Category Archives: Book Reviews

Transnationalisms: two new reviews

Reviews of the following two books are now published on the Open Site:


First is Sofie Narbed’s review of Amanda Rogers’ new monograph Performing Asian Transnationalisms: Theatre, Identity and the Geographies of Performance (Routledge, 2015).

Second is Zhuyun Amy Zang’s review of Ato Quayson’s Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism (Duke University Press, 2014).

The Spatial History: Maksakov on Yampolsky

JampolskijVladimir Maksakov reviews Пространственная история. Три текста об истории/ Prostranstvennaya istoria. Tri teksta ob istorii [The Spatial History. Three Texts on History] by Russian historian Mikhail Yampolsky. The book was published by Masterskaya Seans Press in 2013.

Spatial History, the title of Mikhail Yampolsky’s new book, evokes a vertical, rather than horizontal (or chronological), approach to history. The idea that historical process (and the writing of history) contains some focal points which allow one to take the gist of the events and deploy the logic of history in depth rather than in breadth is not new in principle. According to Yampolsky, the idea of progress at the basis of text teleology can be traced all the way back to ancient historians. Their aim was to show the history of the rise and exaltation of Rome, or, on the contrary, the decline of Greece. Here, textual coherence and narrative began to dictate their terms. Such works contained the concept of time at the level of plot, which implicitly led to a particular purpose. To avoid this in his own work, Yampolsky chooses an unconventional narrative. Spatial History consists of interconnected essays crafted from different materials from all areas of the humanities and are linked to major philosophers, historians, philologists, art historians, writers, poets, and architects. Continue reading Vladimir’s review here.


978-0-8223-5527-4_prLuca Follis reviews Janet Roitman’s book Anti-Crisis (Duke University Press, 2014).

We live in times of crisis, or so it would seem. News reports daily confirm the intractability of enduring geo-political predicaments (e.g., in Afghanistan and Iraq) and the emergence of new situations announced as historical turning points (e.g., Syria and ISIS, Greece and the EU, Ebola) to say nothing of the variegated, post-facto accounting of decision making and action during emergencies (e.g., the recent political wrangling over the USA Freedom Act or the US Senate’s Report on CIA Torture operations).  Political, institutional, financial and humanitarian crises abound and they proliferate at a seemingly unchecked pace. But is this global state of affairs merely a reflection of a historical, empirical moment or is it an expression of the ease and haste with which we label events as critical (and by extension the way we approach the broader category of crisis)? Continue reading Luca’s review here.

Cartographic mirages: Ferretti on Blais

9782213677620-X_0Federico Ferretti reviews Hélène Blais’ Mirages de la carte, l’invention de l’Algérie coloniale, XIXe – XXe siècle [Mirages of the Map: The Invention of Colonial Algeria, 19th-20th c.]. The book came out last year with Fayard.

Hélène Blais’ Mirages de la carte explores the geographical invention of Algeria during the French empire. The book interrogates the role of maps and surveys in the construction of a national image which was subsequently largely recovered by independent Algeria in the 1960s. This very rich and well-documented monograph is based on primary sources like maps and texts by French geographers and surveyors who worked in Algeria during the colonial period (1830-1962) and archive documents linked to their activities, mainly from the Archives Nationales d’Outre Mer and the Service Historique de la Défense. Drawing on French and international literature on geography and empire, Blais stresses the necessity to understand the field experiences through which “space practices take part in colonial politics” (page 10). The imposition of the imperial map, she argues, was not an all-powerful operation, but involved several conflicts and adaptations. Continue reading Federico’s review here.

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.


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