Top ten Society and Space posts of 2015

It was a busy year on the Society & Space open site. As a partial recap, here is a list of the top ten most visited pages amongst those we published in 2015.

10. Sacred Space Unbound
A virtual theme issue edited by Veronica Della Dora pulling together articles from the archives of Society and Space as well as Environment and Planning A. 

9. “Future fossils” exhibition
For this forum, Beth Greenhough, Jamie Lorimer and Kathryn Yusoff invited contributors to speculate on “future fossils” and reflect on the process of speculation itself as a mode of engagement.

8. Kimberley Peters and Philip Steinberg – A wet world: rethinking place, territory and time
This photo essay supplements Steinberg and Peters’ 2015 Society and Space article ‘Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking’.

7. Forum on ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and the politics of response
Angharad Closs Stephens convened this forum from an event organized by the Politics-State-Space research cluster at Durham University Geography Department.

6. Review of Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution 
Corey McCall reviews Brown’s (2015) “careful reading and critique of Michel Foucault’s 1978-1979 lecture course The Birth of Biopolitics as a way to think about neoliberal government rationality in advanced democracies today.”

5. Antonis Vradis – In-between Spaces
Vradis offers thoughts on left-wing party Syriza’s rise to power in Greece in this commentary included in a forum convened by Stuart Elden on The Greek elections and the future of Europe.

4. Review of Kate Schechter’s Illusions of a Future: Psychoanalysis and the Biopolitics of Desire
Justin Clemens reviews Schechter’s 2014 ethnographic exploration of the political economy of private therapeutic labor within industrialized medicine.

3. Interview with Maurizio Ferraris by Peter Gratton
Peter Gratton interviews Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris on the turn in his to work what he dubs a ‘new realism’.

2. Interview with Michael Watts
In this wide-ranging interview, Stuart Elden talks with Michael Watts about his work on Nigeria, political ecology, geographies of violence, and his thoughts on and contributions to the discipline of geography.

1. Mustafa Dikeç – Hate
This powerful commentary written in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office and other Paris sites in January 2015 unequivocally condemns the attacks while thoughtfully and reflecting on persistent divisions within French society.

In addition, posts from previous years that continued to get good audiences include: interviews with Lauren Berlant, Elizabeth Povinelli, Adrian Johnston and Łukasz Stanek; reviews of Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, David Harvey’s Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Globalectics; commentaries by Craig Dalton and Jim Thatcher (What does a critical data studies look like), Bruce Braun and Stephanie Wakefield (Inhabiting the postapocalyptic city), Ross Exo Adams (On the concept of urbanization), Jennifer Gabrys (Smart cities as sustainable cities), Alison Mountz (Carceral society on Guam and Saipan), and Daniel Goh (The spatiality of migrant labour in Singapore); and an anti-gentrification poem by the late Vancouver activist Bud Osborn.

Thanks to all of our contributors, and to those who have supported our efforts by reading and sharing this engaging open access work.

Jugaad and Tactics – Reflections by Amit S Rai, Anisha Saigal, and Shiva Thorat

In the article “The affect of Jugaad: Frugal innovation and postcolonial practice in India’s mobile phone ecology“, which appears in the current issue of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and is free to access until 16 January 2016, Amit S. Rai examines the Indian form of workaround called ‘jugaad’ to explore how affect is produced through consumer services and goods to modulate human–technical assemblages for commercial and economic ends. The text below is offered as a supplement to the article by Rai as well as Anisha Saigal and Shiva Thorat, two other researchers working on the project from which the article stems. 


exhaust hose jugaad, from fb page of jugaad you

The social practice of everyday hacking, digital and mobile workarounds, information piracy, illegal copying and sharing—in a word, jugaad culture—is an increasing feature of post-liberalisation India. But it has a history that must be understood as always involving repeatedly forgotten experiments in techno-perceptual assemblages. This history is marked by regimes of surplus accumulation that over time have effected a seemingly permanent separation of the body from what it can do. Our research into jugaad returns to this question of affect by situating social practices that remain untimely to the regimes of neoliberal development, enforced austerity and perpetual debt. What makes the contemporary moment jugaad time? This is as much a question of the growing Hindu chauvinism vitiating political and social life under Modi (but begun long before him)— what are Modi’s jugaads?—as it is a question of untimely politics. The social practice of jugaad traverses traditional class, caste, gender, and ablist norms of identity, yet while many people practice jugaad, not everyone can openly lay claim to it as some sort of heroic script of emergent power. Indeed, jugaad’s history has been and tactically must remain hidden; for the millions of jugaadu, visibility is a trap.

