst the ten architects selected to develop a vision for Grand Paris[2]; his idea of ‘ville poreuse’ focused on the improvement of permeability and accessibility, as a strategy to ensure the fundamental right to the city. As a scholar and intellectual, he was fascinated by the multiple narratives and multidisciplinary nature of urban territories. In the books, Prima lezione di Urbanistica (2007), La città del ventesimo secolo (2008), La città dei ricchi e la città dei poveri (2013), regrettably not yet translated for English speaking scholars, he placed into creative tension the economic, political, and cultural dimensions of urbanism, informed by theoretical insights and underpinned by an engagement with spatial realities and design projects. He treated urban transformations with vivid, lucid and contemporary analyses that utilized theories as productive investigative tools to elucidate society and space rather than as merely self-referential intellectual gestures.

Secchi’s death in September marks a great loss for urbanism. The conversation below is a gesture towards bringing his work to a wider Anglophone audience, since little of his work has been translated into English. It reflects on his legacy by exploring his intellectual production[3], critical pedagogy and practice, with a special focus on the exploration of his idea of a ‘new urban question’ and the formation of his reflexive urban research praxis. The ‘new urban question’ was addressed most concertedly in his last book, and is concerned with the increasing social inequalities and spatial injustice. His urban research praxis, shaped by long-term practice and experience, voracious curiosity and acute observation, aimed to dismantle disciplinary boundaries and conventional scales, focusing on a certain idea of precision, accuracy and patience. We conducted an interview with Paola Pellegrini, urbanist and scholar, and Secchi’s associate for 12 years, and asked her to offer a personal and professional reflection on Secchi’s intellectual legacy.

Camillo Boano and Giovanna Astolfo

”The whole history of the city can be written keeping in mind the compatibility or incompatibility of the people […] Intolerance denies proximity, it separates and creates distance between activities, buildings, public spaces, their inhabitants and users” - B. Secchi[4]

Camillo Boano/Giovanna Astolfo: Bernardo Secchi wrote and reflected extensively on the democratization of urban space, the emergence of the ordinary, and, more recently[5], on the still fundamental issue of ‘comment vivre ensemble’ (how to live together), a topic you developed in recent work on proximity[6]. Can you explain it further?

Paola Pellegrini: The search for proximity is part of the patient search for the physical and feasible dimensions of individual and collective welfare, which was a major topic in Secchi’s work (see his ‘La città del XX secolo’ [7]) and can be described, in his own words, as an “attempt to give a concrete dimension, physically perceptible to individual collective welfare/wellbeing[8] and to its distribution among the various social groups”[9].

But it also goes beyond this search and refers to the idea that new individual practices and the consequences on the ways of living together – such as individualization and the search for some kind of network very well explained by Richard Sennett, Ulrich Beck and Zygmunt Bauman in recent and less recent years – are the basis of new ideas of the city and territory. The search for independent and individual rhythm in the community – Barthes’s comment vivre ensemble[10]and idiorrhythms-, the recent appearance of various ‘coexistence’ experiments in many European urban contexts, the revival of the notion of spatial proximity in urban design and planning practice are moments of this reasoning, trying to further articulate Webber’s idea of ‘urbanity without propinquity’ [11]. As an example of this revival, all of the participants to the plan for the great Paris metropolitan area in 2008-2009, in their different proposed models or solutions, claim the city must grow upon itself and densify; a renouvellement of the idea of concentration, density, compact city, direct relations…

Continue reading here.

Tagged ,

Barry, Andrew 2013 “Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline” reviewed by Kai Bosworth

51cxb9xGfyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Kai Bosworth reviews Andrew Barry’s book “Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline”

While many geographers and political theorists have argued that materials augment capacities for political experimentation, provoke public outrage, or shape power relations, others suspect that focus on the vague politics of matter is largely a force for rendering political contestation inoperable. In Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline, Andrew Barry sidesteps both arguments, instead arguing that materials are bound up with the availability or transparency of information. Barry argues that the production of material information – lay and expert knowledge, documents, data and evidence of harm or injury – can often lead to new or more intense forms of dissent, especially over the frontier between public and clandestine information. Barry demonstrates this thesis through a wide-ranging and comprehensive account of the forces that attempt to demarcate where, how and which materials come to be disputed in the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. Through an examination of a number of different sites and materials: landslides, beehives, concerned citizens and international NGOs, artistic practices, knowledge controversies, labor disputes, and archives of documents, Barry constructs a vast web of the relations and processes that come to matter (or don’t) in the political construction of a multinational energy infrastructure system.

Continue reading Kai Bosworth’s review here

Also on Society and Space by Kai Bosworth Notes towards a geological uprising by way of a dark feminism


Tagged , , , , , ,

Eyal Weizman interview, film screening, Society and Space lecture and review of Forensis forthcoming

An interesting interview with Eyal Weizman, ahead of a screening of the film ‘The Architecture of Violence’at SOAS Khalili Lecture Theatre at 7.15pm on 5 December as part of the London Palestine Film Festival. After the documentary Weizman will be speaking on Architecture and Violence after Gaza.

Eyal gave the 30th anniversary Society and Space lecture at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) conference at the University of Edinburgh in 2012. A review essay by Gastón Gordillo of the  Forensis collection Eyal directed is forthcoming in the journal in 2015. Gastón has posted the introduction of this essay on his Space and Politics blog.

