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Durham University

Research & business

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Professor Ben Anderson

Professor in the Department of Geography
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 41897
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 41801
Room number: 322
Professor, Urban Worlds

Contact Professor Ben Anderson (email at ben.anderson@durham.ac.uk)

I am a cultural-political geographer whose research conceptualises ordinary affective life, and examines the politics of affect in relation to emergency governance, Brexit and the rise of populisms of the left and right, and other contemporary conditions. Since joining Durham in 2004, I’ve undertaken a wide range of administrative roles, including Director of the BA/MArts programmes, convenor of the Social-Spatial Theory and Urban Worlds Research Clusters, and currently joint REF co-ordinator. Occasionally, I distract myself from something else I should be doing by writing down some thoughts at @BenAndersonGeog

 

Affect and Contemporary Conditions

My main current research area concerns the politics of affect in relation to a range of contemporary conditons, principally the emergence of various populisms in the midst of intensifying precarity. Currently, this involves a new project on boredom in relation to contemporary capitalism. I’m fascinated by the question of how, if at all, boredom has changed since the second half of the twentieth century, and how staying with boredom might allow us to think differently about the affective lives of neoliberalism. Other ongoing work focuses on the affective geographies of Brexit (with Helen Wilson) and indebtedness (with James Ash, Paul Langley and Rachel Gordon). This empirical work builds on past theoretical work, principally a 2014 monograph – Encountering Affect: Capacities, Apparatuses, Conditions – which developed a vocabulary for describing how affective life is lived and governed (around concepts such as ‘structures of feeling’ and ‘affective atmospheres’). Current theoretical work on this theme concerns the idea of ‘Public Mood’. For the last three years, I’ve taught a third year module – Neoliberal Life – which explores how neoliberalisms are lived through boredom and outrage, disaffection and change, and hopes and optimism amongst other affects. The course develops from work on neoliberal affects and the relations between affective life and biopower:

Neoliberal Affects

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0309132515613167?journalCode=phgb

Affect and Biopower

https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00441.x

 

Governing Emergencies

The other main strand of my research focuses on how life is governed in, by and through emergencies. Over the second half of the twentieth century, ‘emergency’ shifted from being a term applied to a limited number of events to a term used in relation to almost any event. My research has aimed to understand how and why this change happened, tying it to shifts in ordinary affective life and transformations in the state’s relation to futures. Funded by the ESRC Leverhulme Trust, British Academy, EPSRC and RGS-IBG, work has focused on how new forms and practices of anticipation, such as exercises and scenarios, are being deployed by western states to anticipate and act on discontinuous futures. Recently, this work has shifted to consider situations where claims of emergency are used by progressive groups to draw attention to ongoing harms and damages in the context of enduring and intense inequalities.

 

On ‘slow emergencies’

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0309132519849263?journalCode=phgb

On emergency as a ‘mode of eventfulness’

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-954X.12447

 

I’m currently involved with an ESRC funded project led by Andres Luque-Ayala on digital media and emergency in Mexico, where we are exploring the relation between digital mediation and how events are governed and lived.

Culture and Life/Living

I have a longstanding interest in how concepts of culture, and the practice of cultural geography, are changing in the midst of the interest in life and living across the humanities and social sciences. Earlier work focused on concepts around matter and materiality and assemblage, as well as debates around non-representational theories. In three recent Progress in Human Geography reports I’ve turned to focus more explicitly on transformations in cultural geography:

 

Intensities and Forms of Power

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0309132516649491

 

The Force of Representations

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0309132518761431?journalCode=phgb

 

The Concept of Culture

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0309132519856264?journalCode=phgb

 

Over the years, I’ve supervised 19 PhD students and welcome enquiries from anyone wanting to work around the politics of affect and emotion in relation to contemporary conditions, or how emergencies and disasters are lived and governed.

Research Groups

Department of Geography

Research Interests

  • Affect and Emotion, Matter and Materiality, Utopianism, Non-Representational Theories, Anticipatory Logics/Techniques

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Anderson, B. (2014). Affect. In The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography. Castree, N et al Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Anderson, B. & Ash, J. (2014). Atmospheric Methods. In Non-representational methodologies. Vannini, P. Routledge.
  • Anderson, B. (2014). Emergency/Everyday. In Time: A Vocabulary of the Present. Elias, A. & Burges, J. NYU Press.
  • Anderson, B. (2012). Affect and Emotion. In A Companion to Cultural Geography. Johnson, N et al
  • Anderson, B. (2012). Affect. In Introducing Human Geographies. Cloke, P. Crang, P. & Goodwin, M. Hodder Arnold.
  • Anderson, B. (2012). Targeting Affective Life from Above: Morale and Airpower. In From Above: Verticality, Violence and Visual Culture. Adey, P., Whitehead, M. & Williams, A. Hurst.
  • Anderson, B. (2011). Recorded music and Remembering. In Popular Music. Rojek, C. London: Sage.
  • Anderson, B. (2010). Modulating the Excess of Affect: Morale in a State of Total War. In The Affect and Cultural Theory Reader. Gregg, M. & Seigworth, G. London: Duke University Press.
  • Anderson, B. & Harrison, P. (2010). The Promise of Non-Representational Theories. In Taking-Place: Non-Representational Theories and Geography. Anderson, B. & Harrison, P. Farnham: Ashgate. 1-36.
  • Anderson, B. (2009). Entries for: Affect, Emotional Geographies, Non-representational Theory. In The Dictionary of Human Geography. Gregory, D.
  • Anderson, B. (2008). Domestic Geographies of Affect. In Emotions. A Social Science Reader. Greco, M. & Stenner, P. London: Routledge. 201-205.
  • Anderson, B. (2008). Doreen Massey 'For Space' (2005). In Key Texts in Human Geography. Hubbard, P., Valentine, G. & Kitchin, R. London: Sage.

Edited book

  • Anderson, B. & Harrison, P. (2010). Taking-Place: Non-Representational Theories and Geography. London: Ashgate.

Journal Article

Show all publications

Supervises

Selected Grants

  • 2014: Governing Emergencies (£76910.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2014: Philip Leverhulme Prize (£70000.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
  • 2010: Data and decision in UK emergency preparedness (£12000.00 from County Durham & Darlington Fire & Rescue Service)
  • 2009: STAGING AND PERFORMING EMERGENCIES (£48077.24 from ESRC)
  • 2005: HOPE AND CULTURAL REGENERATION (£7442.00 from The British Academy)
  • 2005: IMAGINING THE NANOSCALE (£2121.00 from Royal Geographical Society)