Policing the Norm by Jessica S. Lehman and Bruce P. Braun – Echoes of Cologne Forum

This article is part of the Echoes of Cologne forum. Click here to read the introduction and the other contributions.

The streets of Cologne, Germany seem far from the windswept plains of North Dakota. Yet surprising parallels can be drawn. In our work, we’ve been exploring a sex panic that has unfolded in rural Western North Dakota, in the context of the biggest oil boom in the region’s history. While the circumstances are very different than those of Cologne, both became occasions for the ordering of social and political life, and opportunities to see societal anxieties laid bare.

In North Dakota, workers, mainly men, have flocked to oilfield jobs, which tend to be well-paying but risky. Many lost their previous jobs or homes in the 2008 economic recession, part of the shifting up of economic precarity to include more and more workers and families. Crew camps housed migrant workers by the thousands, while an even larger number crowded into existing housing stock in Williston and surrounding communities, enduring extortionist rents higher even than those found in Manhattan. There are many stories to tell about about the oil boom, but local, national and international media have focused almost obsessively on the strip clubs, prostitution, and sex trafficking that is presumed to have arisen in response to this influx of ‘unruly’ working-class men, far from families and friends, with time and money to spend.North Dakota’s Sex Panic in the News

North Dakota’s Sex Panic in the News

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Echoes of Cologne [Forum], Introduction by Angela Last

Photo by Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters

Photo by Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters

The echoes of the mass sexual assaults during the New Year’s Eve Celebrations in Cologne and other German cities continue to reverberate through international public, political and academic debates. In Germany, they represented a testing ground for the country’s refugee politics and ‘Willkommenskultur’, the much promoted welcoming attitude to refugees. For many Germans who swayed between skepticism about the chancellor’s ‘we can do it’ mentality and empathy with people fleeing war and inhuman conditions, the assaults tended to tip the balance towards outright rejection. For others, however, it became an incentive to step up and become more active in addressing both refugee issues and sexism—not refugee sexism, but sexism in general. Campaigns such as ‘ausnahmslos’ or an impassioned video by the Berlin based ‘satire califate’ Datteltäter attracted not only thousands of viewers and signatories but led to further public debate about the incidents’ implications.

The aim of the forum is to explore the meaning of the Cologne sexual assaults in relation to the diversity of topics that resonate with them: issues of patriarchy, racism, economic and geopolitical hierarchies, policing of borders and sexuality, and nationalism.

Continue reading the Introduction by Angela Last here

Forum Contributions

Policing the Norm by Jessica Lehman and Bruce Braun

Colonial Myths, Border Technologies by Kathryn Medien

‘Welcome Culture’ Has Ended in Europe by Caroline Nagel

Persevering in the new European climate of hate by Kathrin Hörschelmann

Necessary Pause and Axiomatic Slippages by Jason Lim

Race, Sex, and the Other by Amade M’charek [to be posted soon]

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Saba Mahmood 2016 AAG Society and Space plenary lecture now online

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 11.47.05 AMProfessor Saba Mahmood (University of California, Berkeley) delivered the Society and Space plenary lecture at the Association of American Geographers meeting on March 31, 2016. A video of her excellent talk, titled “Secularism, Sovereignty, and Religious Difference: A Global Genealogy?”, is now available on our publisher Sage’s website. A written version will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal.

Geographies of international criminal law: the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – Rachel Hughes

The following essay is a supplement to Rachel HughesOrdinary Theatre and Extraordinary Law at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal of the 2015 volume of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and has been made free to access for the next month.
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Before the blessing ceremony, ECCC grounds, 31 March 2006. Photograph courtesy of ECCC Public Affairs Section.

March 31 this year marked ten years since the ceremony pictured above, a Khmer Buddhist blessing of the courtroom and compound of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. This event is one of many starting points of the tribunal, more correctly known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

The ECCC is an internationalised effort to bring to account ‘senior leaders and those most responsible’ for crimes committed in Cambodia during Khmer Rouge rule between April 1975 and January 1979. It is widely held that these crimes contributed to the death of around two million people, or one in five Cambodians, with millions more who suffered and survived. Three individuals, across two ECCC cases, have so far been found guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention.

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Derek Congram on “Digging for the Disappeared; Forensic Science After Atrocity” by Adam Rosenblatt

Adam Rosenblatt Digging for the Disappeared; Forensic Science after Atrocity, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2015, 304 pages. $24.95, paperback, ISBN: 9780804794916.

rosenblatt_digging for the disappeared_795_1200In Digging for the Disappeared, Adam Rosenblatt examines the work of forensic anthropology teams in the context of criminal and humanitarian investigations of mass killings. His stated goal is to relate and scrutinize the politics and ethics of the forensic investigation of mass graves. Until very recently, this fairly young practice has mostly been represented by trope-heavy media stories that laud the good, but refrain from exposing potential problems in the process. The facile, lop-sided representation presumably stems from a taboo over finding flaw in an overall noble and also uncomfortable process: the exhumation of bodies, victims of atrocity crimes, from clandestine graves.