The reflections on the developing research practice of jugaad highlight several aspects of the social phenomenon in India; the photos present another kind of problem. Partly this problem has to do with representation. How, through what fetishes, codes, contrasts, and analogies, have images of jugaad proliferated in Digital India? Indeed, what images of jugaad in urban contexts point to is a heterogeneous mix of politics, rhythms, resources, infrastructures, and temporalities. The images themselves present contrasts, new connections, makeshift infrastructures that strike the eye at first as a hallucination: that doesn’t belong with that. This tactic of novel conjunctures allows jugaadus to develop improvised responses to material conditions of inequality.

Continue reading here

Álvaro Reyes (2015) Zapatismo: other geographies circa “the end of the world” Spanish translation

As Latin America’s “progressive governments” suffer electoral defeat after electoral defeat, a number of analysts today pronounce the end of the political cycle that these governments came to represent. Within this context, the question arises: where does Latin America’s left go from here? In his paper, “Zapatismo: other geographies circa “the end of the world”, Álvaro Reyes explores the often overlooked, and yet, increasingly prescient analysis produced by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) regarding the contemporary global situation and the possibility for a non-state centered spatial strategy for anti-capitalist movements.

We commissioned a translation of Álvaro’s paper to reach Spanish speaking readers — and in solidarity with anticapitalist movements in Mexico, as well as in Central and South America.  Please forward this posting and the article widely! The abstract of the paper follows in Spanish and English, and the PDF of the translation is linked to the bottom of this page.

Álvaro’s original article, published in English in the June 2015 issue (33:3), will be open access on the Sage website until February 14, 2016.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, EZLN!

— The Editors

Resumen. Un coro de activistas e intelectuales afirman que el Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional ha dejado de existir o bien se ha vuelto irrelevante desde el punto de vista político para México y para el mundo. En este artículo, propongo otra tesis: a pesar de la enormidad de su tarea, el proyecto zapatista mantiene el pulso y se merece una cuidadosa consideración. A este fin, sostengo, en primer lugar, que gran parte de la confusión con respecto a la “muerte” del zapatismo procede de un cambio en la estrategia zapatista en respuesta a la descomposición de la sociedad mexicana a resultas de la actual crisis global del capitalismo. A continuación, detallo cómo, habiendo previsto esta descomposición, los zapatistas se propusieron teorizar la naturaleza del capitalismo contemporáneo y reconceptualizar en consecuencia la política anticapitalista. Desde principios de la década de 2000, esta reconceptualización ha conducido a un desplazamiento en la estrategia zapatista que, aunque no sea fácilmente inteligible para los medios de comunicación contemporáneos o para buena parte del discurso académico actual, se centra en la construcción de “otras geografías”. Por último, argumento que, a juzgar por los acontecimientos de los últimos años, esta estrategia ha permitido a los zapatistas no sólo perseverar, sino, además, plantear una alternativa concreta a las corrientes dominantes de la izquierda con respecto a la estrategia política y espacial.

Palabras clave: Zapatistas, México, crisis capitalista, territorio, reterritorialización, nuevas territorialidades, anticapitalismo.

Abstract. A chorus of activists and intellectuals claim that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation has either ceased to exist or become politically irrelevant for Mexico and the world. In this paper I put forward the rather different thesis that despite the enormity of their task, the Zapatista project continues apace and merits careful consideration. To this end, I first argue that much of the confusion regarding the ‘death’ of the Zapatistas arises from a change in Zapatista strategy in response to the decomposition of Mexican society resulting from the contemporary global crisis of capitalism. Next, I detail how, having foreseen this decomposition, the Zapatistas set out to both theorize the nature of contemporary capitalism and reconceptualize anticapitalist politics accordingly. Since the early 2000s this reconceptualization has led to a shift in Zapatista strategy that, although not easily intelligible to contemporary media or much academic discourse, centers on the construction of ‘other geographies’. Finally, I argue that judging from the events of the past few years, this strategy has allowed the Zapatistas not only to persevere but also to pose a concrete alternative to the dominant strains of left political and spatial strategy.