Mapping The Politics of National Rankings in the Movement Against “Modern Slavery”

“A global politics of rescue”

By Siobhán McGrath and Fabiola Mieres

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 12.25.53

Screen shot from 2014 Global slavery Index (see

Africa is bleeding red.

We refer to the first image on the webpage of Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index (GSI) 2014: a map depicting the estimated prevalence of “modern slavery” in 167 countries. “Modern slavery” is understood by Walk Free to include trafficking, forced labour and forced marriage. At a glance, the map shows the Middle East and most of Asia in shades of red and orange, faring hardly better than the African continent. Lighter shades in Latin America seem to indicate progress in comparison. In turn, Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand tend towards pale yellow. Such an image suggests the Global North metaphorically shedding light onto the dark parts of the world where slavery still flourishes. The image troubles us. It is replete with colonial overtones, ones which have been carried into the modern project of development. Thus, rather than providing an exhaustive critique of the methodology behind the GSI, in the rest of this brief commentary, we explore some of the politics of the report and of its methodology. Continue reading their commentary here

Readers might also be interested in Ben Rogaly’s Society and Space review of Judy Fudge and Kendra Strauss (Eds) Temporary work, agencies and unfree labour: insecurity in the new world of work

and Open Democracy’s Beyond Slavery

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Casey, Edward. S. and Watkins, Mary. 2014 Up Against the Wall: Re-Imagining the U.S.-Mexico Border, reviewed by Eduardo Mendieta

Up against the wall“Walled in and without Home”

Edward. S. Casey and Mary Watkins, Up Against the Wall: Re-Imagining the U.S.-Mexico Border. University of Texas Press, Austin, 2014, 346 pages, $40.20 hardcover, $18.73 softcover. ISBN: 978-0-292-75841-4 (

I am writing this text in the shadow of President Obama’s speech, now christened “Come out of the Shadows”, as well as the partisan and exorbitant reaction by Republicans denouncing the President’s plan to “deal responsibly with millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.” In other words, I write about Casey and Watkins’s very timely book, in the shadow of yet another staging of the US’s struggle with its imperial and racial history, on the one hand, and its project and promise to be a beacon of light for the ‘tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free’—to paraphrase—on the other hand. This book is a celebration, and invitation to a reaffirmation, of this project and promise. Continue reading Society and Space’s Editorial Board member, Eduardo Mendieta’s review here

Tagged , , , ,

A Fractured Landscape of Modernity reviewed by Elizabeth Straughan

9781137287076Elizabeth Straughan reviews James Wilkes’ new book A Fractured Landscape of Modernity: Culture and Conflict in the Isle of Purbeck. The book came out with Palgrave Macmillan earlier on this year as part of the Language, Discourse and Society series. Futher information about the book can be found here.

Searching for the sublime in everyday life: Ryan on Quinney

downloadJames Ryan reviews Richard Quinney’s photographic book A Sense Sublime (Borderland Books, 2013).

Quinney is a sociologist by profession and he is known for his academic writings as well as for several books of autobiographical memoirs, which focus on his life in Illinois and Wisconsin. In this work, Quinney presents a series of photographs and short descriptive essays, or “field notes”, recording his life between 1983 and 2001 when he lived in the town of DeKalb in northern Illinois.  Through this combination of photograph and text, Quinney invites the reader on a journey through his hometown and familiar landscapes at the end of the twentieth century. This is a very personal story. As Quinney explains in his introduction, during 18 years he lived in DeKalb, he underwent a number of major life changes including treatment for chronic leukaemia; retirement from his university post at Northern Illinois University; the death of his mother; the end of one marriage and the beginning of another; becoming a grandfather, and, finally leaving for Wisconsin. The work, perhaps unsurprisingly given such personal experiences, is animated by a self-consciously spiritual tone. Quinney’s camera and field notes are thus used in his determination to seek out a transcendental sense of beauty, to experience, as Quinney puts it, “the sublime in everyday life” (page 7). Continue reading James’ review here.

See also Sophie Leroy’s recent review of Yi-Fu Tuan’s 2013 book Romantic Geography: In Search of the Sublime.


Society and Space Lecture at the 2015 AAG: Professor Lauren Berlant

We are delighted to announce that Lauren Berlant will give the 2015 Society and Space Lecture at the AAG in Chicago. The talk is entitled:


Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin

This is a talk about how to read atmospheres propped not by melodrama and heightened impact but by recessive action and flat affect. The concept of a “structure of feeling” offered by Raymond Williams points to atmospheres shared among strangers but circulating beneath the surface of explicit life. How do we access that material when the shared affects are manifested in styles of being that occlude expressivity? Just as the Great Depression was thought to express and induce the affective state, are we now in a recession? “Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin” works with Scott Heim’s novel and Gregg Araki’s film to think about how scenes of “underperformed” encounter shift social norms of trust and aesthetic norms of the event: to do this, it implicates a history of aesthetic movements from twentieth century avant-gardes and theories of traumatic dissociation to the inside knowledges of sexual culture and the DIY aesthetics of punk and mumblecore.

Read David Seitz’s 2013 interview on the Open Site with Professor Berlant here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,111 other followers