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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Infrastructuring Aid: A Photo Essay by Kevin Donovan

The following essay is a supplement to Kevin Donovan’s Infrastructuring aid: materializing humanitarianism in northern Kenya that appears in Issue 4 of the 2015 volume of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Fingerprinting an HSNP recipient.

Fingerprinting a Hunger Safety Net Program recipient in northern Kenya.

Across the world, humanitarian organizations and governments are investing considerably in so-called ‘cash transfers’. These initiatives typically provide small cash grants to low-income populations. In Latin America, programs like Brazil’s Bolsa Família or Mexico’s Oportunidades (not Progresa) have pioneered the recent profusion of social protection schemes in the global South. In South Africa, a welfare scheme with roots in the 1920s has been expanded in the post-apartheid period to incorporate nearly 20 million individuals. In his newest book, Give a Man a Fish, the anthropologist James Ferguson suggests these are indicative of a new politics of distribution. Indeed, cash transfers have been growing enormously, often replacing food aid. One 2009 study documented 123 cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa alone. As leading proponents of enthusiastically sum up, the idea is “just give money to the poor”.

Continue reading here.

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And the Urban Exploded: Operational Landscapes, An Exhibition by Neil Brenner and the Urban Theory Lab at the Melbourne School of Design


Figure 1: The main exhibition room of Operational Landscapes in the Melbourne School of Design (photograph by Louise Dorignon, 2015, work by UTL-GSD Harvard)

From the 17th to the 29th of March 2015, the Andrew Lee King Fun Gallery (ALKF Gallery), located within the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at Melbourne University, hosted the exhibition Operational Landscapes: Towards an Alternative Cartography of World Urbanization, featuring a series of scientific activities directed by Neil Brenner from Harvard University (including a public lecture by Brenner fully available here).

In 2014, as the Head of the Urban Theory Lab (UTL) at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), Brenner published an influential book entitled Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. The 2015 exhibition brought some of the ideas of Implosions/Explosions to Melbourne. Given the book’s cover photograph, by Garth Lenz, of oil sands in Alberta, Canada (Figure 2), it came as little surprise that Brenner’s lab was considering, as starting points for the study of the urban phenomenon, the Arctic territories, the Amazonian region, the farthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean and even the atmosphere. This constitutes Brenner’s “inside out” approach, which, in part, is his attempt to invalidate the notion of “urban age” and claims like “50 per cent threshold of world population now living in cities” as a starting point for urban study. The investigation of what stands outside cities and of their processes, he thinks, proves to be far more relevant to comprehending the global urban than a demographic threshold that threatens to hide radically different local situations.

Continue reading here.

On collaborative research in Gullah/Geechee Nation – Kate Driscoll Derickson with Queen Quet and Annette Watson

Queen Quet addresses a crowd at Mosquito Beach on James Island, South Carolina during a Gullah/Geechee Famlee Day event in July 2015. Mosquito Beach was a popular destination for Gullah/Geechees and other African Americans during Jim Crow and remains a site of significance in the Gullah/Geechee community.

Queen Quet addresses a crowd at Mosquito Beach on James Island, South Carolina during a Gullah/Geechee Famlee Day event in July 2015. Mosquito Beach was a popular destination for Gullah/Geechees and other African Americans during Jim Crow and remains a site of significance in the Gullah/Geechee community.

This post accompanies “Situated solidarities and the practice of scholar-activism”, an article co-authored by Paul Routledge and me that appears in volume 33, issue 3 of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. It is the second in a series of two papers that we authored based on our ongoing conversations about the practice of scholar activism (see also Derickson and Routledge 2015). While the piece in Society and Space centers on Paul’s work with the Krishok Federation in Bangladesh, the conceptual framework is informed in part from work I’ve done in post-Katrina Mississippi, Atlanta, GA, Glasgow, Scotland and most recently the Gullah/Geechee Nation in the Southeastern US. When we were invited to contribute a post to accompany the article, I was in the midst of fieldwork in Gullah/Geechee Nation, working closely with Queen Quet, the Chieftess and Head of State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation and in collaboration with Annette Watson, Associate Professor at College of Charleston. Annette was on sabbatical at the time in Alaska working with indigenous communities that she had long partnered with there. The invitation to write this post provided an opportunity to think through and write about these dynamics as they unfolded, and I found that some more basic questions came to the fore for me and my collaborators when we were in the midst of things. In a conversation that unfolded via email (since the three of us are rarely in the same time zone), we explored some of the tensions that arise in our collaboration and asked ourselves and each other why we continue to pursue these kinds of collaborations between communities that have been historically marginalized and those of us based in and bound to institutions of higher education, freighted as those institutions are with legacies of colonialism, extraction, domination and white supremacy.

