Geography Non-representational Theory
Paul Simpson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0117


Non-representational theory refers to a diverse body of work that emerged during the mid- to late 1990s in the United Kingdom as an alternative approach to the conception, practice, and production of geographic knowledge. Initially proposed by Nigel Thrift in a series of calls during that time, non-representational theory has sought to reorientate geographic analyses beyond a perceived overemphasis on representations (in a variety of forms), and a form of representationalism (whereby meaning is something formed in the mind and that acts as a precondition for action), toward an emphasis on practice, embodiment, materiality, and process. This call has been taken up by a range of geographers and has evolved in multiple, at times potentially conflicting, directions. This highlights a key feature of non-representational theory. It is not, in fact, a singular theory. Rather, non-representational theory marks a disposition based upon a range of styles of thinking that value practice and the processual. It is more easily understood in the plural—in terms of “non-representational theories.” Furthermore, the usefulness of the word non-representational has been questioned, both in critiques of this work and in responses to them. While this “non” suggests dispatching with concerns for representations in general, something many geographers have been troubled by, it is intended more to reflect a different approach to their consideration: a movement away from a focus on the interpretation of their meaning toward a consideration of what they “do” in the unfolding of the social world. The reception of non-representational theory in geography has been mixed. It is evident that a range of work has been inspired on the subject, particularly in terms of certain off-shoots, such as work on affect and materiality. It is clear also that non-representational theory has challenged geographers and encouraged reflection on the epistemological boundaries of the discipline. That said, it is clear also that it has led to the reassertion of certain core concerns for geography and critiques of non-representational theory’s potential devaluation of them. In light of such concerns and debates, non-representational theory has also come to be known by the alternative moniker of “more-than representational theory.” This title has sought to take a “softer” approach to the confrontational edge of the “non” and to suggest that the ideas proposed by non-representational theories can act as an animating supplement to existing approaches to geographic knowledge production.

General Overviews

Many overviews of what non-representational theory is have appeared since the mid-1990s. Thrift 1996 provides one of the earliest overviews and many of the subsequent introductions have been collected in Thrift 2007. With non-representational theory presenting more a disposition toward the world than an actual theory, a list-based outlining of a range of key concerns for non-representational theory is common to these introductions. These are often replete with references to social theory and continental philosophy, meaning they are not always easily accessible to those not well versed in such ideas. A number of more accessible overviews include Anderson 2009, Cadman 2009, Lorimer 2005, and Lorimer 2008, which provide less theoretical depth but more general thematic orientation for the reader. The themes of the initial overviews in Thrift 1996 and collected in Thrift 2007 have been taken up and developed in a number of ways in subsequent outlines. Notable here is Dewsbury, et al. 2002, which clarifies non-representational theory’s approach to representations and representationalism. Further, Lorimer 2005 reviews the early uptake of non-representational theories and suggested the alternative moniker of more-than representational theory so as to suggest more in the way of connections to research undertaken as part of and in light of “new” cultural geography. The most extensive overview of the plural forms non-representational theory has come to embody can be found in Anderson and Harrison 2010. This poly-vocal collection extends the work of non-representational theory far beyond the initial parameters initially outlined in Thrift 1996 and Thrift 2007, often in ways that go against aspects of the initial framings discussed above.

  • Anderson, Ben. “Non-representational Theories.” In Dictionary of Human Geography. Edited by Derek Gregory, Ron Johnston, and Geraldine Pratt, 503–505. London: Arnold, 2009.

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    Provides a short and accessible overview of the key points of focus of non-representational theory. The entry highlights the plural nature of work undertaken under the banner of non-representational theory and suggests it be better thought of in terms of non-representational theories.

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  • Anderson, Ben, and Paul Harrison, eds. Taking-Place: Non-representational Theories and Geography. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

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    The most comprehensive introduction to non-representational theory available to date. Includes chapters by sixteen academics exploring various aspects of non-representational theory, including life, representation, ethics, and politics. The introductory chapter also provides a clear genealogy of the emergence of non-representational theory and addresses a number of critiques.

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  • Cadman, Louisa. “Nonrepresentational Theory/Nonrepresentational Geographies.” In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Edited by Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift, 456–463. London: Elsevier, 2009.

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    Provides an introduction to non-representational theory’s interests in practice, everyday life, performance/performativity, embodiment, and space-time. Also highlights connections to developments around actor network theory, performance studies, and earlier work on the geographies of bodies. Useful in highlighting the methodological and political implications of non-representational theory.

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  • Dewsbury, John D., Paul Harrison, Mitch Rose, and John Wylie. “Enacting Geographies.” Geoforum 33.4 (2002): 437–440.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0016-7185(02)00029-5Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One of the first outlines of non-representational theory “after Thrift.” Emphasizes the excessive and processual nature of the world and its perpetual (re)enactment through practice. Responds to critiques of non-representational theory around its argued lack of interest in representations, suggesting they be taken as performative “doings.”

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  • Lorimer, Hayden. “Cultural Geography: The Busyness of Being ‘More-Than-Representational.’” Progress in Human Geography 29.1 (2005): 83–94.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132505ph531prSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    First progress report dedicated to the implications of non-representational theory for research in cultural geography. Accessible for undergraduates and those new to non-representational theory. Contributed to broader uptake of non-representational theory by suggesting the alternative and less confrontational title more-than representational theory

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  • Lorimer, Hayden. “Cultural Geography: Non-representational Conditions and Concerns.” Progress in Human Geography 32.4 (2008): 551–559.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132507086882Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Further reviews the development of non-representational theory. Provides an accessible overview of debates related to affect emerging from non-representational theory. Also discusses work on embodiment and the body in terms of engagements with temporality and rhythm.

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  • Thrift, Nigel. Spatial Formations. London: SAGE, 1996.

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    The introductory chapter to this book provides one of the first outlines of non-representational theory in human geography. While dense with references to social theory and philosophy, this introduction (and the rest of the text) provides an extensive outline of how space is made and remade through practice.

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  • Thrift, Nigel. Non-representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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    This text collects many of Thrifts key pieces on non-representational theory. While most chapters are available elsewhere, the original introduction provides a reintroduction to non-representational theory based on ten years of development and debate and the concluding chapter presents new reflections on the politics of affect.

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Journals and Other Research Resources

To date, no journals or other research resources are exclusively focused on non-representational theory. As non-representational theory cuts across a range of subdisciplinary areas, work developing or drawing on non-representational theory can be found in a range of outlets. That said, certain journals have played an important role in the dissemination of these developments. For example, Progress in Human Geography has published a range of progress reports and review articles that explore the gestation of non-representational theory as well as further the development of certain facets of the field. Journals such as Cultural Geographies and Social and Cultural Geography have also published a range of articles and themed issues given that the impact of non-representational theory has been most evident in these subdisciplinary areas. Further, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space hosted a range of early papers and themed issues on themes central to non-representational theory. Beyond these formal peer-reviewed outlets, numerous online resources have also emerged that both introduce and critically engage with non-representational theory. A number of short and quite accessible introductions, such as A Rough Guide to Non-representational Theory and What Is Non-representational Theory?, have appeared on individuals’ geography blogs. Collective blog sites, such as the AntipodeFoundation blog and the Geography Directions blog, also include a range of entries by various authors relevant to developments in non-representational theory that can be identified and accessed on the basis of a non-representational theory “tag.”

