CFP Third Warwick Graduate Conference on Political Geography 19-20 May 2016

WGPPlease consider submitting a paper for the next Warwick Graduate Conference in Political Geography, held at the University of Warwick on 19-20 May, 2016. The topic of this year’s conference is:
“(Dis)Assembling state spaces: Conceptualising geometries of power” and confirmed speakers are Prof. Michael Woods (Aberystwyth) and Leopold Lambert from The Funambulist.

We invite you to submit your abstracts no later than 8th March 2016. You can find the complete CFP with more details here and please feel free to contact us at if you have any further queries.

We are looking forward to a great conference and would be delighted to count you in. All potential participants should submit a title, abstract (of no more than 450 words), and evidence of institutional affiliation by March 8th, 2016 to

Please note five travel grants of up to £100 each are available to support attendance; preference will be given to non-UK attendees. Potential grantees must submit a short text of no more than 500 words explaining their needs and motivations for this support. This should be done at the same time as submitting abstract to

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CFP – RGS-IBG 2016 – State, territory, urbanism: Exploring the nexus between government and infrastructure

Posted on behalf of Mark Usher

State, territory, urbanism: Exploring the nexus between government and infrastructure
Mark Usher, University of Manchester (
Rhys Jones, Aberystwyth University (
Ingrid Medby, University of Durham (

This session will consider how research on the techno-political nexus between sovereignty and the ‘stuff’ of public services, namely large technological systems, infrastructural capacity and logistical centres, can provide original insights into traditional issues of statehood, nation-building, governance and socio-economic restructuring. The logistical matrix and everyday infrastructural workings of the state have become a ‘matter of concern’ (Barry 2013) not only for civil engineers but increasingly for scholars in the humanities and social sciences (Mukerji 2009; Guldi 2012; Jones and Merriman 2012; Joyce 2013; Harvey and Knox 2015; Swyngedouw 2015). Here, what Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari called ‘collective equipment’- canals, roads, railways, dams, utilities and telecommunications systems inter alia – have been conceptualised as a networked technological medium through which administrative control over territory and population has been consolidated, organised and urbanised (McFarlane and Rutherford 2008; Bennett and Joyce 2010). This session invites submissions that further our understanding of the nexus between infrastructure, territory and the state through empirical and theoretical analysis. In particular, how are nation-states assembled and endowed with ontological solidity as technological networks emerge, consolidate and integrate (Mitchell 2002), and indeed, what happens to our understanding and experience of government when these systems fragment and disperse? Can we think of infrastructure as a strategic medium between cities and the nation-state? How can a topological and ‘volumetric’ (Elden 2013) understanding of infrastructural space advance existing theories of the state?
Potential themes could include, but are not limited to, the following:
– State formation, nation-building and techno-nationalism
– Restructuring, austerity and state dismantling
– Territorialisation, assemblages and worlding
– Urbanism, municipal governance and new state spaces
– Material politics of infrastructure and engineering
– Governmentality and material geographies of governance
– Failing states and infrastructural incapacity
– Techno-politics of logistics, circulation and mobilities
– Political subjectivity, biopolitics and cyborg citizens
– Socio-spatial theory and the post-structural state
Please send abstracts (250 words max) to by Friday 12th February, with your name and affiliation included.

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The Birth of Territory reviewed in Political Theory by Hans Lindahl and Progress in Human Geography by Marco Antonsich

12 The Birth of TerritoryThe Birth of Territory is reviewed in Political Theory by Hans Lindahl – requires subscription. Here’s the final paragraph:

From a philosophical viewpoint, Elden’s book is most interesting for the question it poses yet leaves unanswered: what is the relation between power and place? Taking for granted that there is a relation between the two terms, Elden goes ahead to painstakingly trace one specific way in which this internal connection obtains concrete historical form: territory. This ambitious historical inquiry is philosophically very modest, to the extent that its driving assumption remains largely unjustified. I would say, however, that this is its virtue, rather than its shortcoming. By insisting on the historically determinate way in which territory articulates power and place, Elden does a twofold service to political philosophers who would seek to unpack and justify the internal connection between place and power. On the one hand, and precisely because territory is one of the ways in which this internal connection manifests itself, political philosophers will find in his historically rich account of territory a manifold of clues as to the nature of the general relation between place and power. On the other hand, and because it is but one of the historical permutations of this general relation, he puts philosophers on guard against reifying as a conceptual necessity features of that relation which are in fact historically contingent. If Elden’s strong thesis, a thesis I happily endorse, is that there is a necessary relation between power and place, then the challenge confronting contemporary political philosophy is to understand whether and how processes of globalization instantiate a specific relation between power and place in a way that is both continuous and discontinuous with the territorial state.

The book is also reviewed in Progress in Human Geography by Marco Antonsich. Despite some generous praise at the beginning and end, the bulk of the review is quite critical. That isn’t unexpected, since we had an exchange in Progress a few years back about my piece ‘Land, Terrain, Territory‘, which was a draft of this book’s introduction (see here and here). What’s disappointing, and I think surprising, is that he continues to make similar points about the book that he did about that text. If the book were just about words, as he charges, it would have been a much shorter book, and would have taken much less time to write. And if the book looks superficially similar to “other books on the history of political theory”, I’d say that if such books really did cover the same ground it would also have saved me a lot of time. I taught political theory for several years before joining a Geography department, and the book was in part intended to bring a geographical focus in the study of its history. In part that was because I felt it wasn’t already there.

Some of his other criticisms have been raised by other reviewers, and I’ve discussed them in some of the responses to review fora on the book – full list of reviews and discussions here. There are many things I would amend if given the chance, and taking the story forward would indeed require me to engage with different issues, including what he calls the “operationalisation” of territory. But that was never intended to be the focus of this book.

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Top posts on Progressive Geographies this week

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Professor Saba Mahmood to give Society and Space lecture at the 2016 AAG

News of the Society and Space lecture at the 2016 AAG meeting.

Society and space

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 1.51.37 PMWe are delighted to announce that Saba Mahmood, Professor of Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley, will give the Society and Space lecture at the 2016 AAG meeting in San Francisco.

In her talk, titled “Secularism, Sovereignty, and Religious Difference: A Global Genealogy?”, Prof. Mahmood will analyze secularism as a modality of sovereign power in the context of unequal geopolitical relations between the Western and non-Western world. Taking the Middle East as her point of departure, she will reflect on the central role religious difference plays in the making of political secularism.

The talk is schedule for Thursday, 3/31/2016, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM in Imperial A, Hilton Hotel, Ballroom Level.

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Springer acquire Palgrave, and future Foucault translations

Springer have acquired Palgrave as part of a merger with Macmillan – details here. Palgrave publish the translations of Foucault’s Collège de France lectures. Graham Burchell tells me that Subjectivity and Truth has only just gone into production, as result of changes at the press, despite the translation having been done for a while, so it may not be out for some time. This will be the last translated by Graham – he has done eleven of Foucault’s courses, plus other materials in the last few years. It’s a really significant achievement and Anglophone Foucault scholarship owes him a considerable debt. Penal Theories and Institutions will follow, but no date is yet known at this stage.

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New issue of Antipode including Gregory, ‘The Natures of War’ and Lefebvre, ‘The Theory of Ground Rent and Rural Sociology’

The new issue of Antipode is out, and includes Derek Gregory’s ‘The Natures of War’ and Henri Lefebvre, ‘The Theory of Ground Rent and Rural Sociology‘. The second piece is translated by Matthew Dennis, and edited by Adam David Morton and me. We also contribute an introduction to the piece. The entire issue is free to download.

