Society and Space Lecture at the 2015 AAG: Professor Lauren Berlant

We are delighted to announce that Lauren Berlant will give the 2015 Society and Space Lecture at the AAG in Chicago. The talk is entitled:


Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin

This is a talk about how to read atmospheres propped not by melodrama and heightened impact but by recessive action and flat affect. The concept of a “structure of feeling” offered by Raymond Williams points to atmospheres shared among strangers but circulating beneath the surface of explicit life. How do we access that material when the shared affects are manifested in styles of being that occlude expressivity? Just as the Great Depression was thought to express and induce the affective state, are we now in a recession? “Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin” works with Scott Heim’s novel and Gregg Araki’s film to think about how scenes of “underperformed” encounter shift social norms of trust and aesthetic norms of the event: to do this, it implicates a history of aesthetic movements from twentieth century avant-gardes and theories of traumatic dissociation to the inside knowledges of sexual culture and the DIY aesthetics of punk and mumblecore.

Read David Seitz’s 2013 interview on the Open Site with Professor Berlant here.

Interview with Walaa Alqaisiya and Lisa Bhungalia by Mat Coleman and Mary Thomas

Photo credit: Dalal Amad This photo was taken on the 4th July in front of the martyrs house in Jersusalem, shortly before the body of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was brought to his parents house, and afterwards there was his funeral.

Photo credit: Dalal Amad
This photo was taken on July 4, 2014 in East Jerusalem in front of the house of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who had been kidnapped and killed by three Israelis days before. 

Walla Alqaisiya and Lisa Bhungalia are interviewed during their research in Palestine by Society & Space editors, Mary Thomas and Mat Coleman.

Walaa Alqaisiya and Lisa Bhungalia: On one hand we could argue, as you note here, that we have seen the elimination of a recognized civilian space in Gaza. Israel’s targeting of schools, hospitals, parks, residential buildings and urban infrastructure attests to the fact that Israel considers virtually any space in Gaza to be a legitimate military target. Yet even as we have seen the elimination of a recognized civilian space, the figure of the civilian, as you point out, remains…

The civilian death in this instance is mobilized for political gains on the part of Israel. It is in this sense that we could argue that the death of the Palestinian, rather than her life, is subsumed into politics turning biopolitics on its head. Continue to read their interview here

Gastón Gordillo, Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction published (and link to interview)

Gastón Gordillo’s book Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction has been published. You can read an interview with Gastón about this book and his work generally on this site.

978-0-8223-5619-6_prAt the foot of the Argentine Andes, bulldozers are destroying forests and homes to create soy fields in an area already strewn with rubble from previous waves of destruction and violence. Based on ethnographic research in this region where the mountains give way to the Gran Chaco lowlands, Gastón R. Gordillo shows how geographic space is inseparable from the material, historical, and affective ruptures embodied in debris. His exploration of the significance of rubble encompasses lost cities, derelict train stations, overgrown Jesuit missions and Spanish forts, stranded steamships, mass graves, and razed forests. Examining the effects of these and other forms of debris on the people living on nearby ranches and farms, and in towns, Gordillo emphasizes that for the rural poor, the rubble left in the wake of capitalist and imperialist endeavors is not romanticized ruin but the material manifestation of the violence and dislocation that created it.

Gastón Gordillo interviewed by Léopold Lambert of The Funambulist

bulldozers3If you enjoyed the interview with Gastón Gordillo on this site a few weeks ago (available here); then you will also like the new podcast interview by Léopold Lambert of The Funambulist at The Archipelago. Gastón discusses more about his work on ruins, both in the forthcoming book Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction and in a recent piece at The Funambulist on Albert Speer’s ruin theory of architecture.