As a participant observer and humanity scholar, Rosenblatt gives us a rigorous, engaging, and edifying review of forensic investigations of these graves, the bodies within, and the community of stakeholders. With the exception of the multi-authored Necropolitics, by Francisco Ferrándiz and Antonius Robben, which was published two months after Rosenblatt’s book, previous work on the same subject is context-specific (e.g., Wagner, 2008 on Bosnia; Ferrándiz, 2013 on Spain). Digging for the Disappeared covers the development of a burgeoning movement and discipline across several continents. In the introduction Rosenblatt quotes from one of his interviews with the founding father of international forensic anthropology investigations, Clyde Snow: “I’m not a human rights activist. I’m a scientist. I’m an expert. If I have a philosophy, it’s that I’m anti-homicide” (page 18). Rosenblatt challenges these deflections in an exploratory, rather than interrogatory way and throughout the book he convincingly demonstrates how his subjects’ actions demonstrate a victim family-centred, activist-minded scientific practice that borders on betrayal of the cold, unemotional, and politically dis-engaged persona projected by many forensic anthropologists themselves.

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Withdrawing from Atmosphere – Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos

The following essay is a supplement to Withdrawing from atmosphere: An ontology of air partitioning and affective engineering, by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos.  The article is from volume 34, issue 1 of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and has been made free to access for the next month.

Tomas Saraceno: Cloud Cities at Hamburger Bahnhof. berlin 2011

All images copyright Studio Tomas Saraceno

There has been a surge in the research on atmosphere as a phenomenological emergence (Borch, 2014). These atmospheres are mostly architectural (Zumthor, 2012) but also philosophical (Böhme, 1995), sociological (Sloterdijk, 2013), financial (McCormack, 2015), and socioenvironmental (Choy, 2011). Ever since Anderson’s 2009 article on “Affective Atmospheres,” atmospheres are understood as affective emergences, situated between the subject and the object, apprehended phenomenologically and, especially if appropriately constructed, contributing to human well being. Atmospherics, in other words, have managed to generate their own comfortable atmosphere around them.

I would like to warn against this atmospheric comfort and especially the proliferation of benign atmospheric constructions, smoothly establishing a measurability (of well-being, belonging, social cohesion, integration, and so on) that only serves the perpetuation of the very atmosphere. In the companion piece “Withdrawing from atmosphere: An ontology of air partitioning and affective engineering” published in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34(1): 150-167, I engage in a critique of atmospheres by, first, moving deeper into atmosphere and specifically its main element, that of air and how it is regularly conditioned and partitioned for the preservation of an atmosphere; second, by critiquing the standard phenomenological construction of atmosphere as complicit to the all-containing atmospheric comfort, and introducing instead an atmospheric ontology; and, third, by engaging with international artist Tomás Saraceno’s art practice in order to render the atmospheric ontology tangible and to indicate ways out of the atmosphere. In this text here, I would like to focus on the latter, by expanding on the subtle ways in which Saraceno’s atmospheric installations can shift from the claustrophobic to the exhilaratingly open.

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Lisandro E. Claudio on “Metroimperial Intimacies” by Victor Román Mendoza

mendoza_metroimperial intimacies_1200_1800In the conclusion of Metroimperial Intimacies, Victor Roman Mendoza narrates the remarkable story of Jack Bee Garland. Garland, born Elvira Virginia Mugarrieta, was a female-to-male crossdresser from San Francisco, who became a reporter for the Evening Mail. Jack, “to be vulgarly presentist” (emphasis Mendoza’s), was something of “a gay mixed-race Chicano transman” (206)—a seemingly radical figure, especially in the context of queer historiography’s search for pioneers.

And yet Bean’s desire for adventure and male companionship landed him a job as a nurse and interpreter for the U.S. imperial army during the Filipino-American War in 1899. That war, as is now increasingly acknowledged, was genocidal, and Bean’s involvement in it complicates archival quests for sexual forebears. Who are Bean’s legatees? Queer activists? Or militarist advocates of American exceptionalism?

Bean’s contradictions, indeed, drive home the need for “tracing histories of sexuality in the United States” “that take into account the messiness of racial formations at the fin de siècle…” (3). This messiness was evident in the various ways American colonialism interpreted the sexualities of the insurgent natives they were colonizing. On the one hand, they were “brute male insurrectos,” but, on the other, they were “the passive feminine partner” in the marriage of William McKinley’s “benevolent assimilation” (25).

