A new edited collection has just been publised, titled Contemporary Political Agency: Theory and Agency, and edited by Bice Maiguascha and Raff Marchetti. I have a chapter in it, Political agency between urban and transnational spaces, where I pretend to know about why assemblage theory and actor-network theory might be interesting, amongst other things. The book arises from a workshop held in Rome in 2009, under the auspices of the GARNET programme, an EU 6th Framework initiative, based at Exeter. In addition to all the intellectual stimulation during the workshop, the occassion was also a crash course in how to do Italian food properly, beyond pizza and pasta sauce from a jar. Here is the blurb for the collection:
“This book explores and critically reflects on the theory and practice of political agency in contemporary global politics. In light of the changing relationship between the state, the market and the society, it seeks to map both theoretically and empirically contemporary forms of global political agency.
This book reflects on the theory and practice of political agency in contemporary global politics. More specifically, it empirically analyses a range of different forms of political agency and explores their significance for understanding and enacting global politics. Reflecting the efforts of scholars from a variety of disciplines from political theory and Sociology to Geography and International Relations, it brings into conversation a wide spectrum of theoretical approaches including Marxism, feminism, post-structuralism and historical institutionalism. The contributors compare a range of forms of political agency; exploring their significance for the theory and practice of global politics; and reflect on the tensions and synergies generated by recent efforts to conceptualise them.
Demonstrating an innovative and interdisciplinary approach Contemporary Political Agency will be of interest to students and scholars of international relations, sociology, political economy and political theory.”
Later this week, a news series of documentaries about poverty in the UK starts, a BBC/OU collaboration called Living with Poverty. Links to OU-related resources can be found here, including an interactive tool for exploring (mis-)representations of poverty.
The latest issue of the journal Area has just published a Review Forum on the Globalizing Responsibility book which came out of a research project on the politics of ethical consumption. The Forum arises from a session held at the RGS-IBG conference in 2011, which included critical commentaries on the book by Alex Hughes and Mike Goodman. Both Alex and Mike have written responses to the book for the Forum. They raise various issues at stake in analysing and evaluating the politics of this field, including conceptualisations of the materiality of consumption, postcolonial approaches to consumption, issues of inequality and corporate power, and the role of media and communications practices in the extension of ethical discourses around consumption. We have a response/clarification/defence of the approach pursued in the book, grandly titled Problematising Practices, which, as the name might suggest, elaborates a little on the idea of focussing on ‘problematisation’ as both an object and method of analysis.
Details here of the new edition of Policing the Crisis, 35 years on from its first publication, with new chapters on its relevance to ‘the current conjuncture’, as the old saying goes.
A couple of days ago, Dissent pointed to an almost real-time, developing ‘debate’ about the trajectories of postcolonial theory – in the form of the response to the publication of Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital. The book is largely a refutation/attack/hatchet-job/demolition job (depending on how you read it) on the work of the Subaltern Studies historians, who are taken as standing in for the whole field of ‘postcolonial theory’ (come in Aijaz Ahmad, all is forgiven….). If you don’t want to read the whole book (which can currently be surreptitiously downloaded if you stumble across it…), you can get a sampling of Chibber’s argument in an interview at Jacobin, titled How does the subaltern speak? (I wonder how many variations on that title there have been, and how many more we could all imagine in the future?).
There is already a debate emerging around Chibber’s book, not least encouraged by Verso’s own blog site – they have posted a response to a critical review by Chris Taylor, which Taylor has himself responded to in the update to his original piece.
Blog-twitter-sphere excitement about all this is circulating around a set-piece ‘debate’ between Chibber and one of his targets, Partha Chatterjee, in New York last month – via Andy Davies’s blog, I see that the video of this encounter is now up on YouTube.
This made me laugh (should I get out more?): Rachel Bowlby in LRB, ending a discussion of J. Hillis Miller’s evolving ideas about the uses of literary reading:
“Out for a walk last week with a head full of Miller’s theoretical realities, I suddenly thought that I’d just seen the word ‘deconstruction’ on the side of a parked grey van. Assuming I must have misread this (misreading does happen), I went back, curious to see what it was that I’d managed to twist. I hadn’t misread it. The van was marked ‘Deconstruction specialists’. The company’s name was Protech. Based in Bexhill. There were fax and phone numbers – a proper landline. Below, in two neat blue columns, a list of the services offered. Concrete Cutting. Concrete Bursting. Concrete Crunching. Structural Works. Temporary Support. Partial Demolition. A whole history of literary theory, if that’s the way you want to look at it”.
One way of thinking about the ever-so slightly old fashioned practice of blogging is as a way of producing so many ‘advertisements for myself’. I think this might be perfectly defensible. So, in this spirit, this seems as good a medium as any to let anyone out there who might be interested know that I have accepted a position as Professor of Geography and Social Theory at the University of Exeter, in the Department of Geography, starting later this year.
I have spent a decade at the OU – one half of my grown-up academic career, and I must admit to being a little bit daunted by the idea of returning to the world of face-to-face teaching, seasonal Terms, that sort of thing. I suspect that one might remain ‘ex-OU’ for quite a while after leaving, in various ways. I’m really looking forward to working with the range of great people in Geography at Exeter, and also, maybe, living close to the seaside.