Category Archives: General

The problems of peer review

Another good posting on the ups and downs of peer review from the group blog, New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science.  It’s a good prompt for us to remind readers about the process of peer review at Society and Space and, while recognizing the extraordinary demands made on scholars today, to consider the importance of peer review for maintaining the excellent quality of our authors’ papers.

At Society and Space, every initial submission is typically read by all four of the editors as part of a prescreening process.  We consider the paper’s fit with the broad aims of the journal, quality of the paper, its theoretical sophistication (i.e., the suitability of the approach for our readership), its empirical rigor, the appropriateness of length and style, and whether a redirection to another journal is a better route than peer review with us, given the answers to these considerations.  We then contact the author to redirect them to another journal, or we offer advice on how to get the paper into a state suitable for review with us, or we enter the paper into peer review.

We’re constantly working on ways to improve the review process, but at the heart of the process is every reviewer’s commitment to provide timely and detailed feedback for authors.  Stuart Elden wrote an editorial in 2008 about the “exchange economy” of peer review, explaining the need to provide at least three times the reviews as one’s own submission record.  At the time he wrote the editorial, the journal received about 150 submissions per year.  Now, we receive 250+ submissions every year.  If every paper put through to peer review generates the need for at least three referee reports, that means we have to ask at a minimum 375-450 referees per year or so.

That is a best-case scenario, and often it’s a goal not realized when people commit to doing a review and then don’t follow through.  We often have to make decisions to accept or reject papers with only two reviews, but we always seek to generate a third or fourth review when two referees differ. We might wait two or three months for a review that never materializes, only to have to start over with new invitations.  It’s usual to need to ask five or six people to review to get two or three final reports.  On the other hand, it’s not at all uncommon for us to have to ask ten or more people to review a paper, just to get two productive reviews. A few papers in the past year each have needed 15-20 invitations to referees, only to generate a final two reviews.

Another obvious issue is the quality of reviews. We most often get excellent and informative reviews from our referees, and we thank them for the wonderful labor they do for the journal and for authors.  Occasionally, however, we struggle with how to frame a one-paragraph review from a referee to an author, as the brevity contains precious little information on how to improve a paper’s theoretical argument or strengthen its writing.  The commitment to review a paper can be onerous, but the result is always a better paper or in the least vital feedback so that the author can try to rework a rejected paper for another publication outlet.  The journal always benefits from detailed and rigorous reviews, as does the community of scholars who read and contribute to Society and Space, and who engage with critical social/spatial theory more generally.

On our publisher’s guidelines for authors page, we state that any submission comes with an expectation that authors will accept requests to review in the future from us. This is the suggestion that Catarina Dutilh Novaes makes at the conclusion of the APPS posting, which generated many hearty comments. We welcome yours here.


An interview with Elizabeth Grosz “Ontogenesis and the Ethics of Becoming” by Kathryn Yusoff

liz-grosz-photo-1.240.337.sOntogenesis and the Ethics of Becoming: an interview with Elizabeth Grosz by Kathryn Yusoff

Elizabeth Grosz is a feminist philosopher and Professor of Women’s Studies at Duke University. Her work has been important for geographers because of its engagements with spatial practices, volatile and sexed bodies, and the arts of cosmic engagement. More recently, audiences have been turning to Grosz’ work because of its explicit engagement with the inhuman forces of the earth and the explication of the forms of “geopower“. In this interview Grosz discusses her new book about questions of ontology and ethics, which draws on the philosophies of the Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche to address materialist idealism.

Elizabeth Grosz: I am currently working on a book, sort of on ethics, but more directly about questions of ontology. The book will include a chapter each on the Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche (who I can’t seem to stop writing about), Deleuze, Gilbert Simondon and Raymond Ruyer. It doesn’t have a title yet but I am nearing the end, slowly. What I am interested in is thinking about ethics, not in terms of morality, a code of conduct or a set of principles to regulate conduct from the outside, but in terms of the exploration of becoming, what kind of a new ontology – an ontogenesis – we must develop in order to understanding the becomings that underlie and make being possible. Each chapter addresses a philosopher, or a group of philosophers (in the case of the Stoics) who articulates a world-view, an analysis of what is or can be, in which the question of the limits, mortality, and smallness of the human relative to the vast and powerful laws of the universe is the primary focus. Moreover, each of these philosophers, while appearing to be materialists, and addressing questions about the world through materialism, remain attached to a concept of the ideal, ideality, or conceptuality that is irreducible to anything material. Each can be considered, in the limited terms of any binarisation of mind and body, as an paradoxical idealist materialist or materialist idealist. In other words, each articulates what a pure materialism is unable to explain; each remains committed to the activity of ideas and their direct impact on and transformation of matter through their energetic and informational flows into forms of knowledge as well, without understanding or reducing ideas to simply bodily or neurological movements. Each thus established the non-material reality of ideas, the way in which the universe generates orders, orientations, directions or sense as it elaborates its own complexities. Taken together, these thinkers establish a kind of genealogy of thinking about informed matter and the relations to life forms that depend on it and extend it each in their own ways. Continue reading this interview here

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Towards a new geophilosophy, book forum on Ben Woodard’s “On an Ungrounded Earth”

Book Forum On an Ungrounded Earth, reviewed by Kai Bosworth, Harlan Morehouse, Rory Rowan and Jordan Skinner

‘The Door to Hell’, burning gas deposits in Derweze, Turkmenistan

‘The Door to Hell’, burning gas deposits in Derweze, Turkmenistan

Ben Woodard, On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy New York, Punctum Books, 2013, 118 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615785387. OPEN-ACCESS e-book + $12.00 [€11.00] in print. (

