Geographers on Leibniz – a question

Perhaps someone reading can help. Which Geographers directly discuss Leibniz? I know there is a discussion in David Harvey’s Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference, and in Clarence Glacken’s Traces on the Rhodian Shore. Doreen Massey makes use of purportedly Leibnizian ideas, but does she ever really discuss him? John Wylie talks about Deleuze’s Leibniz in his ‘Depths and Folds’ article in Society and Space, but not Leibniz himself. Leibniz figures in some of Martin Rudwick’s histories of physical geography and earth science. There are brief mentions in Livingstone’s The Geographical Tradition, and Charles Withers’s Placing the Enlightenment, and in these two authors’ edited collection Geography and Enlightenment, but nothing very detailed or specific.

I’m not looking for discussions in Leibniz’s own texts of geographical or spatial issues, or ones by non-Geographers on aspects of his thought that might be deemed geographical. While references to those are welcome, I think I know the key texts. I’m looking for discussions by Geographers of Leibniz. I’m trying to revise my ‘Another Leibniz’ paper, and one of the referee criticisms was that I didn’t discuss the literature in Geography. This is frustrating, because one of my key points was that he is barely discussed in Geography, so while I could add a long list of ‘not discussed here either’ type references, that seems pointless. The pieces cited above have mentions in passing, have a very specific focus (i.e. Glacken, Rudwick, or the discussion in Edward Casey’s The Fate of Place, though of course he isn’t a Geographer), or are based on a reading of limited texts.

So, specific references for Massey would be useful; or other discussions by people in the discipline.

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This entry was posted in Clarence J. Glacken, David Harvey, David N. Livingstone, Doreen Massey, Gilles Deleuze, Gottfried Leibniz. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Geographers on Leibniz – a question

  1. I’d be interested in what you come up with. I teach For Space right after covering Leibniz and invariably the issue comes up that there’s a lot of Leibniz in Massey even though she never cites him (in that book, at least). She seems to channel Leibniz through Deleuze & Guatarri. Being more helpful (maybe), is there a discussion somewhere in Sue Ruddick’s work on Spinoza? What about in the recent Mathematics issue of S&S (although I imagine you’ve looked there already)?

  2. Greig Charnock says:

    Hi Stuart. There’s a brief commentary on Harvey’s take on Leibniz by Nigel Thrift in his contribution to the David Harvey critical reader (Castree and Gregory, eds). Not sure how useful it will be though?

  3. John Russell says:

    The Duplicity of Space: Germanic ‘Raum’ and Swedish ‘Rum’ in English Language Geographical Discourse
    Kenneth R. Olwig
    Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography
    Vol. 84, No. 1 (2002) (pp. 1-17)

    Olwig cites Harvey’s _Social Justice and the City_ as the place where Harvey develops his Leibnizian idea of space. Otherwise, not a direct engagement with Leibniz, but perhaps useful to you nonetheless.

  4. kai says:

    let us know what you come up with…I am working on a Leibniz/Deleuze project & would love to mine the past a little bit more

  5. stuartelden says:

    Thanks for all these comments. Yes, Harvey does mention Leibniz in Social Justice and the City, but the references are cursory. The Critical Reader is helpful – not just for the Thrift chapter, which has a strange comment on Harvey making something of Leibniz that the latter probably didn’t mean – but also for the Sheppard chapter and Harvey’s own which returns to SJ&C and restates Leibniz’s importance. I’ll follow up with Sue Ruddick. I’ll post a bibliography separately. thanks again.

  6. Felix says:

    Does “The literature in geography on Leibniz” extend beyond the Anglophone world? I suspect it just might…..I’m no expert on Leibniz, but may be worth looking at the writings of Gunnar Olsson, Franco Farinelli, Horacio Capel, Benno Werlen, Gerhard Hard, etc, to see what they and others writing from continental European traditions have had to say about Leibniz. (And within Anglo geography it might perhaps be worth looking further back to the Harvey of Explanation in Geography, or others in the 1970s-80s wave of writing on phenomenology such as John Pickles). Either way, it’ll be a good thing if we try to extend our historical and geographical horizons a little bit.

    On a quick search, incidentally, I came across this interesting-looking conference on “Space, geometry and the imagination” at the Max Planck later this month at which Farinelli is speaking – see – if anyone is going, it would be good to see a report somewhere.

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks Felix. I’ve just posted the draft bibliography, which I hope does range quite widely. I am certainly open to references outside the Anglophone world, and have tried to read across languages, disciplines and time periods as best as I’m able. I’ll certainly look more into the specific names you mention – Gunnar Olsson does discuss Leibniz a little in Birds in Egg/Eggs in Bird, though more as a logician. Harvey mentions Leibniz briefly in Explanation, through Russell – there is a little more in Social Justice in the City.

      The conference does look interesting. I’ll repost to the main blog – more likely to get noticed there.

  7. Pingback: Leibniz and Geography references | Progressive Geographies

  8. Hi Stuart,
    Really look forward to read this paper.
    Did you see the entry in Jacques Lévy and Michel Lussault’s Dictionnaire de la Géographie on Leibniz? Sorry if it is already in the bibliography. I only had a very quick glance. It is – to agree with Felix Driver’s point – interesting in itself that they afford Leibniz his own entry. Alas I don’t have my Ratzel books at hand but I wouldn’t be surprised if he discusses Leibniz’s more practical activities. Might be worth a look. Also did you look at the paper by William Warntz in the Annals of the AAG on Varenius and the Newtonians? Perhaps it is of interest as well.

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