Continue reading here.

Volume 33 Issue 4 out now – currently free to access

The latest issue of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space is now up online. It includes: an editorial thanking Stuart Elden, who has stepped down after almost nine years as editor, and welcoming Alexander Vasudevan and Darshan Vigneswaran to the editorial team; an excellent theme issue on ‘War, law and space’ comprised of an introduction by the guest editors and eight articles; and two really interesting stand-alone pieces. This issue, as well as all others, are currently free to access as part of a free trial period with our new publisher, SAGE. [November 1, 2015 update – the free to access trial period is now over]

Editorial team changes The Editors 579-580

War, law and space theme issue
Guest editorial: War/Law/Space: Notes toward a legal geography of war Craig A. Jones, Michael D. Smith 581-591
Too difficult to protect: a history of the 1934 Monaco Draft and the problem of territory for international humanitarian law Margo Kleinfeld 592-608
Securitizing instability: the US military and full spectrum operations John Morrissey 609-625
Genealogies of liberal violence: human rights, state violence, and the police S.M. Reid-Henry 626-641
Piracy and the production of security space Zoltán Glück 642-659
War, law, jurisdiction, and juridical othering: private military security contractors and the Nisour Square massacre Katia Snukal, Emily Gilbert 660-675
Frames of law: targeting advice and operational law in the Israeli military Craig A. Jones 676-696
In the face of epistemic injustices?: on the meaning of people-led war crimes tribunals Mark Boyle, Audrey Kobayashi 697-713
Ordinary theatre and extraordinary law at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Rachel Hughes 714-731

Infrastructuring aid: materializing humanitarianism in northern Kenya Kevin P. Donovan 732-748
Darkness, travel and landscape: India by fire- and starlight, c1820–c1860 Julian CT Baker 749

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.

“Future Fossils” Exhibition by Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer and Kathryn Yusoff

(Image: Helen Prichard and Kathryn Yusoff 2014)

(Image: Helen Pritchard and Kathryn Yusoff 2014)

Future Fossils? Specimens from the 5th millennium ‘Return to Earth’ expedition

One of the key challenges posed by the Anthropocene concept is that it forces us to engage with both an entangled present and its uncertain futures. While seemingly anthropocentric (in its claim that the influence of humanity is all pervasive), the idea of an Anthropocene highlights how the non-human and inhuman world is firmly embedded within and through us. How will future generations of lively entities differentiate between human and other species, their forms of knowledge-making, space-marking and relations to broader geomorphological, biological, socio-economic processes?

The Anthropocene provides a provocation to think life differently and to make prominent the geo-politics of an epochal event, whose present and future telling offers opportunities for alternative ways of writing the Earth.

So, imagine it is the year 5000AD. A group of future earth-writers convene an exhibition of specimens from their recent Earth expedition, dating from the period informally known as the Anthropocene. What messages would these remnants of our contemporary age convey? What fragments of material practices would survive? How will current human and non-human relations imprint their legacies into geological, biological, social, atmospheric and virtual strata? What sense might distant future critters make of our stratigraphic legacy? How might the research preoccupations and contestations of the present endure in the fossil record and what we might learn from that tenacity?

In this forum, we invited contributors to speculate on “future fossils” and reflect on the process of speculation itself as a mode of engagement (click through on the titles below to find out more about each exhibit).