  • AntipodeFoundation. Non-representational Theory.

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    This “tag” assembles posts from the Antipode Foundation website that engage with matters relevant to non-representational theory. In particular, given Antipode’s radical remit, much of these deal with the question of what a non-representational politics may look like or limitations to that conception.

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  • A Rough Guide to Non-representational Theory.

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    This blog post provides a short and accessible overview of some of the key themes of non-representational theory, signaling key references pursuing those themes further. This includes some clear contextualization within contrasting and cognate areas of human geography research.

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  • Cultural Geographies. 1994–.

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    Cultural Geographies is an international peer-reviewed journal publishing research related to the cultural dimensions of space, place, landscape, and environment. While not focused on non-representational theory specifically, a range of articles developing various aspects of non-representational theory have been published in the journal.

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  • Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 1983–.

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    Environment and Planning D is an international peer-reviewed journal publishing research exploring the mutually constitutive relations between society and space. Many of the early papers outlining key features of non-representational theory were published here both individually and as part of themed issues (such as Volume 18, issues 4–5).

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  • Geography Directions. Nonrepresentational Theory.

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    This “tag” assembles posts on the Geography Directions blog that relate to non-representational theory. Blog posts here make connections between recent articles published in RGS-IBG journals and recent news stories or events, which means that they are often very accessible.

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  • Progress in Human Geography. 1977–.

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    Progress in Human Geography publishes critical reviews of recent and ongoing developments in human geography. While not focused on non-representational theory, a number of influential progress reports and articles have been published here that review the emergence of non-representational theory or explore the further development of specific facets of the field.

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  • Social and Cultural Geography 2000–.

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    Social and Cultural Geography publishes research that explores the spatialities of society and culture. This journal does not specifically focus on non-representational theory but has published a range of articles and themed issues that have developed non-representational theory, often through the exploration of specific embodied practices.

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  • What Is Non-representational Theory? Paul Simpson Geography.

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    This blog post provides a short, thematically organized introduction to non-representational theory, focusing particularly on process, subjectivity, the body, practices, and experimentation. It also includes a bibliography of relevant references.

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Philosophical Antecedents

Non-representational theory has entailed an expansion and deepening of geography’s engagement with social theory and, in particular, continental philosophy. Many of the arguments articulated through non-representational theory find their inspiration in the musings of various figures from continental thought. This has included various strands of thought, taking in phenomenology, post-structuralism, vitalism, and various materialisms, among others. In particular, Heidegger 1978, Bourdieu 1977, and Merleau-Ponty 2002 have proved central to engagements with notions of practice and embodiment. Foucault 2002 and Deleuze 2004 have raised questions about the ability of representations to capture the world, and so question that very logic of capture itself, presenting an alternative image of thought founded upon difference. Vitalist writings, such as Spinoza 1996 and Deleuze and Guattari 2004, have informed developments around affect in presenting life as a fundamental unit of analysis. Finally, Latour 1993 has provided a starting point from which to question the binaries of modernism and so consider the world as messy and consisting of distributed agency. This list is by no means exhaustive and the works cited contain a range of internal differences and potential contradictions. Again, non-representational theories are plural in their specific position and orientation. Non-representational theory has been pulled in different directions depending on which of the aforementioned theorists take prominence in the thinking of various geographers. Furthermore, notable shifts in emphasis can be identified within the work of various geographers based on such encounters. For example, while Pierre Bourdieu and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were prominent in the early writings of Thrift, they have receded into the background now, being replaced by philosophers such as Peter Sloterdijk. A clear and ongoing engagement can be discerned with developments in contemporary social theory and continental thought, for example, the recent emergence of “object oriented ontology” and “speculative realism,” as well as the “discovery” (often in light of new translations) of further continental thinkers, such as Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, and Jean-Luc Nancy.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511812507Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This text presents an account of how human action should be understood. It introduces the concept of “habitus,” which informed early discussion of non-representational theory in thinking about embodiment, habit, and the reproduction of social practices and formations. This concept offered a means of thinking between individual actions and social structures.

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  • Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. London: Continuum, 2004.

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    This is a foundational text in the development of non-representational theory that outlines means for thinking about difference in terms of continual processes of change rather than thinking about difference between determinate terms. Deleuze’s concepts provide a starting point for thinking about processes of subjectification rather than defined identities.

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  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. London: Continuum, 2004.

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    This text—structured as a series of stand-alone “plateaus”—outlines a range of concepts that have influenced non-representational theories. In particular, notions of nomadism, the refrain, rhizomes, the body without organs, becoming-animal, and micropolitics, among others, are developed. These concepts, in general terms, focus on emergence and becoming.

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  • Foucault, Michel. Order of Things. London: Routledge, 2002.

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    This text examines the epistemological foundations of the human sciences in the West, particularly focusing on the notion of “representation.” Engaging with the writings of Descartes and Kant, among others, Foucault questions any straightforward correlation between word and world, a key starting point for non-representational theory.

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  • Heidegger, Martin. Basic Writings. London: Routledge, 1978.

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    Provides an introduction to a range of key features of Heidegger’s work. In particular, the essays on “The Origin of the Work of Art” and “Building, Dwelling, Thinking” develop the concept of “dwelling,” which has been significant to how geographers have understood peoples’ relationships with their environment.

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  • Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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    This text questions modern binaries, particularly between nature and society, and so questions a range of assumptions about contemporary science and social science practice. Instead, the text emphasizes the hybrid status of a whole parliament of things, each of which gain various degrees of agency in the assembling of society.

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  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge, 2002.

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    This is a foundational text in thinking about embodiment in non-representational theory. Merleau-Ponty examines in detail the importance of the body to perception. Discussing tacit bodily knowledges and our habitual movements through space, this suggests that we know spaces as embodied beings rather than in abstract conceptualized terms.

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  • Spinoza, Benedictus de. Ethics. London: Penguin, 1996.

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    This text provides the starting point for many discussions within non-representational theory around affect through its discussion of affectio and affectus. Spinoza’s thoughts inspired subsequent discussions of affect found in, for example, the work of Deleuze. The text develops an anti-Cartesian position that questions separations of body from mind.