Ben Woodard’s On an Ungrounded Earth is an innovative work of philosophy with a powerful aesthetic allure. It is also a timely book situated at the intersection of two emerging trends in contemporary thought: so-called ‘speculative realism’ in Continental philosophy, and the ‘geological turn’ in the humanities and social sciences. Woodard leads his readers into dark and circuitous corridors, at turns subterranean and cosmic, through the Naturphilosophie of the German idealist F.W.J. Schelling, the mutant philosophies of Georges Bataille, Nick Land and Reza Negarestani, and the uncanny worlds of science fiction populated with Lovecraftian horrors and alien death stars, before resurfacing at a rather unsettling terminus: a planet Earth which is neither ‘whole world’ or secure ‘ground,’ but a clump of decaying matter, enslaved to the sun’s energy and indifferent to the plight of humanity. Continue reading here

Kai Bosworth, Notes towards a Geological Uprising by way of Dark Feminism

Harlan Morehouse, In Space no one can hear you philosophize

Rory Rowan, Undermining the Ends of the Earth

Ben Woodard, Response: Terrestrial Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness

In addition to this forum, Jordan Skinner offers a philosophical topology to locate the genealogy of Woodard’s ideas and forms.

Jordan Skinner, A Philosophical Topology



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Paradigms in Cartography reviewed by Eades

9783642388927Gwilym Eades reviews Azócar Fernández, Pablo Iván and Manfred Buchroithner’s brand new book Paradigms in Cartography: An Epistemological Review of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The volume has just come out with Springer.

Temporary problem with journal email address

These problems are now resolved. Thanks for your patience.
Unfortunately there are technical problems with the journal manager email for Society and Space ( We are working to resolve these as soon as possible. In the meantime, please send any journal correspondence to one of the editors. We apologise for the inconvenience.

Speculations Forum on Prospects of Speculative Realism

Since the topic of speculative realism and object-oriented ontology has popped up in a number of submissions, we refer you to an excellent new collection of essays, Speculations IV, evaluating the movement, with an essay by  philosopher of place Dylan Trigg, one by Society and Space co-editor Peter Gratton, and another by S&S contributor Graham Harman, whose 2010 S&S piece “I am also of the opinion that materialism must be destroyed” is open access here. The full contents of open access papers, which includes some of the most prominent theorists working on the new materialisms and speculative realism, can be found here.

ATLASES: Poetics, Politics, Performance

ImmagineA new online atlas exhibition has been launched by the University of Bristol and can be viewed here.

It showcases 33 atlases housed in the UoB Library’s Special Collections.  Spanning the first four hundred years of the history of the atlas, they include the work of mapmakers and organizations from a variety of countries: from the Dutch laboratories of the Blaeu family in the 17th century to the United States’ Military Academy during the Cold War; from colonial Africa to revolutionary Cuba.

The exhibition is organized into four thematic sections.  Renaissance Theatres features examplars from the late 16th to the mid 17th centuries and invites the viewer to reflect on their function as mnemonic devices, objects of poetic contemplation, visual ‘cabinets of curiosities’, and status symbols.


Rhetoric of Truth sets 18th and early 19th centuries geological and archaeological atlases side by side with early computer-generated examples, stressing modern science’s constant attempt to penetrate beneath the surface and unveil hidden orders.

The Colonial Gaze focuses on atlases used to implement colonial projects, including land exploitation in Africa and in the West Indies, and the circulation of racial theories in late 19th-century Europe and North America.

ussrThe last section, National Identities and Conflict, explores the role of atlases as powerful instruments for visualizing conflict and for shaping territorial and political imaginations in the 20th century.

The exhibition can be viewed on portable devices such as ipads and iphones.

Originally posted on Thinking culture:

Antipode have announced that from now on their book reviews will be open access on their website, rather than being in the journal. The journal Society and Space also has a similar arrangement. This seems to be working well. Society and Space publish regular and timely reviews. I’m sure the same will happen with Antipode. The move seems to be based on the general feeling that book reviews can be more responsive and reach a larger audience if the are published on open access sites rather than I the subscription journal. It would seem the reviewers are happy with this arrangement.

It has been just under a year since I took over as reviews editor for Information, Communication & Society. Its been great fun finding interesting books and commissioning reviews. I’ve found that if I curate the books, then people are often keen to review books that they might…

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Environment and Planning A issue on Neogeography

Environment and Planning A, one of the other journals in the Environment and Planning group, has published a theme issue on Neogeography, edited by Matthew W. Wilson and Mark Graham. Several authors of Society and Space papers are part of the issue.


Regular Society and Space contributor Andy Merrifield on the future of urban studies at the cities@manchester blog.

Originally posted on cities@manchester:

by Andy Merrifield, Leverhulme Visiting Professor, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester

In talking about urban studies I can only talk from and for the perspective I know best: the critical urban tradition that developed out of Marxism in the 1970s, as pioneered by the likes of Henri Lefebvre, David Harvey and Manuel Castells. I tried to document and contribute toward this tradition in my book Metromarxism, where I claimed some of the best urban studies has been done by certain Marxists, and some the best Marxism has been done by certain urban theorists.

If we look back at the debates that raged in the 1970s, one of the biggest was about the nature of the urban. Just what is the urban anyway? What is a city? Why should it command such interest for critical scholars? The obvious rejoinder is that the city plays a special role…

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