FF1: “ACA/GEO/21/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF” By Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF1: "ACA/GEO/21/IBG/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL-ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF" by Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF1: “ACA/GEO/21/IBG/CONF/2015/TEMPORAL-ANXIETY/BG-JL-KY/FF” by Franklin Ginn and Jacob Barber

FF2: “Millennium Microbe” By Maria Fannin

FF2: 5th Millennium Microbe by Maria Fannin (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by John T. Lisle)

FF2: 5th Millennium Microbe by Maria Fannin (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/photo by John T. Lisle)

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology” By Jeremy Bolen, Sara H. Nelson and Emily E. Scott

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology: Ghostly Fossils from the Early Anthropocene" by Jeremy Bolen, Sara Holiday Nelson, and Emily Eliza Scott (c. 5000 AD)

FF3: “Tracing Uneven Geology: Ghostly Fossils from the Early Anthropocene” by Jeremy Bolen, Sara Holiday Nelson, and Emily Eliza Scott (c. 5000 AD)

FF4: “Matrimandir, Auroville” By Tariq Jazeel

FF4: "Matrimandir, Auroville" by Tariq Jazeel

FF4: “Matrimandir, Auroville” by Tariq Jazeel

FF5: “Specimen 0198: Cargotecture” By Ella Harris

FF5: "Specimen 0198: Cargotecture" by Ella Harris

FF5: “Specimen 0198: Cargotecture” by Ella Harris

FF6: “Atypical Situation” By Hayden Lorimer

 FF6: "Atypical Situation" by Hayden Lorimer

FF6: “Atypical Situation” by Hayden Lorimer

FF7: “Trace Fossil FOBU-1379” By Helen Pritchard

FF7: "Trace fossil FOBU-1379" by Helen Pritchard

FF7: “Trace fossil FOBU-1379” by Helen Pritchard

FF8: “The Pacemaker” By Andrew Dwyer

FF8: "The Pacemaker: Tracing cyber (re)territorialisations" by Andrew Dwyer

FF8: “The Pacemaker: Tracing cyber (re)territorialisations” by Andrew Dwyer

FF9: “Atomic Age Rodent” By Dominic Walker

FF9: "Atomic Age Rodents: in search of the first animals of the Anthropocene" by Dominic Walker (© Center for PostNatural History, 2011)

FF9: “Atomic Age Rodents: in search of the first animals of the
Anthropocene” by Dominic Walker (© Center for PostNatural History, 2011)

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF10: Slum archaeology 5000AD by Colin McFarlane

FF11: “Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene” by Uli Beisel

FF11: Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene" by Uli Beisel Sealed in a body bag, the deceased is carried out on a stretcher and added to the other bodies in the pick-up truck, waiting to be driven to the King Tom cemetery. ©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

FF11: Body Bags: The politics of sealing off in the Anthropocene” by Uli Beisel (©EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie)

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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.

New Society and Space editors – Alexander Vasudevan and Darshan Vigneswaran

In June, we announced the sad Society and Space news that long-time editor of the journal, Stuart Elden, had stepped down. Today, we have happier news as two new editors join our editorial collective: Alexander Vasudevan and Darshan Vigneswaran.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.43.02 PMAlexander is Assistant Professor in Cultural and Historical Geography in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham. His research addresses performance cultures, experimental geographies and the urban politics of interwar Germany, contemporary landscape photography, the wider geographies of neo-liberal globalisation and alternative urbanisms, and the history of squatting. Alexander has a forthcoming book in the RGS-IBG book series titled Metropolitan Preoccupations: The Spatial Politics of Squatting in Berlin, and two others in the works, including a monograph on the popular history of urban squatting in Europe and North America, and a co-edited collection on the geographies of forced evictions.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 1.43.10 PMDarshan is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam. He is also a Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Migration and Society, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Darshan’s research investigates how the state’s claim to territory has been reconfigured in response to changing patterns of human mobility. He brings with him intellectual interests in international politics, the regulation and policing of migrants, and territoriality.  He is the author of Territory, Migration and the Evolution of the International System (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), and co-editor of both Slavery, Migration and Contemporary Bondage in Africa (Africa World Press, 2013) and Mobility Makes States (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

As the continuing editors, we welcome Alexander and Darshan, and, with them on board, look forward to continuing to make the journal and its Open Site vibrant spaces for the publication of politically engaged and theoretically innovative work. In coming months, we will make announcements about changes at the Open Site, as well as editorial statements from the new collective on the journal’s short and medium term goals. So, more to come…

Deborah Cowen, Natalie Oswin, Mary Thomas


Discards, Diverse Economies, and Degrowth Forum By Josh Lepawsky and Max Liboiron

Photograph: Max Liboiron

Photograph: Max Liboiron

Discards, Diverse Economies, and Degrowth

Since the last economic recession, discussions about how to reimagine ecologically and socially just economies have proliferated. A recent conversation at the 2015 American Association of Geographers Conference in Chicago focused on the role of waste, pollution, and other discarded materials that pose fundamental problems for economic production in these imaginaries. We are pleased to announce a series of short, open-source publications on Society and Space Open Forum that look at the intersection of discards, diverse economies, and degrowth. They will query how different regimes of value and circulation can redefine waste, and how the material agencies of waste will shape future economies.


