Category Archives: Book Reviews

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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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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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.

West, Isaac 2013 Transforming Citizenships: Transgender Articulations of the Law – A Review Forum

West_Transforming Citizenships_coverThis review forum stems from an author-meets-critics session on Isaac West’s Transforming Citizenships: Transgender Articulations of the Law, organized by David K. Seitz at the 2015 Chicago AAG Meeting. Here are reviews by Derek Ruez, Petra L. Doan, and Amy A. Dobrowolsky, as well as a response from Isaac West.

Review forum of Jenna Loyd’s 2014 Health Rights Are Civil Rights

Society and Space Board member Shiloh Krupar organized this book review forum of Jenna Loyd’s 2014 book, Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978 (University of Minnesota Press), with reviews by Javier Arbona, Paul Jackson, Becky Mansfield, and Katherine McKittrick, with an introduction Shiloh Krupar and a response from Jenna Loyd.

Review Forum on Bobby Benedicto’s Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.07.15 PMStemming from an author-meets-critics session on Bobby Benedicto’s Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene at the 2015 Chicago AAG meeting, here are reviews by Geraldine PrattDerek Ruez, and David Seitz, as well as a response from Bobby Benedicto.


Chamayou G 2015 “Drone Theory” reviewed by Britain Hopkins

9780241970348Grégoire Chamayou, Drone Theory, Penguin, London, 2015. 304 pages. £6.99, paperback. ISBN: 978-0-241-97034-8 (


Grégoire Chamayou’s Drone Theory seeks to understand how the drone, as lethal military technology, transforms modalities of war and the subject’s relationship to the state. The author finds that the drone’s matrix of weaponized surveillance gives rise to an increasingly autonomous state of sovereign violence from which subjective will is excluded. The monograph’s five sections, each divided into concise chapters ranging from a few to a dozen pages, neatly trace the drone through a series of revolutions in technology, psychology, ethics, law, and sovereign power. Continue reading Britain Hopkins review here

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Free the map: Gazing at Belting’s Anthropology of Images from a map studies perspective

k9550Tania Rossetto reflects on Hans Belting’s An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body through a map studies perspective. The book was originally published in German in 2001 with the title Bild-Anthropologie: Entwürfe für eine Bildwissenschaft and first translated into English by Thomas Dunlap in 2011. A new paperback edition by Princeton University Press appeared last year.

Recently, there has been some insistence on the need to include images as objects of study within geographical research inspired by non-representational theories. While digging through promising non-representational theories, Ben Anderson and Paul Harrison felt the need to specify that “everything happens, everything acts. Everything, including images, words and texts” (2010, page 14). While discussing photography in urban studies, Gillian Rose recently identified the shift towards a consideration of images as more than representational: an approach that requires a “bodily and emotional stance rather than interpretive or hermeneutic work” (2014, page 9). The geographies of embodiment, multisensoriality and practice, thus, include work on images, provided that those images are thought of as performative, relational, corporeal and affective. In this apparently paradoxical inclusion (the nexus of body-image) lies one of the main points of interest in Hans Belting’s book from the point of view of current cultural geographical debates. The leitmotif of this book, well emphasized by the subtitle chosen for the English version, is in fact the relationship between bodies and images, and in particular, the idea of considering the human body to be a living medium for images.

For Belting, art history has alienated the image from the body. First published in Germany in 2001, his book appeared as an intervention (or a manifesto) directed mainly at art historians, with the precise aim of contesting the established idea of the work of art in favour of a wider notion of Bild (which in German means both ‘image’ and ‘picture’, but is used here in the sense of ‘image’). Advancing the need for a “science of the image” (Bildwissenschaft) in order to transcend the borders of art history, Belting was contributing to the field of studies now identified as visual culture studies, visual studies or image studies (with distinctions from the field of media theory, as he maintains). An Italian image theory reader (Pinotti and Somaini 2009), for instance, includes Belting among scholars like W.J.T. Mitchell, Gottfried Boehm, James Elkins, Louis Marin and David Freedberg, while presenting the polyvocal reflection on the set of problems inherent to the image which animates contemporary debate.

In this review, however, I do not wish to directly engage with the (already much discussed and criticized) contributions of an influential scholar (for example, see Wood 2004). Instead, I would like to direct an oblique gaze on this book by adopting the perspective of the map scholar. Continue reading Tania’s review here.

Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis reviewed

9781908996367Denis Linehan reviews Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis, a volume edited by Gerry Kearns, David Meredith and John Morrissey and published by the Royal Irish Academy in 2014.

Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis is an important collection of geographical essays which provides a coherent and sustained critique of the 2008 crisis and its impacts on Ireland. Building on research projects by its main contributors, the volume aims at identifying the injustices found in the underlying spatial structure of Irish social life. The collection also opens a debate on the application and use of the phrase ‘spatial justice’, offering throughout reflections on its merits, potential and applications. Continue reading Denis’ review here.

A promontory perspective on ‘multiple modernities’: Baker on Hansen

51KJh2dKumL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Julian Baker reviews Peter Hansen’s The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 2013).

Today, the bald peak of Mont Ventoux rises white and treeless above the vineyards of Provence, an hour’s drive northeast of Avignon, capped with a weather station and the goal of visiting cyclists. In 1336 the Italian poet Francesco Petrarch climbed to this summit and contemplated the view. Later, after a reviving supper at his inn, he wrote out his experiences. For five hundred years readers paid little notice to the climb. Rather, Petrarch became famous for his lyrical sonnets and rediscovery of Cicero’s letters. Then, in 1860, the Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt identified Petrarch, for his inclination to climb a peak for the aesthetic fulfillment of the scenery, as the first “modern man”.

This overlap of ascent, identity and modernity is the subject of Peter Hansen’s The Summits of Modern Man. Through a selective history of mountaineering, Hansen attempts to explain “a particular strand of modernity in which modern man stands alone on the summit, autonomous from other men and dominant over nature” (page 2). Continue reading Julian’s review here.

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