The Question of Space: Interrogating the Spatial Turn between Disciplines

The Question of Space: Interrogating the Spatial Turn between Disciplines


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The spatial turn has been deeply influential across the humanities and social sciences for several decades. Yet despite this long term influence most volumes focus mainly on geography and tend to take a Eurocentric approach to the topic. The Question of Space takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how the spatial turn has affected other disciplines. By connecting developments across radically different fields the volume bridges the very borders that separate the academic space. From new geographies through performance, the internet, politics and the arts, the distinctive chapters undertake conversations that often surprisingly converge in approach, questions and insights Together the chapters transcend longstanding disciplinary boundaries to build a constructive dialogue around the question of space.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786601957
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/06/2017
Series: Place, Memory, Affect Series
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Marijn Nieuwenhuis is a lecturer in Political Geography at the University of Warwick. His research is at the intersection of geography, philosophy and politics. His current research focuses on the ‘politics of the air’ and the political imagination of sand. He studies these two broad themes in relation to questions over the link between environmental reality and political matters concerning technology, pollution, security, territory and governance.

David Crouch’s research and writing crosses a number of fields of cultural geography, social anthropology, cultural and visual studies and art theory. These theoretical areas are engaged through an attention to contemporary cultural change, identity, human creativity, life and space encounters and relations, through ethnographies around landscape, everyday life/leisure and tourism, community involvement and the work of artists. This work includes an interest in space and gentle politics, belonging, disorientation and cultural identity, and human poetic expression in diverse forms of creativity.

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Space, Living, Atmospheres, Affectivities

David Crouch

Multidisciplinary work on the so-called spatial turn prompts the thought of how space occurs, whether it simply, a priori, exists, a grid that fastens us down. Maybe 'it' is something that we play with. Somewhat echoing Hallam and Ingold's writing on creativity, space occurs (2007). That is, it is always unstable and fluid to a greater or lesser degree: open, of potential (Massey 2005). As individuals, we contribute to its coalescence as something with meaning. In this chapter I consider the character of its occurrence or emergence, sustainability and grasp or comprehension. Crucially, space is considered as a human process in spacing, rather than an abstract 'thing'. My focus is less on so-called broader contexts, culture and such, though they simmer. Instead, attention is on the contexts that are what humans render space, along with the swirls of influences and affects in which we live, the other-than human and broader materiality; something fleshy with varying degrees of closure and openness over time.

Deleuze and Guattari's ideas of the participatory character of spacing provide a leitmotif to this way of thinking, as will emerge shortly. Space occurs through lived practice and the relations of self, collectively, relating with others and among the spaces of practice that might now be considered in terms of affects and atmospheres. Arguably, most geographical knowledge, for example, occurs in living, shaped, perhaps even at times suppressed by academic lines of thought. Individuals in their everyday lives participate in a wide variety of creativity, participating, not merely affected by. As Stewart remarks: 'Things flash up – little worlds, bad impulses, events alive with some kind of charge' (2007: 68). Stewart considers, in the liveliness of description, the affective character of living, not its emotions with that particularly psychological pull, often subdividing each one, but in feeling, inchoately gathered: for this discussion, how space feels and may matter as it makes or breaks relations and opens or obfuscates potentialities.

Indeed, disciplines over recent years articulate increasingly fruitful mutual, distinctive engagement. Such a shared orientation is exemplified in work around space, as a focus and critical provocation. The chapter emphasizes the interactive character of space at work across this multiplicity of merging categories in the refiguring of geography across and shared by many disciplines (Crouch and Matless 1996; Crouch 2010). Moreover, of course, it is necessary to reflect critically on the role of 'givens', what is often taken to be the sum of culture, that partly contextualize but do not dominate or determine but flicker across individuals' lives intersubjectively with and through affective power. Power emerges in the everyday living too, in what emerges as gentle politics. Our doings, relations, identities and negotiations also constitute and give character to the web or dynamic that is culture. Another commingling, another resistance or avoidance, another creativity occurs. Thus, the liveliness of space is dynamic: iterative, variously felt, existing.

In confronting a more open, lived, human and beyond-the-human character of space, it is necessary, en route, to confront the old, yet still-existing duality of space and place. These cornerstones of traditional geographical thought are part of the necessary multidisciplinary reconfiguration of space. Ingold held on to a Heideggerian distinction of space-place, as one relatively external, the other something relatively fixed and enduring, closed up and situated in living, and he seeks to avoid 'space' as operating in and through people's living: travellers make their way through the country, not through space; they walk and stand on the ground (2011: 145). While the engagement of the world to which he refers is welcome, the rejection of space within our living creates questions of the human and space. Moreover, as Grosz interprets, people do not live in cities, but in networks of contacts, sites, memories and doings of lively interaction (1999).