  1.  Why Discards, Diverse Economies, and Degrowth? By Josh Lepawsky and Max Liboiron

Lepwasky and Liboiron instigated this special Forum collection because of a need to bring three relatively new scholarly discussions together: degrowth, diverse economies, and discard studies. They offer an overview of terms and discussions, then make an argument for why the three discourses need one another. On one hand, organizing economic life so it is not premised on profit or increasing production, such as degrowth or even steady-states, would fundamentally challenge the conditions premising modern discards. On the other, discard studies already has robust empirical cases for looking at problems with “circular” economies and the material and social dangers of both “left over” and reused materials. One of the strengths of discard studies is its dedication to empirical case studies to test—and change—theories and assumptions. As such, this collection starts with the most theoretical pieces and moves to case-studies-in-practice, a methodology that must be central to studies and imaginaries of future lives for degrowth, diverse economies, and discards.

  1. An Ethics of Surplus and the Right to Waste By Max Liboiron

One of the main reasons to bring degrowth and diverse economies into waste studies is that different regimes of valuation can redefine waste—that which is thrown away, devalued, discarded, and externalized. Max Liboiron uses the concept of dépense—excess and its expenditure– to explore other ways of valuing and even celebrating waste when growth-based practices of accumulation are changed. In particular, Liboiron looks at a different way to think of surplus and what that would mean for dépense within a normative relational framework of ethics and rights.

  1. Diverse Economies of Urban Mining in Australia By Ruth Lane

Ruth Lane’s empirical study of three electronic waste recovery facilities in Australia shows that diverse economies are already part of mainstream economic practices. Rather than arguing that recycling is a material example of “circular economies,” a concept that is already heavily critiqued in discard studies, Lane shows that while sections of the commodity chains created by and for the three facilities can be explained by profit and growth, several practices cannot be. In particular, she looks at how government subsides, policies, and programs create economic benefits that are not based on profit or growth.

  1. Exchange and refurbish: practicing decoloniality through rethinking discards and degrowth By Erin Araujo

Degrowth theorists highlight the importance of communities of practice; creating working alternatives to growth is central to the overall project of diverse economies. Erin Araujo’s work with El Cambalache (The Swap), a collective that shares and repairs donated items in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, is an example of a degrowth economy in action. Araujo links the revaluation and repair of discarded materials to decolonization as a way to practice alternatives to singular ways of being and thinking that are based on growth, accumulation, and profit, which she argues is central to colonization and capitalization alike. The proliferation of alternatives to naturalized economic practices is central to both decolonization and degrowth. The work brings up the need to link both discard studies and degrowth to other social movements such as decolonization and feminism, as they share core premises of critiquing and expanding normalized value structures.

  1. Reimagining the New Industrial City: articulating an alternative ethos of waste and production through ‘closing the loop’ By Ingrid Elísabet Feeney

Ingrid Feeny provides another participant-observation of an alternative economy in practice. The Plant is designed to “close the loop” on urban food production in a South Chicago neighbourhood. A zero waste philosophy plays a central role in practices as by-products of one set of food production activities and even the renovation of the building itself are used as raw materials in another process—the material modus operandi of a closed loop economy. However, Feeny calls The Plant a “chimera of noninstrumental economic practices including community economy, social economy, and social enterprise which attempt to transcend capitalism and yet exists within and alongside it.” How far can examples of degrowth inside of growth-based systems go? Can they be piecemeal, or incomplete, or compromised and still offer a viable economic politic? This final piece in the special collection leaves us with questions about what happens to politics and imaginaries where practice and theory meets, as essential set of questions for moving forward with the project of degrowth and diverse economies.

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