Mendoza’s historiography unfolds the ambiguities of sexuality in the colony. It is a process that requires deftness, and the author uses all the tools at his disposal to find the queer in the colonial: rereading of the archive, parsing insinuation, and, of course, bloc-quoting the psychoanalytic Zizek. By and large, the author is successful.

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Society and Space volume 34 issue 3 now online

Issue 3 of the 2016 volume of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space is now up online. The essay by Lauren Berlant stems from the Society and Space lecture that she gave at the American Association of Geographers meeting in April 2015. It is free to access until mid-June 2016. Readers may also wish to take a look at the interview with Prof. Berlant conducted by David Seitz on this site.

The commons: Infrastructures for troubling times Lauren Berlant 393-419

The spaces in between: Mobile policy and the topographies and topologies of the technocracy Russell Prince 420-437
The surface and the abyss/ Rethinking topology Iulian Barba Lata and Claudio Minca 438-455
Entrepreneurial affect: Attachment to work practice in San Francisco’s digital media sector Daniel G Cockayne 456-473
A political ecology of home: Attachment to nature and political subjectivity Patricia Burke Wood and Julie EE Young 474-491
Settler colonialism, George Grey and the politics of ethnography Alan Lester 492-507
The contingency of change in the Anthropocene: More-than-real negotiation of power relations in climate change institutional transformation in Australia Jessica Emma McLean 508-527
Judaism’s other geographies: Franz Rosenzweig and the state of exile Jessica Dubow 528-544
Rock, water, air, and fire: Foregrounding the elements in the Gibraltar-Spain dispute Rachael Squire 545-563
“The Sheikh of Araby rides a Cadillac”: Popular geoeconomic imaginations, positional anxiety and nouveau riche territories Benjamin Smith 564-580


In Memoriam: Doreen Massey (1944-2016) by Tracey Skelton


Photo by Philip Wolmuth

Doreen Massey, former Emeritus Professor of Geography at the Open University and famed author of such monographs as Spatial Divisions of Labour (1984), Space, Place, and Gender (1994) and For Space (2005), passed away in March, 2016. Here, Tracey Skelton offers some reflections in memoriam.

I first encountered Doreen Massey through her work as a feminist. For my PhD on gender power relations in the Caribbean in the 1980s and early 1990s, I was reading and absorbing any geographical work I could find with a feminist approach. I was inspired by ‘A Woman’s Place’, the piece she co-authored with Linda McDowell in Geography Matters! A Reader. The key principles of the piece remain with me to this day. Differential economic development and concomitant employment practices across a region or a nation impact on and are impacted by gender. Combined, they create the conditions for different formations of male dominance. As I consider employment practices in Singapore (both for Singaporeans and the million plus foreign workers) in my own work, this 1984 essay—with its insights into gender and spatial inequalities within workplaces and employment structures—continues to make profound sense.

Later, in my first lectureship at Nottingham Trent University, Doreen’s work saved me as I was tasked to teach a Bachelor’s of Education module on social and economic geography. The social I could cover; the economic geography, however, was new territory. I read her co-edited book, The Economy in Question, and was amazed I could understand all of it. It was also rewardingly political and allowed me to make sense of, and heavily critique, Thatcherism and related economic practices such as restructuring. What I had known instinctively through living in the UK was presented and analysed in a way that put all the pieces together—the economic, the social, and the political. I was able to translate her economic geography to my students with enthusiasm and personal insights. We were learning together and really understanding how an economy works (or doesn’t) for different groups of people. I continued to read other works by Doreen and was always struck by her clarity of writing and determination to integrate the political. The politics of critique and social justice were and remain important in my research and writing; in Doreen, I had discovered a mentor and kindred spirit.

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Indignation and Inclusion [Addendum] – Sophie Gonick

The following text is offered by Sophie Gonick as a supplement to her Environment and Planning D: Society and Space article, Indignation and Inclusion: Activism, difference, and emergent urban politics in postcrash Madrid. In the piece, which is currently free to access, Gonick analyses two competing strands of activism around the housing crisis in Madrid from a feminist perspective that sees them as complementary, overlapping, and potentially collaborative.

When I set out to write this piece, Ahora Madrid was in its infancy. I was fairly skeptical about its chances of actually winning. I was clearly, however, proven incorrect—Manuela Carmena is now the mayor of Madrid. In Barcelona, Ada Colau has gone from spokesperson for the anti-evictions movement to the mayor’s office. Meanwhile, Podemos made tremendous strides in the December 2015 national elections; many in its highest ranks emerge directly from urban social movements.

As an addendum to this piece, I want to emphasize two ideas. One is contextual and historical, while the other is perhaps an orientation for future research and the role of scholars in articulating the horizons of possibility for radical democratic praxis.

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