Still David Harvey's conceptualization of time-space compression haunts much critical geographical thinking and beyond, yet while acknowledging the continued importance it holds in terms of shaping, if not producing and constructing, space, for example, in Mitchell's acute analysis of lives and spaces of singular capitalist control (2003). There are increasingly noted other components and dimensions of those constitutions of space that have become increasingly acknowledged. For example, at the other extreme of thinking, the poetic philosopher Gaston Bachelard's attention focused on the gentle intensities of small spaces: cupboards, huts, nests, corners (1994). These familiar indoor sites enabled him close intimacy with their form and the atmosphere that he felt. They do, of course, avoid wider-in-the-world attention, however. In working through these considerations, as Stewart posits, feeling is important, in a way that in her writing takes us away from a close hold of psychological formations and further out into the world. Moreover Erin Manning argues: 'This feeling – with its proprioceptive, immediately linked to our sense of balance, to our ability to space (emphasis mine) space. We don't need to put our hands on the walls to feel them, or to touch the ground to know where it is. Touch crossed with vision and sound fields the environment, opening it to the relational multiplicity of movement, sensation, and space-time co-mingling' (2009: 49). Memory, across diverse and multiple spacetimes, can be jogged into new affectivities in the performative, perhaps more than in the performance (Crouch 2003). Numerous multiple outward contexts flicker and nudge, not as primary or privileged, our living, our everfluid memory, imagination and dreaming desires; this moment – these are all contexts that roll moment to moment and gather and break.

Manning takes this approach further: '(A) feels the world. Watch her reading a book: she touches it, puts her face into it, listens to the pages rustling, smells it, looks at it. Becoming – bodies feel – with the world. Feeling – with is not without thought. It is a force for thought. Don't mistake feeling with emotion. Emotion is the rendering of an affect, feeling is its force' (2009, 219). Movement is foregrounded not as displacement but as felt intensity. Indeed, Merriman attends to the idea of movement-space, ontologies of rhythm, affect and movement (2013). Rhythm is the emergent quality of felt intensity, a moving towards of duration itself. Emma Cocker, stimulating art theorist, observes: 'Affect is not understood by reading about, rather reading is a constitutive practice within which affect is enacted, its flow is felt' (2013: 23): the spirit of feeling, life and flow. Cocker, Manning and Stewart, each in distinctive ways, enable a dialogical relationality in the way space is thought: in diverse multiple atmospheres, not scales or layering in the sense of consecutively settled strata, but sliced, dripping and chopped into each other, commingling perhaps.

My interpretations of the occurrence of space emerge from an early frustration with the ways in which especially geography deleted human life and its wider relations except for its statistical possibilities; distance triumphed over living; Euclidian space. However, over several decades now there has been what we might term a 'human' turn, towards getting closer to the lived experience of attitudes, values, practices, where space takes a multitude of roles, and the understanding arises not mainly from geography but from an increasing commingling of disciplines. Of course, in more recent time there has been a more generous engagement and inclusion of other-than human life and wider materiality too (Lorimer 2006).

In the following sections I engage in a discussion informed by several investigations that seek to draw forwards those aspects of space in living practices, with an attention to the work of memory and multiple affectivities that are both human and other-than human, and feature what might be mistaken for trivial materialities. The content develops in a way to try and articulate something of the ways in which we participate in how space occurs. In doing so, components of anthropology and others increasingly mutually engaged with arts literature, including performance alongside other disciplines, are conjoined in their closer attention to human and other-than human lived character and energy.

My investigations include allotment gardening, caravanning and aspects of doing tourism, of being tourist; the making of community maps and diverse work in the arts, and into the particular space-practice of professional artists, most notably Peter Lanyon (Crouch and Toogood 1999). Two of these investigations are focused. The first is a particular aspect of culture and cultivation in the form of allotment, or community gardening. For example, allotments appeal because they challenge the earlier geographical focus on an idea of 'landscape', human–other relations, feelings and freedoms. Landscape, for example, became conceptualized several decades ago as something of paintings in a depictive form of correspondence, of heavily invested layouts 'designed' typically in so-called 'great' [sic] estates of the landed. Allotments present a popular participation through which the multiple ways of practice, values, meanings and affectivities affect how space can occur through their distinctive atmospheres literally and figuratively 'on the ground', in ways that resist avoidance of the wider rhythms and pulses beyond the human. The second consideration turns to ways in which particular approaches to understanding the making of art throw different insights into how human and other-than-human affectivities emerge and become affective, along with memory, in the occurrence of space. I consider the artist here as primarily a human being, living and feeling. I introduce insights from these works along the way. In each of these investigations, a central source is in what is said and how. While we may contest the ways in which individuals may seek to express or report their responses in feelings, intensity and so on, my emphases offer one way in which to progress understanding.

