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Social/Spatial Theory

 Social/Spatial Theory


Social/Spatial Theory provides a forum to think through what theory is and does following Geography's encounter with post-positivist continental philosophies. It gathers together theoretical work from across the other Human Geography research clusters in relation to three closely linked themes:

Histories of Geographical Thought

Research within the Social/Spatial Theory cluster engages in a range of projects on the histories of geographical thought, focusing both on specific traditions of thought within contemporary human geography (including postcolonialism, governmentality, corporeal feminism and non-representational theories) and on the questions and problems addressed by a range of thinkers associated with poststructuralist continental philosophy.

New Spatial Grammar

Much of the theoretical work associated with the cluster can be understood as contributing towards a comprehensive rethinking of the vocabularies and categories of spatial thought. Work on what could be termed the ‘new spatial grammar’ has three specific foci. First, a re-thinking of the classic vocabularies of spatial thought (such as scale, territory, and boundaries). Second, a sustained engagement with the implications for spatial thought of the emergence of performative and/or practice based ontologies. Third, the development of conceptual vocabularies that are able to attend to the 'life' of space, through work on affect, emotion, vision, embodiment, materiality and memory.

Ethics and Politics of Engagement

Research in this theme revolves around a shared imperative to think through the ways in which the questions and problems disclosed by theory can, or perhaps should, help us foster various practical means of engagement with the world. Work revolves around three questions. First, how to be attentive to the taking place of social differences such as class, gender, age, and race? Second, how to reformulate what critique is and does and develop ways of being-critical and being-radical that go beyond standard modes of opposition? Third, how to understand relations of responsibility, judgement or decision? In addressing these questions we aim to develop means of being-ethical and being-political that respond to the problematics that define contemporary politics, including multiculturalism, postcolonialism, the war on terror, contemporary capitalism, and human rights.

The cluster is convened by Dr Paul Harrison. It was previously convened by Dr Ben Anderson. Over the past three and a half years it has organised approximately twenty events, ranging from a two day conference through to one day workshops and reading and discussion meetings.

Contact Details

Durham University
Department of Geography
Lower Mountjoy
South Road, Durham

Tel: 0191 3341800
Fax: 0191 3341801