At the Antipode Foundation site they introduce the issue, and have this to say about the Lefebvre piece:

Next up is Stuart Elden and Adam David Morton with Thinking Past Henri Lefebvre: Introducing “The Theory of Ground Rent and Rural Sociology”. As the title suggests, this piece introduces that which follows: Henri Lefebvre’s The Theory of Ground Rent and Rural Sociology. Lefebvre will be known to most geographers for his prodigious work on everyday life, the city, the production of space, and, increasingly, the state. Less well known is his longstanding interest in questions of the rural. This new translation is the first step in Stuart and Adam’s project to take on a disciplinary reductionism that “essentialises a critique of the political economy of space to urban space at the neglect of the rural-urban dialectic”, opening up new lines of geographical investigation.

The Antipode Foundation funded the translation as part of our efforts to facilitate engagement with scholarship from outside the English-speaking world. In the coming months and years we hope to break down some of the barriers between language communities, enabling hitherto under-represented groups, regions, countries and institutions to enrich conversations and debates in the journal. Watch this space…

Adam and I are obviously grateful to the Foundation for funding the translation; to Matthew for taking on the work; and Editions Anthropos for the rights.

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Moving Together: conference at Durham

Details of a conference at Durham in May


Readers of this blog might be interested in the upcoming conference at Durham, featuring the always brilliant Debbie Lisle as keynote speaker.

Moving Together – Exploring the nexus between disparate approaches to movement

Wednesday, 4th of May 2016

Department of Geography, Durham University, UK


Submission deadline: 19th February 2016
Recent years have seen an upsurge in research that engages with the complexities of different kinds of movements. From bodies to borders, oceans to air, and data to social movements, scholars in and across the arts, humanities and social sciences are privileging the paradigm of movement to make sense of mobile things and beings in contemporary life. This broad collection of works has been characterised by explorations of movements across a range of dimensions, in particular the spatial (volumetric, virtual, relational), the temporal, and the ontological…

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In Memoriam: Benedict Anderson (1936-2015) by Vicente L. Rafael

Vicente Rafael on Benedict Anderson at the Society and Space open site.

Society and space

Benedict Anderson, Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Government and Asian Studies at Cornell University, and author, most famously, of Imagined Communities (1983) passed away in December, 2015. Here, Vicente Rafael offers some reflections in memoriam.

102 West AV, Cornell 1983

I first met Ben Anderson in 1979 when I began my graduate work at Cornell. He invited me to his home for dinner some 20 miles from Ithaca in a town improbably called Freeville—once the location of a juvenile detention facility called the George Junior Republic that had been the model for the Iwahig Penal Colony in the Philippines. Appropriately enough for Ben—a connoisseur of irony—his home used to be the warden’s who had to leave town hurriedly because of some scandal.

My office was directly above his in an old house that served as the site for the Modern Indonesia Project, more commonly known 102 West Avenue by its denizens. It was a former…

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Jeroen Vandaele on translations of Foucault’s Surveiller et punir

Jeroen Vandaele, ‘What is an author, indeed: Michel Foucault in translation‘, Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, Vol 24 No 1, 2016, pp. 76-92 (requires subscription).

A very interesting piece which discusses translations of Foucault’s Surveiller et punir with lots of examples and comparisons.

Though the issue of translation occasionally surfaces in Foucault Studies, it remains an area that deserves more attention. To that effect, I briefly introduce some basic concepts of Translation Studies and then compare a chapter from Surveiller et punir (‘Les moyens du bon dressement’) with its English, Spanish, and Norwegian translations. Moving beyond the blatant errors, I argue that these translations are not generally ‘the same text in a different language’. Rather, concepts are carved up in translation; or the analysis shifts from the structural to the historical; or syntactic adjustments make Foucault sound like an instruction book writer. Although I have deep respect for the work of the translators, who have brought Foucault to multitudes of new readers, I also argue that Foucault interpretation could profit from a translational turn.

The article mentions my post ‘Beyond Discipline and Punish: Is it time for a new translation of Foucault’s Surveiller et punir?‘ from 2014, but while there I ranged across the work and only looked at the English translation, this piece concentrates on one key chapter and across three translations. It is also, of course, much better informed in theories of translation. Well worth a look, as it is revealing of just how much interpretation is embedded in any translation.
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