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

Interview with Łukasz Stanek about Henri Lefebvre, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

Łukasz Stanek is author of Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory and editor of Team 10 East: Revisionist Architecture in Real Existing Modernism. A previously unknown manuscript of Henri Lefebvre’s, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment has been edited by Łukasz and translated by Robert Bonanno, and will shortly be published by University of Minnesota Press. Łukasz kindly agreed to answer some questions about this book and its relation to Lefebvre’s work, and tells the fascinating story of the manuscript’s re-discovery after forty years of neglect.

imageStuart Elden: In your authored book, Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory, you convincingly demonstrate that Lefebvre’s work on space and urban questions should be seen as much an engagement with planners, urban developers and architects, as with philosophers and theorists. Could you say something about that project, and how it led you to look at archival materials as much as Lefebvre’s published works and those of his academic interlocutors?

Łukasz Stanek: My interest in Lefebvre’s theory goes back to an empirical case: Nowa Huta, a new town constructed by the Polish socialist regime since the late 1940s close to Kraków. I was a student of architecture in Kraków in the early 2000s, and I was very intrigued by Nowa Huta, both because of its excellent urban plan and because of the fact that the development of this city was dependent on its mass media representations. In fact, since the beginnings of Nowa Huta and long after its inclusion into the administrative unity of Kraków, its development was defined by a logic of “catching up” with its mass media image as the young, airy, modern, humane, green, wealthy, atheist, socialist city. Yet after the end of socialism in 1989, this image of Nowa Huta clashed with an opposite one: that of the city of retired workers and unemployed youth, with crumbling infrastructure and an ecological catastrophe.

continue reading here.

Elizabeth Povinelli – ‘The Four Figures of the Anthropocene’

(via Synthetic Zero) – and a reminder of the interview with Elizabeth Povinelli on this site in March 2014, conducted by Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff.

Discussion forum on Henri Lefebvre ‘Dissolving city, planetary metamorphosis’ – paper and intro open access, and five online commentaries

Figure_1.26 Society and Space Volume 32 Number 2 included a short, previously untranslated piece by Henri Lefebvre, along with an introduction to the essay by David Wachsmuth and Neil Brenner.

Lefebvre is of course well-known for his books on the city, space and the world, including the English translations and collections Writings on CitiesThe Urban RevolutionThe Production of Space; and State, Space, World. His previously-unpublished manuscript  Towards an Architecture of Enjoyment is forthcoming, and an interview with the editor Łukasz Stanek will appear on this site in due course.

We have made the Lefebvre essay and the Wachsmuth & Brenner introduction open access for two months and on this site there are five commentaries on Lefebvre’s brief, still-timely, and provocative essay.

David Wachsmuth, Neil Brenner – Introduction to Henri Lefebvre’s “Dissolving city, planetary metamorphosis” (open access until 18 June 2014)

Henri Lefebvre – Dissolving city, planetary metamorphosis (open access until 18 June 2014)

Ross Exo Adams – Lefebvre and Urbanization

Stuart Elden – Globe-World-Planet

Stefan Kipfer – Lefebvre’s Metamorphosis: 1989-2006-2014

Adam David Morton – The Survival of Henri Lefebvre

Anne Vogelpohl - Recognizing Paradoxes in the Struggle for a Right to the City

Interview with Gastón Gordillo – author of Landscapes of Devils and the forthcoming Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction

gordillo, soc&space interviewGastón Gordillo is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and the author of several books including Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco and the forthcoming Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. He also runs the wide-ranging blog Space and Politics.

Stuart Elden: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Gastón. You’re a Professor of Anthropology, but your work blends political, historical and ethnographic work, with a strong interest in geographical questions and debates in philosophy and social theory. Could you say something about your academic background and how you came to be interested in these diverse issues?