Keywords: Zapatistas, Mexico, capitalist crisis, territory, reterritorialization, new territorialities, anticapitalism

Reyes 2015 Zapatistas Otras Geografias

Commentary by Sue Ruddick: Reading and writing in a materialist way

In academia these days the pressures are great to rely heavily on derivative works.  Imperatives to publish are stronger than ever, the fates of individuals or even departments (depending on where you work) rest on outputs.  Concepts and philosophers fall in and out of fashion.  The pressure to be “current” is strong – critical theorists of all stripes live and write under the tyranny of the new. In this context (whether you are working through Fanon or Spivak, Leibniz or Peirce, Heidegger or Spinoza, Butler or Marx), temptations to engage a range of derivatives but “sign” a paper with the “source” are perhaps more pressing than ever. Engagement with philosophical texts is not only fun, and thought provoking, it becomes a way to “sign” ones work, to exert authority in the field, to demonstrate gravitas. Scholars also struggle against the methodological legacy of their disciplines. Where philosophy has methodologically been intent on concept-creation, geography, on the other hand, or perhaps one strand of it, has historically been engaged in the naming and bounding of regions. In contemporary work this legacy often translates into a kind of herding together of concepts that are similar, that resonate with one another, but that are not identical objects. Critical theorists who work within the register of anthropology, sociology, or political science (to name a few others) will undoubtedly wrestle with other legacies.

But concepts matter.  They matter in their distinctions.  They make a difference, in the most literal sense that, in the act of philosophizing, in the invention, creation of a new concept, one is attempting to change sensibilities, provoke new perceptions and understandings, to make difference. This is why we must proceed with caution in attempts to make new or difficult concepts legible to a wider audience; we must be a careful not simply to appeal to a common sense understanding, lest we risk losing the very specificity of the concept in question. It is in this sense, I argue, that we cannot simply substitute a more commonly understood term for its less familiar concept. We cannot for example exchange “affect” for “emotion” (unless we want to launch a fully developed argument as to why they are equivalent) any more than we might substitute “price difference” for “surplus value”.  To paraphrase Deleuze, when a philosopher employs a distinctive term or concept, it is in principle because he or she has a reason to (Deleuze 1978).

Continue reading Sue Ruddick’s commentary here.

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Financial markets, algo-rhythms, and cities – Borch, Hansen and Lange

This brief posting supplements the article by Christian Borch, Kristian Bondo Hansen and Ann-Christina Lange in Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, volume 33, issue 6. Titled ‘Markets bodies, and rhythms: A rhythmanalysis of financial markets from open-outcry trading to high-frequency trading’, it is free to access until January 6, 2016.

The tale of the wave of commercial ‘ingenuity’ in the financial sector, which undeniably played a profound role in blowing up the housing bubble that led to the 2007–8 financial crisis, has become the emblematic story of a financial sector being a little too creative. Concurrent with the development and proliferation of financial products such as collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and subprime mortgages, parts of the financial markets have experienced significant, but somewhat less-researched changes in the market infrastructure, from trader-mediated to fully automated markets. Whereas the financial crisis generated a broadly shared distrust in and suspicion towards innovative investment bankers, it seems to be the lack of an intermediary in financial transactions that marks the radical structural shift in as well as provokes worries about so-called algorithmic markets.

In our recent Environment and Planning D: Society and Space paper ‘Markets, bodies, and rhythms’, we study this transformation of financial markets. Specifically, we examine how the ‘machine room’ of financial markets has changed dramatically during the past decade or so.

Continue reading here.

West, Isaac 2013 Transforming Citizenships: Transgender Articulations of the Law – A Review Forum

West_Transforming Citizenships_coverThis review forum stems from an author-meets-critics session on Isaac West’s Transforming Citizenships: Transgender Articulations of the Law, organized by David K. Seitz at the 2015 Chicago AAG Meeting. Here are reviews by Derek Ruez, Petra L. Doan, and Amy A. Dobrowolsky, as well as a response from Isaac West.

The Frontiers of Cormac McCarthy – Adam David Morton

This commentary supplements the article entitled The warp of the world: Geographies of space and time in the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy by Adam David Morton that appears in Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, volume 33, issue 5. The article is free to access until December 17, 2015.


Cormac McCarthy has been proclaimed as one of the greatest contemporary writers to herald from the United States and, also, as a writer that can be set historically alongside both John Williams (Butcher’s Crossing) and Oakley Hall (Warlock), in producing a pantheon of masterpieces addressing the borders, landscapes, and geographies of the American west. Such status could be conferred as much by Blood Meridian, marked by its twenty-fifth anniversary this year, as the novels that constitute The Border Trilogy including All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain.