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Critical Engagement

Non-representational theory has proved to be a contentious development in geography and has raised a number of questions with regards to how it seeks to shift the frame of analysis for geographic research. Several concerns have recurred throughout this reception. A starting point for many of the initial critiques of non-representational theory was the name itself. As noted in Nash 2000, this has proved a concern for many in its suggestion that representations are no longer an issue of concern for geographic analysis when they have held such a prominent place over decades of research. Further, the focus of non-representational theory on affect and pre-cognitive/pre-subjective registers of thought and experience has raised concerns, noted in Tolia-Kelly 2006, over the ability of such an approach to attend to social difference and issues of unequal political agency. This issue has been approached more affirmatively elsewhere in Colls 2012 in the pursuit of a constructive conversation between certain forms of feminist theory and non-representational theory’s concern for the sensate body. That said, the issue of agency has, in turn, raised questions, discussed in Barnett 2008, about how a politics of affect might proceed, especially given the apparent lack of ability to respond to affective manipulation. These questions have produced revised positions and programs, articulated in Amin and Thrift 2013, for how such a politics might be advanced. However, concerns centering on issues such as subjectivity, identity, and affect have, in turn, led to the establishment of something of a binary between “affective geographies” and “emotional geographies,” with critiques made in Thien 2005 on the basis of one not fitting the substantive topics or analytical goals of the other. One interesting point that has emerged from these critiques is the relation of non-representational theory to other developments in the history of the discipline. In particular, given interests in phenomenology, Cresswell 2012 asks questions about non-representational theory’s relationship to humanistic geography, and, with that, about particular work investigating mundane embodied actions and navigations. Equally, other visions for non-representational theories, which are overtly but still critically interested in representations, have been suggested through engagements with quite different theoretical positions (such as that of Jean Baudrillard in Smith 2003).

  • Amin, Ash, and Nigel Thrift. Arts of the Political: New Openings for the Left. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822399056Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This text presents a sustained response to critiques made of non-representational theory concerning its relationship to politics. The book proposes three arts of the political—boosting invention, leveraging organization, and mobilizing affect—that, the authors suggest, are essential to intervening in the expanded political sphere it outlines.

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  • Barnett, Clive. “Political Affects in Public Space: Normative Blind-Spots in Non-representational Ontologies.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 33.2 (2008): 186–200.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2008.00298.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper is critical of work that situates affect as an overly effective modality of subject-manipulation. It argues that such a politics of affect leaves bodies in public space as unknowingly subject to manipulation, limiting the potential to outline an affirmative politics or to specify when this might be enacted.

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  • Colls, Rachel. “Feminism, Bodily Difference and Non-representational Geographies.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37.3 (2012): 430–445.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00477.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper brings together feminist theory and non-representational approaches to develop understandings of corporeal specificity and sexual difference. The paper adopts a generous and constructive disposition is pursuing this conversation rather than defending academic territories, something that marks many other critiques of non-representational theory.

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  • Cresswell, Tim. “Review Essay: Nonrepresentational Theory and Me: Notes of an Interested Sceptic.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30.1 (2012): 96–105.

    DOI: 10.1068/d494Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This text identifies a series of questions for work adopting a non-representational approach. Some of this covers familiar ground in critiques of non-representational theory (such as concerns about the status of representations) but also identifies concerns around the under-explored disciplinary histories for non-representational theory (NRT) and questions of political agency.

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  • Nash, Catherine. “Performativity in Practice: Some Recent Work in Cultural Geography.” Progress in Human Geography 24.4 (2000): 653–664.

    DOI: 10.1191/030913200701540654Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This progress report reflects on developments related to research on the body in geography emerging from non-representational theory. It asks questions about the apparent movement therein from a focus on text and representation, previously prominent in cultural geography, to the micro-geographies of practice and performance in non-representational theory.

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  • Smith, Richard G. “Baudrillard’s Nonrepresentational Theory: Burn the Signs and Journey without Maps.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 21.1 (2003): 67–84.

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    This paper proposes that the work of Jean Baudrillard, and his critique of representations can be considered to present a form of non-representational theory, but one that is distinct from the non-representational theory presented by Nigel Thrift. The latter, it suggests, is better understood as anti-representational.

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  • Thien, Deborah. “After or Beyond Feeling? A Consideration of Affect and Emotion in Geography.” Area 37.4 (2005): 450–456.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2005.00643a.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper outlines a critique of work emerging from non-representational theory on affect, questioning the relationship of this to work on emotions. In particular, this critique finds problems with the trans-human emphasis of such affect work and argues that this discourages engagement with emotional subjectivities.

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  • Tolia-Kelly, Divya P. “Affect: An Ethnocentric Encounter? Exploring the ‘Universalist’ Imperative of Emotional/Affectual Geographies.” Area 38.2 (2006): 213–217.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2006.00682.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article argues that work on affect and emotions operate of different political landscapes. This leads to a critique of work on affect over its limited engagement with ‘power geometries’ and historicity, and so how different people have different capacities to affect and be affected.

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Non-representational Theory and Practice

An emphasis on practice formed a fundamental starting point for the development of non-representational theory, with “the theory of practices” being a briefly mentioned alternative title. This emphasis on practice, and so the processual, pervades the various core themes of non-representational theories. It has both presented an analytical starting point—meaning a focus on cognate terms such as performance, embodiment, and performativity—and a direction for the substantive inquiry guided by non-representational theories. Research has focused on a range of everyday, mobile, and artistic practices in which people engage. More specifically, in taking practices as a starting point for geographic analysis, Dewsbury 2000 is interested in difference and events, largely in light of the work of Gilles Deleuze. Here, difference has been taken to be related to the infinitesimal changes perpetually unfolding in the playing out of life rather than more formalized differences between categories (e.g., neat binaries between defined terms). Such an emphasis has been taken to mean an enlivening of the world, and so the emphasis has shifted in Harrison 2000 and Thrift and Dewsbury 2000 from how social structures, meanings, sense, identities, habits, sensibilities, and so on are pre-formed to how they come to be formed (and re-formed) through practice. From this point a range of sympathetic, if critical, responses to this emphasis on emergence and enactment have emerged. In particular, Simpson 2008 and Simpson 2013 attempt to think about the situated nature of practices and so the role of the material, but also social-cultural-political, contexts in which practices take place in shaping the unfolding of such practices. Further, the emphasis on activity and generativity here has been questioned. Bissell 2009 and Harrison 2009 stress exploration of the vulnerability and finitude of bodies, and so how bodies are not necessarily always actively enrolled in the enactment of the world, and that such vulnerability can be understood, in fact, to constitute the condition for the possibility of such enactment.

  • Bissell, David. “Travelling Vulnerabilities: Mobile Timespaces of Quiescence.” Cultural Geographies 16.4 (2009): 427–445.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474009340086Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In contrast to the emphasis on liveliness in much of the research on practice, this paper focuses on the embodied experiences associate with tiredness and sleep, and so emphasizes the vulnerability of the body. This is explored in the specific context of railway carriages and the experiences such spaces afford.

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  • Dewsbury, John D. “Performativity and the Event: Enacting a Philosophy of Difference.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18.4 (2000): 473–496.

