Aiken reviews Koelsch’s Geography and the Classical World

koelschEdwin Aiken reviews William Koelsch’s Geography and the Classical World: Unearthing Historical Geography’s Forgotten Past. The book came out at the end of 2012 as part of IB Tauris’ Historical Geography Series. Further information about the book can be found here.

Koelsch has produced a monumental study to help populate the landscape of the history of historical geography with figures from classical geography, showing just how recently the practice of classical geography was a concern for scholars; indeed Koelsch points out that the special interest only really met its demise around the turn of the twentieth century. Continue reading Aiken’s review here.

Edwin is the author of Scriptural Geography: Portraying the Holy Land (IB Tauris, 2010)


Lefebvre’s beach: Gordillo on Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

image_miniGastón Gordillo reviews Henri Lefebvre’s newly published book Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). An interview with Lukasz Stanek, the editor of the book, is available here.

Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991) was one of the most incisive, original, and prolific philosophers of the twentieth century, and his wide-ranging books profoundly redefined our understanding of space as something material, produced, embodied, and disrupted by conflict and violence. Yet, it is only in 2014 that we finally have access to his masterfulToward an Architecture of Enjoyment, his most forceful meditation on the spatial utopia he aspired to. Written in 1973 and subsequently forgotten for four decades, the book is an extraordinary exploration of the affective dimensions of space, a topic that was uncharted territory in the 1970s. Lefebvre tackled it with the creative heterodoxy that always characterized him, blending his acute spatial gaze, the critical spirit of Marxist theory, phenomenology’s bodily sensibility, and a Dionysian, Nietzschean thrust. Continue reading Gordillo’s review here.

Gastón is the author of Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction (Duke University Press, 2014) and was interviewed for the Open Site earlier this year.

Adey on Merriman: Mobility, Space and Culture

9780415593564Pete Adey reviews Peter Merriman’s book Mobilities, Space and Culture (Routledge 2012).

Other mobilities titles recently reviewed on the Open Site inlcude Kathryn Morrison and John Minnis’ Carscapes and Jensen’s Staging Mobilities.

Philosophy and Ecology at the End of the World: Morton’s Hyperobjects reviewed

hyperobjectsCara Daggett reviews Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World is a queasily vertiginous quest to synthesize the still divergent fields of quantum theory (the weirdness of small objects) and relativity (the weirdness of big objects) and insert them into philosophy and art, which he notes are far behind ontologically speaking. Morton’s wager is that for the first time, we in the Anthropocene are able to see snapshots of hyperobjects, and that these intimations more or less will force us to undergo a radical reboot of our ontological toolkit and (finally) incorporate the weirdness of physics.

Continue reading Daggett’s review here.

Harvey’s Seventeen Contradictions reviewed

harvey-seventeen-contradictionsDavid Harvey’s new book Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism is reviewed by Ståle Holgersen from Linnaeus University, Sweden. The book was published by Profile Books earlier this year.

An interview with the author and other related videos are available here.

Everyday utopias and dystopias

Two new titles are reviewed on the Open Site:


cooperFirst is Davina Cooper’s new book  Everyday Utopias: The Conceptual Life of Promising Spacesreviewed by Gerda Roelvink (Duke University Press, 2014).









srvrutil_getImgSecond is Pnina Motzafi-Haller’s In the Cement Boxes: Mizrahi Women in the Israeli Periphery, reviewed by Michal Braier. This book was published in Hebrew in 2012 by The Hebrew University Magnes Press.









A review of Michael Gardiner’s Weak Messianism: Essays in Everyday Utopianism by Davina Cooper is available here.

Gratton on Rancière’s Aisthesis

rancierePeter Gratton reviews Jacques Rancière’s Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art (Verso, 2013).

Jacques Rancière has become the most discussed French philosopher over the last few years. From multiple introductory books and special journal issues to collected volumes, Rancière, whose work was often marginal in the 1970s and 80s, has come to be a major influence over artists and activists, pedagogues and geographers. His political writings are best known for placing at their core an axiom of equality among all, as well as a certain aesthetics of spatiality—every regime is but a policing of the distribution (partage) of the sensible. But while Rancière’s political writings have been central to his reception among English-language readers, over the last decade his work has almost completely focussed on aesthetics. Aisthesis comes as the culmination of such efforts.

Continue reading Gratton’s review here.

Carscapes reviewed by Martin Dodge

carscapesMartin Dodge offers his review of Kathryn Morrison and John Minnis’ Carscapes: The Motor Car, Architecture and Landscape in England here.

This profusely illustrated book was published by Yale University Press in 2012 and won the Peter Neaverson Award for Outstanding Scholarship awarded by the Association for Industrial Archaeology and the Railway & Canal Historical Society’s Transport Book of the Year Awards 2014.

The book was also shortlisted for the 2014 Art Book Prize and for the Alice Davis Hitchcock 2014 Award sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

Judith Butler 2012 Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism reviewed by Lisa Bhungalia

Lisa Bhungalia reviews Judith Butler’s 2012 book “Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism”parting_ways_jewishness_and_the_critique_of_zionism-butler_judith-17414021-frntl

This is an updated version of the original posting.

