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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Anderson, B. Time-stilled space-slowed: how boredom matters. Geoforum. 2004;35:739-754.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper aims to fold the increased attention to issues of materiality in social and cultural geography into the more recent attunement to questions of affect. The vehicle for this aim is a discussion of the complex ways in which boredom, and bodies bored, compose time–space. Somewhat surprisingly, and in stark contrast to its experiential ubiquity, boredom has rarely been discussed within the social sciences. The paper therefore performs a geography of how boredom matters by way of a series of examples of the taking place of boredom drawn from research on music and everyday life. Rather than discuss boredom through the critical concepts that underpin the thesis of disenchantment, such as alienation or anomie, I argue that boredom takes place as a suspension of a body's capacities to affect and be affected forged through an incapacity in habit. Through this discussion I argue that the ‘new materialisms' that increasingly populate social and cultural geography struggle to discern the affectivity of profane social-life and, importantly, cannot conceive of the risk of depletion that boredom, via its connection to meaninglessness and indifference, exemplifies. However, attuning to the movement-from that always accompanies boredom discloses the immanent presence of intensities that on-go even as boredom stills and slows time–space. Based on the ambiguity of boredom that results, the conclusion draws on the ‘not-yet' materialism of Ernst Bloch [The Principle of Hope (vols. 1–3) (N. Plaice, S. Plaice, P. Knight, Trans.), Blackwell, Oxford, 1986] to disclose an image of process-matter that draws on Bennett's [The Enchantment of Modern Life. Attachments, Crossings and Ethics, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford, 2001] concept of an ‘enchanted materialism' but retains a sense of process as incorporating both plentitude and depletion. The basis to this form of affective materialism is the event of hope.


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Department of Geography