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    This paper develops understandings of performativity through an engagement with the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. This leads to an emphasis on difference and events—as a processual and excessive enactment of the world—and so a decentering of the knowing subject.

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  • Dewsbury, John D. “Witnessing Space: Knowledge without Contemplation.” Environment and Planning A 35.11 (2003): 1907–1932.

    DOI: 10.1068/a3582Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Dewsbury develops notions of witnessing as a means for thinking about how geographers attend to difference. Such differences, it is argued, should be taken as the non-representational and little tangible presences that permeate day-to-day life—emotions, passions, desires.

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  • Harrison, Paul. “Making Sense: Embodiment and the Sensibilities of the Everyday.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18.4 (2000): 497–517.

    DOI: 10.1068/d195tSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper examines the productive relationship of the body and space in terms of the making of sense. This is proposed to be groundless, meaning an emphasis on enactment and the possibility for things to be otherwise rather than on finding the foundations upon which everyday life would be based.

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  • Harrison, Paul. “In the Absence of Practice.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27.6 (2009): 987–1009.

    DOI: 10.1068/d7907Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In contrast to the emphasis on action, enactment, and production present in much practice-oriented work, this paper focuses on bodies that aren’t active (here sleeping) as a way of exploring bodily finitude and susceptibility. These conditions are argued to be the conditions for the possibility of embodied action.

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  • Simpson, Paul. “Chronic Everyday Life: Rhythmanalyzing Street Performance.” Social and Cultural Geography 9.7 (2008): 807–829.

    DOI: 10.1080/14649360802382578Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article critically discusses Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis in developing an account of the temporal development of embodied practices. The paper shows how practices are situated within particular choreographed spatio-temporal contexts but that such contexts do not necessarily predetermine the practice’s unfolding.

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  • Simpson, Paul. “Ecologies of Experience: Materiality, Sociality, and the Embodied Experience of (Street) Performing.” Environment and Planning A 45.1 (2013): 180–196.

    DOI: 10.1068/a4566Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper develops the idea of “ecology” as a means for thinking about the relational-situated nature of embodied practices. It shows how the affective relations permeating such practices entail more-than human agencies, unfold on differing scales/durations, and are structured by the specific spatial context of the practice.

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  • Thrift, Nigel, and John D. Dewsbury. “Dead Geographies, and How to Make Them Live.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18.4 (2000): 411–432.

    DOI: 10.1068/d1804edSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper introduces a themed issue on “Spaces of Performance.” In doing so it outlines a range of understandings of performance/performativity, arguing that a common point of focus among these is on a distaste for the pre-formed, and so that they present means of enlivening the world.

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Non-representational Theory and Affect

Affect has proved to be a key concept that has gained traction in geography following the emergence and development of non-representational theory. While present in a range of the early outlines of non-representational theory presented by Thrift and others, it has been more substantively outlined in a variety of conceptual papers as well as forming a core concern of many more empirically orientated studies. A key characteristic of much of this work is the range of ways in which affect has been understood and so the time taken to delineate various understandings of affect has been a concern. In outlining these, a great deal of energy has been spent delineating how affect—taken in a range of ways—relates to connected concepts such as feeling and emotion. For example, Anderson 2006 and McCormack 2007 both provide detailed considerations of how affect is different from, but nonetheless inherently tied into, these concepts and the scales and temporalities through which affect can operate. While varied in character, a common thread running through many of the outlines of what affect is has been a focus on affect as capacity (to affect and be affected) and as a target for power-filled political intervention (see Anderson 2014, Thrift 2004). The idea that affects can become the target for intervention by various groups is considered in some depth in Ash 2010, particularly showing how this is tied into the encouragement of consumption and the retention of the public’s attention in a range of spatial settings. The settings for the consideration of affect in a more empirical sense have been resolutely banal, showing that acts as simple as listening to music, as discussed in Anderson 2005, or just being comfortable, as discussed in Bissell 2008, are bound up with a variety of affective sensibilities and relations. That said, the performing arts have equally presented both a range of points of inspiration for thinking through the implications of taking affect as a starting point for research, as shown in McCormack 2003, and as providing resources for thinking through such research experiments and practice, shown in McCormack 2007.

  • Anderson, Ben. “Practices of Judgement and Domestic Geographies of Affect.” Social and Cultural Geography 6.5 (2005): 645–659.

    DOI: 10.1080/14649360500298308Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper reflects on the relationship between judgment and affect by suggesting that judgments proceed in light of feeling imbued thoughts rather than purely rational decision making. In doing so the paper shows how banal everyday acts, such as listening to music, happen amid a range of affective imperatives.

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  • Anderson, Ben. “Becoming and Being Hopeful: Towards a Theory of Affect.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24.5 (2006): 733–752.

    DOI: 10.1068/d393tSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper provides a clear delineation among affect, feeling, and emotion, showing their inherently linked but nonetheless specific character in relation to expression (from affect to feeling) and qualifications (from affect/feeling to emotion). This is drawn out in relation to the affects of a body becoming and being hopeful.

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  • Anderson, Ben. Encountering Affect: Capacities, Apparatuses, Conditions. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014.

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    The first book-length study in geography on affect. This text presents a particular take on affect focused on how affects mediate and are mediated, and so order and are ordered, in social life. Develops understandings of affects as “object-targets” for political interventions and as collective structures of feeling and atmospheres.

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  • Ash, James. “Architectures of Affect: Anticipating and Manipulating the Event in Practices of Videogame Design and Testing.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28.4 (2010): 653–671.

    DOI: 10.1068/d9309Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Through the case study of computer game design, this paper provides an introduction to the means through which the affective manipulation of space can take place. In particular, the paper shows not only how game designers attempt to design positive affects into game spaces, but also how this is a contingent process.

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  • Bissell, David. “Comfortable Bodies: Sedentary Affects.” Environment and Planning A 40.7 (2008): 1697–1712.

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    Responding to the “lively” bodies present in many discussions of affect this paper shows how comfort presents a form of corporeal sensibility, meaning that sedentary bodies are also entangled in a range of affective relations. This draws attention to how bodies are susceptible as well as holding capacities to act.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “An Event of Geographical Ethics in Spaces of Affect.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 28.4 (2003): 488–507.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0020-2754.2003.00106.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper connects ideas around affect to questions of ethical responses and to encounters with others. The author suggests that ethical action proceeds through the cultivation of a fidelity to the events taking place—a form of ethical sensibility—rather than by following the prescriptions of a transcendent ethical code.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “Molecular Affects in Human Geographies.” Environment and Planning A 39.3 (2007): 359–377.

    DOI: 10.1068/a3889Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores the relationship between affect and “the molecular,” particularly in the sense of neurochemical processes (for example, the affects of taking anti-depressant drugs). This acts to augment the scale—both spatial and temporal—at which considerations of affect and embodiment take their focus in geography.

