Spaces of Danger

Spaces of Danger

On the same day I heard the news of Ed Soja‘s untimely death I received my copy of Spaces of Danger: culture and power in the everyday, a volume in the University of Georgia Press’s Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series.  It’s a collection of essays edited by Heather Merrill and Lisa Hoffman: all of the contributors have been inspired by the work of another friend who I also miss very much, Allan Pred.

These twelve original essays by geographers and anthropologists offer a deep critical understanding of Allan Pred’s pathbreaking and eclectic cultural Marxist approach, with a focus on his concept of “situated ignorance”: the production and reproduction of power and inequality by regimes of truth through strategically deployed misinformation, diversions, and silences. As the essays expose the cultural and material circumstances in which situated ignorance persists, they also add a previously underexplored spatial dimension to Walter Benjamin’s idea of “moments of danger.”

The volume invokes the aftermath of the July 2011 attacks by far-right activist Anders Breivik in Norway, who ambushed a Labor Party youth gathering and bombed a government building, killing and injuring many. Breivik had publicly and forthrightly declared war against an array of liberal attitudes he saw threatening Western civilization. However, as politicians and journalists interpreted these events for mass consumption, a narrative quickly emerged that painted Breivik as a lone madman and steered the discourse away from analysis of the resurgent right-wing racisms and nationalisms in which he was immersed.

The Breivik case is merely one of the most visible recent examples, say editors Heather Merrill and Lisa Hoffman, of the unchallenged production of knowledge in the public sphere. In essays that range widely in topic and setting—for example, brownfield development in China, a Holocaust memorial in Germany, an art gallery exhibit in South Africa—this volume peels back layers of “situated practices and their associated meaning and power relations.” Spaces of Danger offers analytical and conceptual tools of a Predian approach to interrogate the taken-for-granted and make visible and legible that which is silenced.

Contents:

1 Introduction: Making sense of our contemporary moment of danger

PART ONE: CRITICAL SPATIALITY

Trevor Paglen: Angelus Novus (from back)

2 Katharyne Mitchell: It’s TIME: The cultural politics of memory in the current moment of danger

3 Gunnar Olsson: Skinning the Skinning

PART TWO: SITUATED PRACTICES

Trevor Paglen: From Allan’s notes on Benjamin

4 Gillian Hart: Exposing the Nationa: entanglements of race, sexuality and gender in post-apartheid nationalism

5 Heather Merrill: In other for(l)ds: situated intersectionality in Italy

6 Damani Partridge: Monumental memory, moral superiority, and contemporary disconnects: racisms and noncitizen in Europe, then and now

PART THREE: THE URBAN AND THE SPECTACULAR

Trevor Paglen: From Allan’s notes on Benjamin

7 Richard Walker: The city and economic geography: then and now

8 Shiloh Krupar: Situated spectacle: cross-sectional soil hermeneutics of the Shanghai 2010 World Expo

PART FOUR: HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHIES OF THE PRESENT

Trevor Paglen: Angelus Novus

9 Michael Watts  Insurgent Spaces: power, place and spectacle in Nigeria

10 Nancy Postero: Even in plurinational Bolivia: indignity, development and racism since Morales

11 Derek Gregory: Moving targets and violent geographies

PART FIVE: BIOGRAPHICAL MONTAGE OF THE PRESENT

12 Cindi Katz: A Bronx chronicle

There’s also a warm and exquisitely written Foreword by Paul Rabinow, who co-taught a graduate course with Allan at Berkeley, which ends like this:

‘Dame Fortune smiled on me when she sent Allan Pred my way.  I am forever in her debt.  The glimmers of hope in these dark times continue to emanate from those rare friends, not just their magnificent work, but the way they lived – the way they patiently, unobtrusively, daringly and thoughtfully taught us how to live.’

The stunning cover image, Travelers, is by Allan’s hyper-talented daughter Michele: it shows scissors confiscated at US airports and now suspended under a vast umbrella.  Spaces of Danger indeed.

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