Gastón Gordillo: Many thanks for the interview Stuart. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to talk about my work at Society and Space. Your question goes to the heart of what I’m trying to do with my research and writing, in terms of blending perspectives from different disciplines. My interest in critical theory and philosophy began when I was an anthropology undergraduate at the University of Buenos Aires in the second half of the 1980s. Argentina was then going through a “democratic spring,” right after the end of the military dictatorship, and the university was then an intellectually effervescent place, with many stimulating theoretical and political debates going on. Partly as a reaction against the asphyxiating political environment I grew up in as a teenager under the military regime, in which the public expression of left-wing ideas or concepts could get you in trouble or simply killed, as an undergrad I was quickly drawn to Marxist theory, which at the time was the dominant paradigm at the university. I had initially decided to study anthropology, like many others at that age, seduced by a romantic image of this discipline as the study of exotic cultures, influenced for instance by Carlos Castaneda’s best-selling books on shamanism. My discovery of Marxist theory and philosophy was a political awakening of sorts, and also gave me tools to better understand my earlier politicization during high-school, when many of my classmates and I were part of an underground student union at the end of the dictatorship. So while I studied anthropology as an undergraduate, my engagement with Marx, Althusser, Adorno, Horkheimer also made me think beyond anthropology. I also had excellent history professors who taught me to appreciate history, and its importance for anthropology.

continue reading here

Interview with Emily Brady on her book, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature

SublimeEmily Brady’s The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature published by Cambridge University Press in 2013, explores the meaning of the concept of the sublime and its implications for metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics, and the environment. An historical discussion is provided in the first part of the book, providing a historical survey with a careful reading which begins in the eighteenth century with a special focus on Kant, and followed by Romanticism and John Muir’s wilderness aesthetic. The second part of the book shows the relevance of the concept to contemporary discussions in philosophy such as aesthetics and the arts, and environmental ethics. A full review of this book, by Sandra Shapshay, can be found at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

A member of the Society and Space board, Brady is the author of Aesthetics of the Natural Environment (Edinburgh 2003), the co-author of Environment and Philosophy (Routledge 2000) and the co-editor of Aesthetic Concepts: Essays after Sibley (Oxford 2001), Humans in the Land: The Ethics and Aesthetics of the Cultural Landscape (Oslo Academic Press 2008), and Human-Environment Relations: Transformative Values in Theory and Practice (Springer 2012). She has published numerous articles and book chapters mostly around the topics of aesthetics, ethics, and the environment. Some of her most recent publications include “Imagination and Freedom in the Kantian Sublime” (2013), “Aesthetic Value and Wild Animals” (2014), and “Aesthetic Value, Ethics and Climate Change” (forthcoming 2014). Brady is Professor of Environment and Philosophy at the Institute of Geography and the Lived Environment and an Academic Associate in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. This interview was conducted by Vahid Jafarzadehdarzi, a doctoral student in philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Vahid Jafarzadehdarzi: Thank you, Professor Brady for doing this interview; it was a pleasure reading your book. You spend a great a deal of time on Kant’s approach to the sublime. You appreciate the way he relates nature, aesthetics, and morality in his view of the concept, and there finds a connection between the self and nature. Why is his view so important in understanding the core meaning of the sublime as you say? What does he do with the eighteenth century reading of the concept?

Emily Brady: Thank you. As I see it, it’s important to reassess Kant’s theory of the sublime – for Kant scholarship as well as for a proper understanding of the history of the sublime and its relevance today. Many interpretations of Kant’s theory argue for a human-centred sublime, where humans appear to recognize their power over nature through an experience of their own freedom or autonomy. I contest this reading of the sublime as self-admiration and show that for Kant, our distinctive positioning with respect to the rest of nature reveals a deep connection to it, as something metaphysically and actually greater than ourselves. There are two other reasons why his theory is especially significant. Kant focuses largely on nature widely understood – human and non-human nature. The overall argument of the book is that the historical and contemporary sublime is largely associated with natural environments. Also, his theory is, arguably, more philosophically rich and sophisticated compared to other early theories of the sublime.

Often, when people discuss Kant’s theory they neglect the many discussions of the sublime that preceded his own. Eighteenth-century aesthetics in Britain is especially interesting and one can see a range of influences on Kant. Once we get a handle on them, interestingly, Kant’s theory appears less original, though insightful enough!

Continue here.


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