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  • Thrift, Nigel. “Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect.” Geografiska Annaler B 86.1 (2004): 57–78.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0435-3684.2004.00154.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper presents an initial attempt to delineate a politics of affect by considering the ways in which affects become the target of intervention in cities in Europe and the United States. The paper also provides an outline of various understandings of affect, drawn from Sedgwick/Tomkins, Spinoza/Deleuze, and Darwin, among others.

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Non-representational Theory and Landscape

Landscape has been a longstanding area of interest for cultural geography. Much of the initial articulation of non-representational theory has come through a contrast to the work of “new cultural geography” and the particular ways in which that approach understood landscape. A key feature throughout much of the literature emerging from thoughts about landscape in non-representational theory has been a shift in emphasis from representation to practice. While a great deal of work in cultural geography has sought to engage critically with cultural landscapes through themes of iconography, representation, and text, work influenced by non-representational theory has sought to focus more on the experience of these landscape and how they achieve their meaningful situation through everyday embodied practices. This has been pursued in a range of ways. For example, questions are asked in Cresswell 2003 and Rose and Wylie 2006 about the temporality of landscape and how, arguably, the term landscape itself implies a fixity and finished character. In response, geographers have asked questions about how landscapes come to be animated by people’s practical engagement with them. Further, this temporality has been drawn out in relation to the self experiencing that landscape. Here, self and landscape, and the relations between them, have been understood in Rose 2006 as presenting dreams of presence, which never coincide with each other or themselves, In Wylie 2002 and Wylie 2005 they are conceived as being intertwined and co-appearing “with” one another rather than being separate and distanced. In Rose 2002 they are viewed as coming to matter to people through everyday activities and practices of meaning-making rather than abstract structures, while Crouch 2010 considers them as a spacing that implies an unpredictable openness. Through the development of such process-based, embodied accounts of self-landscape relations, the insights of this work have been taken in a range of directions. Notable here, Macpherson 2010 asks questions about the capacities of the body in the landscape and how, for example, disabled bodies are situated within such relations. As such, disabled bodies, for example, develop various “coping strategies” in their interactions with landscape based on the differing capacities of their bodies to act, affect, and be affected.

  • Cresswell, Tim. “Landscape and the Obliteration of Practice.” In Handbook of Cultural Geography. Edited by Kay Anderson, Mona Domosh, Steve Pile, and Nigel Thrift, 269–282. London: SAGE, 2003.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781848608252Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The chapter argues that many uses of the term landscape suggest a sense of fixity and being finished. In contrast, Cresswell uses ideas centering on practice to try to add a sense of temporality and movement to landscape. This provides a starting point from which landscapes can be understood as “lived.”

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  • Crouch, David. “Flirting with Space: Thinking Landscape Relationally.” Cultural Geographies 17.1 (2010): 5–18.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474009349996Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The paper contributes to discussions of the relational nature of landscapes and the relational constitution of meaning by exploring the concept of spacing. This suggests a character of flirting that draws attention to the open, unpredictable, and potentially surprising character of life’s relations to landscape.

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  • Macpherson, Hannah. “Non-representational Approaches to Body-Landscape Relations.” Geography Compass 4.1 (2010): 1–13.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2009.00276.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper provides an accessible introduction to some of the key themes of non-representational theory with a particular focus on the mutually productive relationship between bodies and landscape. In particular, the author asks questions about understandings of disability within this emergent relation of body and landscape.

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  • Rose, Mitch. “Landscape and Labyrinths.” Geoforum 33.4 (2002): 455–467.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0016-7185(02)00030-1Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores how landscapes appear in the world and how they come to matter through practices. Rather than drawing on structural explanations of how landscapes exist (through ideology, hegemony, domination, etc.), the author focuses on the everyday practices of inhabitants that call landscapes into being and make landscapes relevant to them.

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  • Rose, Mitch. “‘Gathering Dreams of Presence’: A Project for the Cultural Landscape.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24.4 (2006): 537–554.

    DOI: 10.1068/d391tSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper argues that relations between subjectivities and landscapes should be thought of as “dreams of presence.” This suggests that “presence” between self and landscape is never achieved, but only moved toward. Relations of self and landscape are, therefore, ontogenetic; landscape is not just a reflection of our being-in-the-world.

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  • Rose, Mitch, and John Wylie. “Animating Landscape.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24.4 (2006): 475–479.

    DOI: 10.1068/d2404edSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article proposes that landscape is a tension between presence and absence. This starting point is used to develop a critique of “relational” geographies topological overflattening of the world. Landscape is argued to be a useful starting point for thinking about depth and texture in relations, something that is more topographical.

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  • Wylie, John. “An Essay on Ascending Glastonbury Tor.” Geoforum 33.4 (2002): 441–454.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0016-7185(02)00033-7Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on Merleau-Ponty, the author develops understandings of the relations of self and landscape. In contrast to the distanciation present in Cartesian binaries of subject and object, seer and seen, the paper presents an understanding of self-landscape relations as “enlacements,” or “intertwinings,” of vision and the visible.

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  • Wylie, John. “A Single Day’s Walking: Narrating Self and Landscape on the South West Coast Path.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30.2 (2005): 234–247.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2005.00163.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The paper develops a “post-phenomenological” account of the relations of self and landscape in which neither self nor landscape are stable entities. This positioning entails a switch in emphasis from thinking about “being-in” landscapes to understanding landscapes as the materialities and sensibilities “with” which we perceive and act.

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Non-representational Theory and Materiality

Materiality has been a key concern for human geography for some time. Recently, however, questions have been asked about cultural geography’s attention to the material world, particularly in the emphasis given by “new cultural geography” on texts and representations. In response, calls have been made to “rematerialize” human geography along these lines, which are reviewed in brief in Anderson and Tolia-Kelly 2004. Non-representational theory has played a major part in developing human geography’s concerns with the material. However, it has done so in following a slightly different direction than that suggested above. Rather than seeking to “ground” geography in a consideration of matter and the material, Anderson and Wylie 2009 and Latham and McCormack 2004 question what we mean by the terms material and matter themselves, and so question binary positions between the material and the immaterial. Developing conversations taking place beyond the confines of geography around various forms of “new materialism,” non-representational theories have sought to understand the material as taking place as ongoing processes of materialization. This presents a somewhat expanded material realm that takes place at varying scales (from the molecular to the molar) and along a variety temporalities. Anderson and Tolia-Kelly 2004 shows that the focus of this is more on what matter does than delimiting the essence of what matter is. One area around which such developments have coalesced has been in terms of “atmospheres.” As shown in Jackson and Fannin 2011, such a focus on our material medium of relation troubles previous thinking around materiality as relating to the solid. Here atmospheres have been understood not only in their literal-meteorological sense in terms of forms of weather and turbulent aerographies, which have the capacities to affect perceptions and experiences of the world, for example in Martin 2011 with the example of fog, but also in a more explicitly affective sense that is concerned with shared, if ephemeral, feelings that find consistency in a space for a time, such as in McCormack 2008. Such concerns raise questions about how to attend to such ephemeral and potentially invisible phenomena, and so have led to various forms of experimentation in the spaces and routes through which these atmospheres emerge and come to be shaped, such as those in Adey, et al. 2013, as well as to investigations of how such an experimental research practice is presented, including the attempts in McCormack 2014.

