Stuart Elden, ‘Terrain, Politics, History’ – Dialogues in Human Geography article with responses from Gastón Gordillo, Kimberley Peters, Bruno Latour, Rachael Squire and Deborah P. Dixon, and a reply (most open access)

My 2019 Dialogues in Human Geography lecture, ‘Terrain, Politics, History‘ has been published in the journal (open access).

The responses are by:

Gastón Gordillo, The power of terrain: The affective materiality of planet Earth in the age of revolution (open access)

Kimberley Peters, For the place of terrain and materialist ‘re’-returns: Experience, life, force, and the importance of the socio-cultural

Bruno Latour, The Anthill and the Beam: A Response to Elden

Deborah P. Dixon, Drift in an Anthropocene: On the work of terrain (open access)

Rachael Squire, Where theories of terrain might land: Towards ‘pluriversal’ engagements with terrain (open access)

The last piece is my reply – The limits of territory and terrain (open access)

Many thanks to Gastón, Kim, Bruno, Deborah and Rachael for their engagement with this work. As I say in the response it was strange to reply to the responses eighteen months after I wrote the paper – it’s now almost two years since I completed it. A lot has happened since then. I’m also grateful to the journal’s editorial team – especially Rob Kitchin for the initial invitation, Jeremy Crampton for chairing the session and Reuben Rose-Redwood as managing editor.

This entry was posted in Bruno Latour, Gaston Gordillo, Jeremy Crampton, terrain, Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stuart Elden, ‘Terrain, Politics, History’ – Dialogues in Human Geography article with responses from Gastón Gordillo, Kimberley Peters, Bruno Latour, Rachael Squire and Deborah P. Dixon, and a reply (most open access)

  1. dmf says:

    thanks or these, I wonder broadly about assertions like ” I think that terrain is the ‘best concept we have for understanding the political materiality of territory’.” not because of the particulars included but because I doubt if such (singular) things as concepts exist. What we have actually instead are markers/terms that are the spurs/sparks to what is always-already being composed/assembled in our uses of them, in the name of them? Where and how are the proper contents of a “concept” to be found, how do we assess what could/should be included and or excluded, what qualities/properties/etc belong to ‘it’, what contexts/con-text-ualizations are allowed or not and so on, and wouldn’t any such judgments/decisions really be more about our us as users of terms/tools then about the terms/marks themselves?
    Hope this makes some sense, cheers, dirk

    • stuartelden says:

      Thanks for the comment. I usually try to examine concepts historically in my work, thinking about how they have been used at different times, rather than seeking to fix a meaning. With this paper I was trying to advance work I’ve been doing on terrain, and territory’s materiality, and doing some of that historical work in terms of the term’s use in different parts of geography. So I was using terrain as a concept – a way of grasping, making sense of something – while recognising the challenges of the term and some of its historical legacies. I would hope the broader work I’ve done on territory – which for me is a problem that needs to be examined, not a solution – is closer to what you’re suggesting. Thanks again.

      • dmf says:

        hi Stuart thanks for the generous reply, yes I get and support the general move to historicize (de-essentialize/naturalize) but I’m doubtful (in general not about your own admirable efforts in particular) that one can do so without a kind of misleading (and ironic) reification (if taken as an actual historical account) since I don’t think there is any such thing that exists to be discovered/tracked, to trace a history of.
        We generally look for (and there is no science for choosing these in particular) terms
        (the new digital humanities take this to new and often absurd heights) that we take out of context, grammar, or references to names (author, titles of texts, etc) but what holds/ties these bits and pieces from various sources together other than our attempts to assemble them? And aren’t these attempts fated to be broken into other bits to be reassembled/recontextualized in acts of reading/writing/interpretation?
        Haven’t thought this part thru as much but in the context of opening yer blog today am reminded of conceptual-personae/characters, scripts, workshopping, performing with an audience, etc in the putting on (putting together) of plays, and seems to be some like process at work.

      • dmf says:

        hi Stuart thanks for the generous reply, yes I get and support the general move to historicize (de-essentialize/naturalize) but I’m doubtful (in general not about your own admirable efforts in particular) that one can do so without a kind of misleading (and ironic) reification (if taken as an actual historical account) since I don’t think there is any such thing that exists to be discovered/tracked, to trace a history of.
        We generally look for (and there is no science for choosing these in particular) terms
        (the new digital humanities take this to new and often absurd heights) that we take out of context, grammar, or references to names (author, titles of texts, etc) but what holds/ties these bits and pieces from various sources together other than our attempts to assemble them? And aren’t these attempts fated to be broken into other bits to be reassembled/recontextualized in acts of reading/writing/interpretation?
        Haven’t thought this part thru as much but in the context of opening yer blog today am reminded of conceptual-personae/characters, scripts, workshopping, performing with an audience, etc in the putting on (putting together) of plays, and seems to be some like process at work.

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