Category Archives: Book Reviews

Uneven trading: Gieseking on Harris

514Q9dxdL3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Jen Jack Gieseking reviews Tina Harris’ monograph Geographical Diversions: Tibetan Trade, Global Transactions (University of Georgia Press, 2013).

Geographical Diversions is a well written ethnographic contribution to the study of mobilities, fixities, and trade, with a focus on trade routes in Nepal, Tibet (or Tibetan Autonomous Region, i.e. TAR), India, and China. In her first monograph, anthropologist and geographer Tina Harris traces the “properties, spatial origins, and trajectories of commodities” that serve to fix some geographies while rendering others mobile and free. Moving between ethnographic thick descriptions of traders’ precarious stop and start movements over dangerous and shifting routes, dull-yet-revitalized British colonial diaries, local and international newspaper clippings and archival records, and interviews with traders, the book is a dialogue between geocultural and geopolitical economies of those living and trading across national, regional, and local scales. Continue reading here.

Spatial Humanities: Promise and Peril

Spatial Humanities9780253011862_medGwilym Eades offers a double review of The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship, edited by David Bodenhamer, John Corrigan, and Trevor Harris (2010) and  Toward Spatial Humanities: Historical GIS and Spatial History, edited by Ian Gregory and Alistair Geddes (2014). Both volumes came out with Indiana University Press.

The transformation of GIS into GIScience was a de-reifying move in a succession of moves that have gradually brought geospatial tools and technologies into realms of scholarly reputability. It is now no longer a knee-jerk reaction to assume that the use of GIS as part of scientific, cultural, political, or economic inquiry must be part of a positivistic conspiracy to colonise (and ultimately degrade or destroy) geographic inquiry once and for all.  I will argue, through a review of two recent books from the University of Indiana Press (The Spatial Humanities and Toward Spatial Humanities), that, nonetheless, reaction (though now less knee-jerk) is still real, and that because of this reaction, reification of geospatial technologies often occurs through reduction of technologies and practices to sets of tools.  I will argue, further, that it is only through focus on geospatial practices (Wittgenstein, 2009; Hanna and Harrison, 2004) that continued de-reification of GIS, and subsequent productive uptake in sub-disciplines within geography or related disciplines, can occur. Continue reading Gwilym’s review here.

Review of Jerusalem Unbound

9780231161961Oren Shlomo reviews Michael Dumper’s book Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History and the Future of the Holy City (Columbia University Press, 2014).

The violent events of the summer of 2014 in Jerusalem were a tangible reminder of the explosive tension that characterizes inter-group relations in the contested city. Those events brought to life the lines between Israeli and Palestinian urban spaces, especially in the northern parts of the city, and highlighted them as rigid internal boundaries between the two communities. Michael Dumper’s book, written prior to those events, offers an outstanding and wide analytical overview of Jerusalem’s inner and external borders. Continue reading Oren’s review here.


51ZloglmLWL._AA324_PIkin4,BottomRight,-53,22_AA346_SH20_OU15_Stuart Aitken reviews Psychoanalytic Geographies, a collection edited by Paul Kingsbury and Steve Pile (Ashgate, 2014).

For many of us who engage psychoanalytic theories to help understand the geographies of identity, day-to-day events and the spatialities of change and transformation, this book has been a long-time coming.  While not attempting to cover the complete range of psychoanalytic approaches used in geography, it nonetheless comes pretty close, and it certainly evokes an opus that makes important  connections between space, society, and the psyche by bringing together constituent parts in a credible and comprehensive way. Continue reading Stuart’s review here.

Rogers on Pedwell

9781137275257Amanda Rogers reviews Carolyn Pedwell’s book Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy (Palgrave Macmillan 2014).

Pedwell’s rich study examines the diverse ways in which empathy is mobilised – from political speeches that uphold neoliberalism, to postcolonial literatures that refuse certain forms of empathic connection. Empathy is an affective relation often conceptualized in liberal and neoliberal thought as the imaginative and felt ability to “put oneself in the other’s shoes”. In challenging the appropriative dynamics of this mode of perspective taking, alongside its assumptions of universality, Affective Relations underscores the multiple configurations of empathy across different contexts. Continue reading Amanda’s review here.

In the Meantime reviewed

s-l500Ella Harris reviews Sarah Sharma’s In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics. The book came out last year with Duke University Press and further information about it can be found here.

Justin Clemens reviews Kate Schechter’s ‘Illusions of a Future: Psychoanalysis and the Biopolitics of Desire’

978-0-8223-5721-6_prIf psychoanalysis proved globally to be one of the greatest intellectual and ethical events of the twentieth century, crossing and scrambling the divisions between the sciences and arts, medicine and morality, the technical and the everyday, it perhaps had its most outrageous popular and institutional success in the mid-century United States. There, it not only enjoyed an almost-incredible triumph in its rapid and near-total takeover of psychiatric institutions across the country, but infiltrated the field of cultural production to the point where the shrink cartoon became a genre in its own right.