  • Adey, Peter, Laure Brayer, Damien Mason, Patrick Murphy, Paul Simpson, and Nicolas Tixier. “‘Pour votre tranquillité’: Ambiance, Atmosphere, and Surveillance.” Geoforum 49 (2013): 299–309.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2013.04.028Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper stages a conversation between work on affective atmospheres and research from French urban theory on ambiances in examining practices of surveillance/security in mobile public space. In doing so, the authors also pose questions about research methods and the dispositions required for attending to fleeting and ephemeral phenomena.

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  • Anderson, Ben, and Divya P. Tolia-Kelly. “Matter(s) in Social and Cultural Geography.” Geoforum 35.6 (2004): 669–674.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2004.04.001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article questions calls to rematerialize social and cultural geography on the basis that matter is too unruly to be neatly separated from culture. Instead, the authors argue for the plurality of matter as a concept/theme of geographic inquiry, and, in that, a focus on what matter does.

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  • Anderson, Ben, and John Wylie. “On Geography and Materiality.” Environment and Planning A 41.2 (2009): 318–335.

    DOI: 10.1068/a3940Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper questions the need to “rematerialize” human geography by questioning what “matter” might mean in human geography. It proposes an expanded conception of matter in suggesting that matter takes place with the properties and capacities of any state or element, not just as something “solid.”

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  • Jackson, Mark, and Maria Fannin. “Letting Geography Fall Where It May: Aerographies Address the Elemental.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29.3 (2011): 435–444.

    DOI: 10.1068/d2903edSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article questions geography’s “elemental prejudices” in its focus on the solid when it comes to matter. In response the authors propose a focus on our previously ignored immersion in a more-than-human material medium: air. The challenges of focusing on this invisible medium of relation are also considered.

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  • Latham, Alan, and Derek McCormack. “Moving Cities: Rethinking the Materialities of Urban Geographies.” Progress in Human Geography 28.9 (2004): 701–724.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132504ph515oaSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper problematizes distinctions between the material and the immaterial, and so calls to “rematerialize” human geography. This leads to the suggestion that engaging with the materiality of the urban requires a more expansive understanding of the material to include the apparently immaterial, particularly in terms of processes of materialization.

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  • Martin, Craig. “Fog-Bound: Aerial Space and the Elemental Entanglements of Body-with-World.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29.3 (2011): 454–468.

    DOI: 10.1068/d10609Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper reflects on the relational materialism of fog and the role such an atmospheric phenomenon plays in disrupting normal sense perception. This is used to question geography’s conceptualizations of vision and embodiment, instead emphasizing the entanglement of the body with its immersive environment.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “Engineering Affective Atmospheres on the Moving Geographies of the 1897 Andree Expedition.” Cultural Geographies 15.4 (2008): 413–430.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474008094314Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper develops understandings of materiality and movement by exploring the concept of “atmosphere.” This is developed in terms of not only its literal meteorological implications but also in light of ideas on affect, so being a quality of the environment within which bodies find themselves.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “Atmospheric Things and Circumstantial Excursions.” Cultural Geographies 21.4 (2014): 605–625.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474014522930Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper focuses on the movements of various “atmospheric things” (balloons) to discuss the “circumstantial” nature of objects, that is their spatio-temporal emergence from relations with more-than-human materialities. The paper also presents an experiment in how to write about, and so give consistency to, such atmospheric materialities.

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Non-representational Theory and Technology

With its interest in practice and process, technology has come to be a key area of concern for geographers influenced by non-representational theories. Thrift 2005 connects this to the ways in which technology has been seen to increasingly impact upon perception and action in social spaces. In this sense, geographers have explored what various technologies do. In exploring this, Kinsley 2012 is concerned with the practices of technology design and development and the function of the particular visions of the future that come to light within this. Further, this has entailed the recognition, in Kinsley 2014, of the various material infrastructures that go together in producing such “virtual realities” with which bodies find them self-entangled. While the phrase “virtual reality” may imply an immaterial or imaginary realm, it is very much grounded in a range of technologies, networks, codes, and so on that exist as a material reality with particular capacities to influence the users of that technology. These interests have been explored through a number of forms and specific types of technology. Consumer technologies such as computer games have been a prominent point of interest for the way in which they produce specific spaces interacted with by the players of such games. While interest among media geographers—and interdisciplinary scholarship from media studies and related disciplines—on the role computer games can play in representing people and places is well established, geographers have also explored the more practice-based and experiential functions of games. They have done so in works such as Ash 2009, which explores the ways in which computer games can produce specifically designed screen-spaces. Ash 2010 considers how action is shaped in the game world through various design features of the produced spaces, and Shaw and Warf 2009 looks at how affective, as well as representational, features of the game play a role in the production of “virtual space.” This work does not necessarily argue that the representational qualities of such technologies are not important, but rather than such technologies also act upon the body of the users on very practical, experiential, and, at times, affective registers that can (re)shape the capacities of bodies to act.

  • Ash, James. “Emerging Spatialities of the Screen: Video Games and the Reconfiguration of Spatial Awareness.” Environment and Planning A 41.9 (2009): 2105–2124.

    DOI: 10.1068/a41250Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper develops a non-representational understanding of screen spaces. Rather than focusing on the screen image as a representation, the focus is more on the existential space produced by the image in relation to the body looking. This is illustrated in the context of computer gaming.

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  • Ash, James. “Teleplastic Technologies: Charting Practices of Orientation and Navigation in Videogaming.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35.3 (2010): 414–430.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2010.00389.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper looks at how technologies can reshape the capacities and capabilities of bodies through the concept of “teleplasticity.” Drawing on the example of video games, the author argues that a range of subtle inhibitors and dis-inhibitors in the game design come to shape the actions of the user.

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  • Kinsley, Sam. “Futures in the Making: Practices to Anticipate ‘Ubiquitous Computing.’” Environment and Planning A 44.7 (2012): 1554–1569.

    DOI: 10.1068/a45168Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores ubiquitous computing as a form of spatial imagination orientated toward the future. In particular, the author argues that practices of anticipation in technology research and development are performative, situated between imagination and practice, and so hold agency in shaping conceptions of possible future spatial practices.

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  • Kinsley, Sam. “The Matter of ‘Virtual’ Geographies.” Progress in Human Geography 38.3 (2014): 364–384.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132513506270Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores the material conditions, or “technicity,” of “the virtual” rather than thinking of the virtual as an immaterial reality. The author highlights the virtual’s worldly character, its entanglement of bodies, codes, data, infrastructures, and so on, that shape each other.