But for those interested in the political economy of space, literature has often received only passing commentary, as I have written elsewhere. Questions of literature and spatiality arise in David Harvey’s historical-geographical materialism but there are just a few references to the novel form within his spatial matrix. Yet the intersection of literature and daily life was held as highly significant for Henri Lefebvre in reflecting on the political economy of space. Persuasively, Lefebvre contends that it is through literature, among other forms, that the idea of everyday life and repetition in daily life enters our reflections. Conceptions of space and how the social relations of production shape society therefore maintain a spatial existence in and beyond literature. Moreover, it is Lefebvre that draws our attention to the unity of society and space and how the production of space is inclusive of the meaning, concepts and consciousness of space, which cannot be separated from the social relations of production of geographical space. Space is thusly regarded as co-implicated with time so that the frontiers of territory and geography maintain embeddedness in conditions of history and time. The result is a deeply spatio-temporal awareness of everyday life.

Continue reading here.

Animal performativity: exploring the lives of donkeys in Botswana – Martha Geiger and Alice J. Hovorka

This brief commentary and video supplements the article entitled Animal performativity: Exploring the lives of donkeys in Botswana by Martha Geiger and Alice J. Hovorka that appears in Environment and Planning D: Society & Space, volume 33, issue 6. The article is free to access until December 17, 2015.


Our manuscript on donkeys in Botswana was inspired by the pivotal role of working equids across the global south. Where motorized transport is unavailable or out of reach, communities depend on domesticated animals for livelihood tasks. Research within the fields of animal welfare, veterinary science, international development and human health show the improvement of human health and livelihoods through the use and ownership of especially working donkeys in marginalized communities. At the household level, donkeys are used to transport materials for sale, transport children to school, plough agricultural fields, and fetch water for cooking and livestock. At the community level, donkey transport facilitates access to resources such as hospitals, schools, government institutions and markets; all of which increase human capacity for improved health and wellbeing. Thus, if donkeys are healthy and provided care they are able to act as a vehicle for improving the human condition.

Our manuscript explores the human-donkey relationship in Botswana where smallholder farmers own donkeys as a means of subsistence and income generation. To examine this relationship we apply a feminist posthumanist iteration of performativity to capture who the donkey is, what they experience and how these performances are shaped within the context of Botswana.

Continue reading here

Society and Space Volume 33 Issue 6 now online

The December issue of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space is already up online. With this last issue in the 2015 volume, now is a good time to say THANK YOU to all of the reviewers and authors who help our editorial team realize our aim to publish empirically informed work that pushes the boundaries of theoretical debate and keeps the political and social justice imperatives of research and theory firmly in view.

Here are the contents of volume 33, issue 6, which can be accessed by subscription:

Spatial big data and anxieties of control Agnieszka Leszczynski 965-984
The affect of Jugaad: Frugal innovation and postcolonial practice in India’s mobile phone ecology Amit S Rai 985-1002
Between the metropole and the postcolony: On the dynamics of rights’ machinery from the northwestern tribal belt to the “mainland” Pakistan Muhammad Ali Nasir 1003-1021
Capitalist pigs: Governmentality, subjectivities, and the regulation of pig farming in colonial Hong Kong, 1950-1970 Kin Wing Chang and Byron Miller 1022-1042
Imagining society: Logics of visualization in images of immigrant integration Sanne Boersma and Willem Schinkel 1043-1062
Terminal experimentation: The transformation of experiences, events and escapes at global airports Anthony Elliott and David Radford 1063-1079
Markets, bodies, and rhythms: A rhythmanalysis of financial markets from open-outcry trading to high-frequency trading Christian BorchKristian Bondo Hansenand Ann-Christina Lange 1080-1097
Animal performativity: Exploring the lives of donkeys in Botswana Martha Geiger and Alice J Hovorka 1098-1117
Opposing the opposition? Binarity and complexity in political resistance Leonie Ansems de Vries and Doerthe Rosenow 1118-1134
Anxiety and phantasy in the field: The position of the unconscious in ethnographic research Jesse Proudfoot 1135-1152

Review forum of Jenna Loyd’s 2014 Health Rights Are Civil Rights

Society and Space Board member Shiloh Krupar organized this book review forum of Jenna Loyd’s 2014 book, Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963-1978 (University of Minnesota Press), with reviews by Javier Arbona, Paul Jackson, Becky Mansfield, and Katherine McKittrick, with an introduction Shiloh Krupar and a response from Jenna Loyd.