Continue reading Justin’s review here

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Rethinking place and protest in the digital age: two new reviews

Two new reviews are now available on the Open Site:

9780745333052First is Pollyanna Ruiz’s Articulating Dissent: Protest and the Public Sphere, reviewed by Hannah Awcock (Pluto Press, 2014).








9780415889551Second is Mobile Technology and Place, a collection edited by Rowan Wilken and Gerard Goggin and reviewed by Michael Duggan. The volume was published by Routledge in 2012 and has recently appeared in paperback.

Clayton Howard reviews Amy Howard’s More Than Shelter: Activism and Community in San Francisco Public Housing

image_miniClayton Howard reviews Amy Howard’s (2014) More Than Shelter: Activism and Community in San Francisco Public Housing

Few policy debates have launched greater scholarly inquiry than discussions of the so-called “underclass” in the 1980s and 1990s. Beginning in the Reagan administration, conservatives such as political scientist Charles Murray (1984) condemned what they saw as the adverse effects of the liberal welfare state (see also Mead, 1986). Programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and public housing, in their view, rewarded poor people for bad behavior, and scholars like Murray catalogued a long list of consequences that had allegedly resulted from the liberal safety net, including laziness, promiscuity, and crime. Although individuals ultimately made choices about right and wrong, conservative critics claimed that the very programs meant to help low income Americans had ironically trapped them in a nearly inescapable cycle of poverty. Public housing, for example, segregated residents from jobs and possible middle-class role models, while AFDC allegedly encouraged single-mothers to have more children. These conservative critiques helped tip public opinion against support for liberal welfare policies in the 1990s and ultimately led to bipartisan efforts to reform them. In 1996, President Bill Clinton announced the end of the “era of big government” and signed bills that eliminated AFDC and destroyed some of the nation’s largest housing projects. These debates inspired numerous books from sociologists, geographers, and historians, including Amy Howard’s recent work More Than Shelter: Activism and Community in San Francisco’s Public Housing. Continue reading Clayton Howard’s review here

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Geografias Malditas: Corpos, Sexualidades e Espaços reviewed by Jan Hutta and Maria Rodó-de-Zárate

travestis e respeito kleinJan Hutta (Universität Bayreuth), EPD author and contributor and Maria Rodó-de-Zárate (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) review the edited collection, Geografias Malditas: Corpos, Sexualidades e Espaços (Damned/Cursed Geographies: Bodies, Sexualities and Spaces), edited by Joseli Maria Silva, Marcio Jose Ornat and Alides Baptista Chimin Junior.

This important book focuses on the lives, politics and spaces of trans people, mainly in Brazil, but also in Spain, Chile, New Zealand and transnational space. The editors are members of GETE, Grupo de Estudos Territoriais (Territorial Studies Group), which is based at the State University of Ponta Grossa in Paraná, Brazil.

Geografias Malditas clearly breaks with the tradition of ‘speaking-for’, making a significant contribution to collaborative knowledge production. It goes beyond established practices of ‘giving voice’ by placing four texts written by travestis right in the first section of the book – rather than positioning them as subjective or illustrative add-ons. This is significant on both epistemological and political levels, this is not only a book about trans people. Rather, trans people, and in particular travestis, also figure prominently among the authors of the book. The significance of this issue can’t be overstated, since trans people in academic and scientific discourses have for decades been spoken for by so-called ‘experts’, who have pathologised and exoticised them. Even with the emergence of queer and transgender studies, it has been a common practice in social science debates to have cis-gendered scholars present ‘theory’, while trans people are attributed the role of telling their ‘subjective experience’, denying their capacity to engage on epistemological and political levels, and establishing ill-conceived hierarchies between ‘theory’ and ‘experience’ (Stryker, 2006).

Continue reading Jan Hutta’s review here.

As the authors state in the introduction, this books breaks many disciplinary boundaries in geography. First of all, it covers a still under-explored area of research: trans geographies. Internationally, only a small number of researchers study the reality of trans people (see Browne, Nash and Hines, 2010) and in Brazil the research on it is also very scarce. The authors start by illustrating the situation of gender and sexuality geographies in Brazil and show how it is not a welcomed subject in Brazilian academia. In this context, gender and sexualities geographies are struggling to be considered part of social sciences, and travesti geographies are taken as non-scientific and non-geographical issues. As they state: “the feeling of disregard, aversion and rejection in relation to our scientific discourse on travestis made us realize how it was perceived as the ‘damned’, in a Foucauldian sense, unable to acquire scientific value in the sacrosanct and inviolable purity of the geographical science” (page 12). This is where the title of the book comes from…

Continue reading Maria Rodó-de-Zárate’s review here.

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