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  • Shaw, Ian G. R., and Barney Warf. “Worlds of Affect: Virtual Geographies of Video Games.” Environment and Planning A 41.6 (2009): 1332–1343

    DOI: 10.1068/a41284Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper suggests the need to attend to both the representational and the affective dimensions of video games and the distinctive spatialities of the “virtual worlds” they present. The representational and the affective are suggested to be complimentary forces working on the player rather than being in opposition to one another.

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  • Thrift, Nigel. “From Born to Made: Technology, Biology and Space.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30.4 (2005): 463–476.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2005.00184.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper thinks through the significance of technology in shaping life, not as a separate “add-on,” but as something fundamentally intertwined with it. The focus is on various forms of “intelligencing,” taken as an ongoing product of more-than-human relations that take place in the background of life.

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Non-representational Theory and Dance

While not necessarily an obvious topic for geographers to study, dance constituted one of the first substantive areas of discussion for geographers developing non-representational theory. Notably, dance is used in Thrift 1997 to explore what non-representational styles of thinking might look like and focus on. Here, Isadora Duncan’s assertion that “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it” (Thrift 1997, p. 139) is seen to capture a fundamental starting point for the development of non-representational theory. From there, dance, taken here as including a whole range of somatic movement practices, has been studied from a range of perspectives. Most generally, the generative relations of body and space are explored in McCormack 2008. The ways in which bodies produce space through their movement, and also how spaces can act back upon bodies and their capacities, are key here. More specifically, the importance of rhythm to embodied movement is explored in McCormack 2014 through concepts such as the refrain and the diagrammatic. Such concepts are used in McCormack 2002 and McCormack 2005 to try to give consistency to such movements and their expression, and also to the modalities of power that circulate through such movements. That said, questions have been asked about the relationship of such non-representational accounts of dance and the representational context within which dance happens. Here it is argued in Dewsbury 2011 that the representational context of dances—their complex social-cultural-political histories—have been given precedence over the movement of the body itself and that such movement holds the possibility for disrupting such a context. However, Cresswell 2006 also argues for consideration of the intersection of the representational and the non-representational rather than foregrounding one over the other.

  • Cresswell, Tim. “‘You Cannot Shake That Shimmie Here’: Producing Mobility on the Dance Floor.” Cultural Geographies 13.1 (2006): 55–77.

    DOI: 10.1191/1474474006eu350oaSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper discusses the codification of “proper” and “improper” movement in the context of ballroom dance. The paper suggests that research on dance/movement needs to consider the intersection of such representations with non-representational styles and modes of moving rather than valuing one over the other.

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  • Dewsbury, John D. “Dancing: The Secret Slowness of the Fast.” In Geographies of Mobilities: Practices, Spaces, Subjects. Edited by Peter Merriman and Tim Cresswell, 51–68. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    While acknowledging the in-between position of dance between the representational (historical-social context) and the performative (the non-representational moving body itself), Dewsbury focuses on the dancing body itself. It is argued that such moving bodies have the power to present, disrupt, and disclose such codification of the body.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “A Paper with an Interest in Rhythm.” Geoforum 33.4 (2002): 469–485.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0016-7185(02)00031-3Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The paper presents an experimental effort in performative writing that seeks to account for an encounter with a form of somatic movement practice based on rhythm. Through this the author develops the concepts of “the refrain” and “the diagram” to give expression and consistency to movement.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “Diagramming Practice and Performance.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 23.1 (2005): 119–147.

    DOI: 10.1068/d51jSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper draws upon the concept of “the diagram” to think about the relationships among power, practice, and rhythmic movement in the practice of “eurhythmics.” This shows how non-representational styles of thought multiply the registers on and through which power operates affectively.

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  • McCormack, Derek. “Geographies for Moving Bodies: Thinking, Dancing, Spaces.” Geography Compass 2.6 (2008): 1822–1836.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00159.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper provides an overview of work in geography on dance and the body. The author thinks through the generative relations that take place between bodies in movement and space, and, in so doing, emphasizes the multiple ways in which bodies move and so emphasizes the difference in what various bodies can do.

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  • McCormack, Derek. Refrains for Moving Bodies: Experience and Experiment in Affective Spaces. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

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    This book explores the affective spaces produced in and through the experiences and experiments of moving bodies. In particular, it develops notions of rhythm, refrain, and atmosphere, which present means of becoming attuned to the qualities of the spaces produced in such movements.

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  • Thrift, Nigel. “The Still Point: Resistance, Expressive Embodiment and Dance.” In Geographies of Resistance. Edited by Steve Pile and Michael Keith, 124–151. London: Routledge, 1997.

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    This chapter both provides an introduction to the key concerns of non-representational theory and illustrates this interest in embodiment in that in relation to dance. It argues that dance is a playful expressive bodily practice that constitutes a form of performative experiment.

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Non-representational Theory and Music

Geography has for some time been interested in music. This has taken many forms across the history of cultural geography, ranging from concerns with the diffusion of musical styles to an interest in the politics of identity and its expression through nationalist music. Geographers have written about identity, place, and music; about the global music industry; and about the connection of specific styles to specific places. However, the emergence of non-representational theory signaled something of a shift in emphasis in how geographers have approached music and what questions have been asked in light of this change. Notably, Anderson, et al. 2005 notes that a shift has occurred from “reading” music as a cultural text toward an interest in how music is practiced and performed. Wood, et al. 2007 is interested in what have been called practices of “musicking,” meaning people’s involvement in the production and reception of music as a live/living practice and art form. Morton 2005 and Revill 2004 are based on ethnographic research, undertaken through participating in music events as part of an audience and also through actually engaging in musical performances. Doing so has raised questions about how geographers can attend to the ephemeral space-times, and the felt experiences emergent therein, produced in and through the performance of music. Study has often been orientated toward the examination of specific folk forms of music or national musics, such as Irish in Morton 2005, French in Revill 2004, and Scottish in Wood 2012. However, this emphasis on practice and experience can be taken further. Moving from a consideration of music and (national) identity toward thinking about the material-affectivity of the sound of music itself, Simpson 2009 demonstrates how sound sets in perpetual motion the (de)formation of subjectivities.

  • Anderson, Ben, Frances Morton, and George Revill. “Practices of Music and Sound.” Social and Cultural Geography 6.5 (2005): 639–644.

    DOI: 10.1080/14649360500298282Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article introduces a themed issue on practices of music and sound. The authors draw attention to the ways in which sound and music might be considered to be “lived,” what sound and music do, and so how they are tied up with experience as well as textual meaning.

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  • Morton, Frances. “Performing Ethnography: Irish Traditional Music Sessions and New Methodological Spaces.” Social and Cultural Geography 6.5 (2005): 661–676.

