Kearns on Elden’s Birth of Territory

eldenGerry Kearns reviews Stuart Elden’s book The Birth of Territory. The volume was published last year by University of Chicago Press and received the AAG Meridian Book Award for Oustanding Scholarly Work in Geography.

Further information about the project can be found here.

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.

Peter Sloterdijk, Spheres II forthcoming; 2009 Society and Space theme issue with open access excerpt from Vol III

9781584351603Peter Sloterdijk’s monumental Globes – Spheres II: Macrospherology is being published in English translation in October 2014.

Back in 2009, before the flurry of translations of his work, Society and Space devoted a whole issue to discussing his writings, including three translations. One of those translations was an excerpt from this book. The issue as a whole requires subscription, but the translation of a piece from Volume III of Spheres, Airquakes‘ is available open access.

Miller and Sinanan’s Webcam reviewed

webcamMichael Duggan reviews Daniel Miller and Jolynna Sinanan’s new book Webcam (Polity Press, 2014).

Darshan Vigneswaran, Territory, Migration and the Evolution of the International System

Society and Space author Darshan Vigneswaran’s book Territory, Migration and the Evolution of the International System was recently published. The book will be reviewed for the journal later this year. Darshan’s paper “The contours of disorder: crime maps and territorial policing in South Africa” was published earlier this year (requires subscription).


Contemporary international migratiåon makes border controls, bounded citizenship, and sovereign jurisdictions appear increasingly outdated. These policy tools are poor responses to a world characterized by cross-border mobility, transnational interconnections and global diaspora. Are there viable alternatives to this system of territorial and exclusive states?

This book takes a historical trajectory, exploring governments’ use of different territorial strategies to manage migration at specific moments during the evolution of the international system, from centralization in Renaissance Italy and expansion under the British Empire to the integration of the European Union. Vigneswaran shows how under each of these regimes, political thinkers and rulers draw upon a ‘mental map’ – a specific way of imagining political space – to devise their systems of jurisdiction, belonging and immigration control. Using evidence of territorial variation and reform, this book looks to the future of migration regimes beyond the territorially exclusive state.

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.

Digital Humanities Now Editors’ Choice of Dalton and Thatcher’s Big Data Commentary

Digital Humanities Now 4361038612_026ab5b5fdchoses Craig Dalton and Jim Thatcher’s open site commentary “What does a critical data studies look like, and why do we care? Seven points for a critical approach to ‘big data’” as an editors’ choice.

Congratulations to Craig and Jim – we, and they, would welcome comments to the piece on this site.



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

Dalton and Thatcher commentary – “What does a critical data studies look like, and why do we care?”

We have just posted a new commentary to this site – Craig Dalton and Jim Thatcher’s provocative piece “What does a critical data studies look like, and why do we care? Seven points for a critical approach to ‘big data’”. You can read the full commentary open access – here’s the opening paragraph. We invite comments on this site, and would be pleased to consider fuller responses for positing. Our thanks to Craig and Jim for their thoughts on this crucial topic.

The Editorscritical_data_studies

There is a need for a critical data studies

As the public discourse around data turns from hubristic claims to existing, empirical results, it’s become nearly as easy to bash ‘big data’ as to hype it (Carr 2014; Marcus and Davis 2014; Harford 2014; Podesta 2014). Geographers are intimately involved with this recent rise of data. Most digital information now contains some spatial component (Hahmann and Burghardt 2013) and geographers are contributing tools (Haklay and Weber 2008), maps (Zook and Poorthius 2014), and methods (Tsou et al. 2014) to the rising tide of quantification. Critiques of ‘big data’ thus far offer keen insight and acerbic wit, but remain piecemeal and disconnected. ‘Big data’s’ successes or failures as a tool are judged (K.N.C. 2014), or it is examined from a specific perspective, such as its role in surveillance (Crampton et al. 2014). Recently, voices in critical geography have raised the call for a systemic approach to data criticisms, a critical data studies (Dalton and Thatcher 2014; Graham 2014; Kitchin 2014). This post presents seven key provocations we see as drivers of a comprehensive critique of the new regimes of data, ‘big’ or not. We focus on why a critical approach is needed, what it may offer, and some idea of what it could look like.

Continue reading this commentary here.

Nelson, Alondra 2013 “Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination” reviewed by Angela Last

alondra1Alondra Nelson, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2013, 291 pages, $18.95/£14.00 paperback, ISBN 978-0-8166-7649-1, 
$24.95/£32 hardback ISBN 978-0-8166-7648-4. (

Portrayals of the Black Panther Party have varied considerably across academic writing and popular media, Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013) being the most recent example of the latter. From a purely instrumental perspective, discussions of the Party have been at their most productive when they resisted producing reductive caricatures of the ‘bad militant’ or the ‘good civil rights hero’. By instrumental, I mean: how can thinking about the actions of and reactions to the Black Panther Party be helpful to academics, activists and other individuals opposed to structural inequality today? Continue reading Angela Last’s review here


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