In one final prelude to the depth enquiries, I burrow briefly into two threads of profound attention to the question of the workings of space, in Deleuze and Guattari (2004) and in Massey (2005). These leitmotifs are developed through a critique of other strands of space-thinking, drawing attention towards the character of space in relation to work on atmospheres and affects through the relational term 'affectivities', particularly of Stewart. This discussion is done dynamically through the texture of empirical investigations, community gardening and painting as space-process. In this way the chapter seeks to draw through, to draw out, connections of the liveliness of atmospheres in the generative process of spacing. Taking up once again insights from the two investigations, the chapter continues to examine these themes by engaging a consideration of feelings, values and attitudes in the idea of gentle politics, again cross-examining such an approach alongside the key prominent discussions of space considered in the following section. Emerging from these sections the chapter closes with reflections back across the character of affectivities, atmosphere and space in our living.


Working from Massey's positioning of space to be always contingently related in flows, energies and the liveliness of things, always in construction (2005), rather than fixed and certain, directs attention to individuals' lives relationally in the world. Taking up more closely Deleuze and Guattari's notion of spacing being affected by the energy gaps between things brings us closer to the affective character of space's occurrence and its space-times content.

Space becomes highly contingent, emergent in the cracks of everyday life, affected by and affecting energies both human and beyond human limits. Spacing has the potential, or in its language potentiality, to be constantly open to change, becoming rather than settled (Deleuze and Guattari 2004). Individuals', participants' relations with space happen uncertainly, are not predominantly overwhelmed While trying to hold onto identities and feeling of space in their lives open to becoming. Merriman questions the revival of timespace in geography as a return more to structuralist thought (2013). Yet in the form of spacetimes it is possible to rethink in terms of memory in present feeling, for example, reworked, reimagined, bent in, by and through the character of particular atmospheres and so on. Through the philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari, a generative frame of thinking emerges that is open in the character of deploying a flexible, open and more multiple notion of subjectivity that does not see the world as human-centred but human-participative. Such an 'open' subjectivism enables engagement of the nonhuman in the multiple energies, actions and mutual affects that commingle with human lives that take us beyond the bounds of human subjectivity but do not completely lose touch with it.

Massey and Deleuze are positioned in different ways: Massey crucially in a Marxist position and Deleuze particularly influenced by Marxism yet working beyond it to a post-Marxian and post-constructionist position that can be read as constructivist (Burkitt 1999). Yet their more recent takes on space begin to offer more correspondence, if obliquely, than this distinction might imply. The particular treatment of Deleuze's space perhaps therefore tends towards a more open potentiality within an overarching political system, speaking more of the work of what he called 'smooth space', yet discusses its occurrence in highly abstract terms (op. cit.). However, Massey (1994) writes elsewhere of how knowing a familiarity of a locality, tending to imply its occurrence over protracted spacetime, social networks, in everyday doings and possibly prompted by external efforts to change components of that familiarity, produces a feeling that she incorporates into a notion of place, yet the place remains in contention, not fixed. Her main attention, as Deleuze and Guattari, is on the wider flows of affective energy, although Massey inquired more persistently into the institutional.

Rather than grasp meaning of processes of, in or through space as emergent principally between and across major scale, corporate and institutional assemblages, a close consideration of the affectivities swirling in everyday living renders an openness to the once-habitually overlooked (especially, perhaps in geography, also cultural studies) significance of 'normal', everyday, or 'lay' (none of which adequately expresses) human and other life in all their discontents. Discussion includes reflection on a 'gentle politics' emergent in the power of individuals creatively to engage, experience, feel, create meaning, adjust and challenge their attitudes and values and those of others. Spacing and its occurrence are creative and political in these categories of the everyday as well as in other registers. Our idea of space or place as constant is considered in relation to the steadying and shifting that occur in individuals' and collectivities' living. To capture some sense of these commingling events at work, the following pages consider not fixity in characterizing spacetimes but an opening to affectivities, change and security that explore the character of living spacetime through a number of threads that connect everyday living and our feeling and thinking. It serves as a means to articulate life in its negotiation, adjustment, disorientation and becoming.


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Copyright © 2017 Matter Marijn Nieuwenhuis and David Crouch.
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Table of Contents

Prelude: Playing with Space, Marijn Nieuwenhuis and David Crouch / 1. Space, living, atmospheres, affectivities, David Crouch / 2. 'Knowing one's place' - mapping landscapes in and as performance in contemporary South Africa, Awelani Moyo / 3. Vocalic space: socio-materiality and sonic spatiality, George Revill / 4. bell hooks' Affective Politics of Space and Belonging, Yvonne Zivkovic / 5. As Tenses Implode: Encountering Post-Traumatic Urbanism in Ghassan Kanafani's ʿĀʾid ila Hayfā, Ghayde Ghraowi / 6. 'Place' in an Inverted World? A Japanese Theory of Place, Atsuko Watanabe / 7. The Invisible Lines of Territory: an Investigation into the Makeup of Territory, Marijn Nieuwenhuis / 8. Two Internet Cartographies: Google Maps and the Unmappable Darknet, Andrei Belibou / 9.Space is no one thing: luring thought through film and philosophy, Philip Conway / 10.Mayday - a letter from the Earth, Martin Gren / Postlude: And... And... And..., Marijn Nieuwenhuis and David Crouch / Index

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