It is day twenty-four of Israel’s latest military assault on Gaza. At the time of this posting, the Palestinian death toll exceeds 1,300 with casualties mounting by the hour. As per the most recent statistics from the United Nations, more than 250,000 residents have been internally displaced, many made refugees again, and much of Gaza’s urban and civilian infrastructure lay in ruins. To date, Israel has expropriated forty-four percent of this densely populated territory for a ‘buffer zone’, decimating neighborhoods within the demarcated area and forbidding Palestinians to return. As Israel’s ground invasion and aerial bombardments continue, the blockade imposed on this territory in 2006 remains in place (Rabbani 2014). Palestinians in Gaza are thus not only targeted by military violence, but they are further victimized by a regime of enforced immobility that has produced and maintained a humanitarian crisis for the 1.8 million inhabitants of this territory (Feldman 2014). Israel’s policy of forced enclosure (upheld along the southern border with Egypt) makes a mockery of the Israeli military’s ‘humanitarian warnings’ of impending attack. As even Jon Stewart has observed, ‘Evacuate to where? Have you seen Gaza?’

The scale and scope of destruction wrought on Gaza in the last twenty-four days, while devastating, is not exceptional. Rather it is, as Nimer Sultany (2014) notes, ‘once again’. It is ‘once again’ in multiple senses – first, and perhaps most commonly, the phrase is evoked in reference to the repetition of Palestinian death and destruction, as currently on brutal display in Gaza, as well as during previous Israeli incursions (2008-9, 2012). It is also used rhetorically to refer to an unceasing ‘cycle of violence’ between Israelis and Palestinians wherein wanton violence, it is argued, is inflicted on both sides (Shupak 2014). In this sense, ‘once again’ posits a false symmetry between Israel and the Palestinians while rendering outsiders passive, even if despaired, onlookers. However ‘once again’ is, as Sultany (2014) notes, not a ‘mere rhetorical gesture nor symptomatic of tragic despair.’ Rather it signals a ‘recursive power dynamic and a structural relationship between an occupier and an occupied.’

It is this context that is so often omitted from view in dominant coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As evidenced in popular coverage of Israel’s latest military assault of Gaza, the narrative most often begins with an unprovoked act of violence carried out on the part of the Palestinian ‘side’ to which Israel responds – and the cycle repeats. We hear of rockets launched into Israel; we hear of Israeli soldiers captured and killed. The narrative is about Israel’s victimhood, restraint or triumphalism in the face of imminent threat. Meanwhile mass Palestinian displacement and death is lamented as the unfortunate result of the dismantlement of ‘terrorist infrastructure’, or equally troubling, attributed to a ‘culture of martyrdom’ in which Palestinians will sacrifice even their own. Palestinians are themselves to blame for their own death and suffering. We hear nothing of the fact that in the absence of rocket fire into Israel, the siege on Gaza remains, settlement expansion across the West Bank continues and Palestinians remain subjects under Israeli military rule. During times of ‘calm’, strategies of containment and dispossession continue unabated.

That Palestinians continue to live in a political and ideological context in which they are deemed a demographic problem to be contained and controlled, in which their lives are taken with impunity, and in which they are disenfranchised, divided and placed under siege is rarely foregrounded in analyses of this ‘conflict.’ We are instead given sensational and easily digestible tropes of violence on ‘both sides’, ‘war’, and unrelenting ‘age-old religious conflict.’ In the absence of context, a false symmetry emerges – Israel and Hamas, it is commonly said are ‘at war’ (and if not Hamas, then any other number of Islamic and Palestinian ‘threats’ and ‘spoilers’ to peace). Such a framing however erases the multiple qualitative and quantitative differences at play between Israel and the Palestinians – yet even more crucially, it masks a political project predicated on the privileging of Jewish life, and correspondingly, devaluation of the life of the non-Jewish other. It is this context that has inspired Judith Butler’s most recent book, Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism.

Continue reading Lisa’s review here

Look out for an interview from Palestine with Lisa Bhungalia by Society and Space editorial team, Mat Coleman, Mary Thomas and Kathryn Yusoff next week.

Readers might also be interested in Christopher Harker’s review “Five Broken Geographies” of Emad Burnat’s film “5 Broken Cameras” on Society and Space Open Site and Gerry Kearns review of Judith Butler’s geopolitics, “The Butler affair and the geopolitics of identity” in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (paywall).

Atlases of disease

9780199572922Matthew Smallman-Raynor and Andrew Cliff’s Atlas of Epidemic Britain: A Twentieth Century Picture is reviewed by Tom Koch. The atlas was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press.

A selection of hi-res illustrations and maps from Andreas Vesalius and Abraham Ortelius’ atlases, which are discussed in the review, can be viewed at the online exhibition ATLASES: Poetics, Politics and Performance.

A review of Koch’s 2011 book Disease Maps: Epidemics on the Ground is available here.



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