    DOI: 10.1080/14649360500258294Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores the spaces of Irish music performances and develops a methodology attuned to the happening of musical performances in “the now.” By mixing audio, visual, and textual recordings of events, Morton draws attention to the expressive, ephemeral, and dynamic dimensions of the spaces of sound and music.

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  • Revill, George. “Performing French Folk Music: Dance, Authenticity and Non-representational Theory.” Cultural Geographies 11.2 (2004): 199–209.

    DOI: 10.1191/14744744004eu302xxSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This ethnographic study draws on non-representational ideas in reflecting on French folk music and dance. The paper questions the value of drawing a dichotomy between the “representational” and the “non-representational” when it comes to understanding the production of meaning in and through such folk practices.

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  • Simpson, Paul. “‘Falling on Deaf Ears’: A Post-phenomenology of Sonorous Presence.” Environment and Planning A 41.11 (2009): 2556–2575.

    DOI: 10.1068/a41247Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper draws on the writings of Jean-Luc Nancy to develop an account of embodied listening and the resonant materiality of sound. This account focuses on the experiential and subjectifying aspects of sound/listening rather than the meaning that can be derived from such sounds.

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  • Wood, Nichola. “Playing with ‘Scottishness’: Musical Performance, Non-representational Thinking and the ‘Doings’ of National Identity.” Cultural Geographies 19.2 (2012): 195–215.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474011420543Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores the “doing” of national identity in relation to national music performances and their reception. It argues for the importance of considering “musicking,” that is, being a part of musical performances in an experiential sense by performing, listening, dancing, etc., as well as more textual interpretations of music.

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  • Wood, Nichola, Michelle Duffy, and Susan Smith. “The Art of Doing (Geographies of) Music.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25.5 (2007): 867–889.

    DOI: 10.1068/d416tSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The paper engages with questions of how to research the happening of music, and particularly the how and why of music’s emotional power. This is done in contrast to distanced musicological research in emphasizing a direct engagement with practices of “musicking” within the musical event.

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Non-representational Theory and Methods

The expanded onto-epistemological realm opened up by non-representational theories—taking in processes, practices, affect, the pre-reflective, and so on—has led geographers to suggest the need to reinvigorate their research methods and methodologies if they are to attend to such themes and phenomena. A common thread running through responses to this challenge is the need to reflect on research methods and the methodological approach within which they are enacted, and so ultimately to question the aims of geographic research practices. A fundamental claim of non-representational theory, made for example in Dewsbury 2010, has been that the world does not preexist its enactment through everyday practices and that it exceeds our capacities to know it. While not entirely “made up,” it has been suggested in Dewsbury and Naylor 2002 that the world is perpetually remade and that this can also be applied to geographic research practices and the various “sites” common to them. Attending to this complex appearance of the world has led to questioning of a range of assumptions about geographic research and the methodological tools that geographers can draw upon. This has been reviewed in Davies and Dwyer 2007. Prominent here has been an interest in various forms of image-based methods. This interest includes reflections in Lorimer 2010 on what moving images can offer in capturing and presenting more-than-human affective interactions, and in Simpson 2012 on how the complex temporality of practices can be apprehend through the manipulation of moving images. Equally, photographic images are treated in Latham and McCormack 2009, showing their ability to afford insights into the non-representational dimensions of practices. Reticence is evident in Dewsbury 2010 concerning what such methodologies really offer in understanding practices or whether it should be the case that they replace well-established methods. While moving images may be useful in exploring in fine-grained detail the unfolding of everyday practices, for example, Simpson 2011 suggests that this does not mean they necessarily “capture” the non-representational dimensions that have drawn the interest of researchers. Further, Hitchings 2011 argues that it should not be assumed that they do or do not do this any better or any worse than relatively “traditional” qualitative methods, such as interviews; such methods may well be usefully employed in the development of our understandings of the everyday activities of individuals.

  • Davies, Gail, and Claire Dwyer. “Qualitative Methods: Are You Enchanted or Are You Alienated?” Progress in Human Geography 31.2 (2007): 257–266.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132507076417Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper reviews methodological developments in human geography and related fields emerging in light of the non-representational theories. It identifies a reorientation of research methods toward openness and reflexivity in light of the realization that the world exceeds our capacities to fully understand it.

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  • Dewsbury, John D. “Performative, Non-representational, and Affect-Based Research: Seven Injunctions.” In The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research in Human Geography. Edited by Dydia DeLyser, Stuart Aitken, Mike Crang, Steve Herbert, and Linda McDowell, 321–334. London: SAGE, 2010.

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    This chapter argues for a form of methodological experimentalism developed in light of non-representational theories. The author does not necessarily advocate “new” methods, for example, using video, but rather a particular ethos that recognizes the role of research(er) in constructing knowledge and the risk of failing in trying something different.

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  • Dewsbury, John D., and Simon Naylor. “Practising Geographical Knowledge Fields, Bodies and Dissemination.” Area 34.3 (2002): 253–260.

    DOI: 10.1111/1475-4762.00079Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper explores shared practices of geographic knowledge production (in both human geography and physical geography) in terms of the practices that take place in three “common” geographic sites: fields, bodies, and texts. This poses knowledge as the product of practice rather than the representation of a fixed external reality.

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  • Hitchings, Russell. “People Can Talk about Their Practices.” Area 44.1 (2011): 61–67.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01060.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper argues for a renewed appreciation of what interviews can offer in researching everyday practices. In response to a growing interest both in methods that approach phenomena that supposedly exceed talk and in text-based methodologies, the paper suggests that, if encouraged, people can, in fact, talk about such phenomena.

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  • Latham, Alan, and Derek McCormack. “Thinking with Images in Non-representational Cities: Vignettes from Berlin.” Area 41.3 (2009): 252–262.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2008.00868.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper reflects on what images can do in geographic fieldwork. It explores the potential of photographs for attending to the more-than human materialities of urban environments, apprehending the rhythmic/temporal unfolding or such places, and producing an “affective archive” to be used in the presentation of such fieldwork.

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  • Lorimer, Jamie. “Moving Image Methodologies for More-Than-Human Geographies.” Cultural Geographies 17.2 (2010): 237–258.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474010363853Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper reflects on moving image methodologies in terms of their potential to witness and evoke more-than-human interactions and affects. Discussing both researcher generated and more “cinematic” video footage, the author suggests that such potential be applied to both data collection and the presentation of research findings.

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  • Simpson, Paul. “‘So, As You Can See…’: Some Reflections on the Utility of Video Methodologies in the Study of Embodied Practices.” Area 43.3 (2011): 343–352.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.00998.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article reflects on the growing interest in the use of video in researching embodied practices. Simpson suggests that video, while useful in examining the fine-grained details of embodied acts beyond their initial occurrence, does not provide “the answer” to the methodological challenges presented by non-representational theories.

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  • Simpson, Paul. “Apprehending Everyday Rhythms: Rhythmanalysis, Time-Lapse Photography, and the Space-Times of Street Performance.” Cultural Geographies 19.4 (2012): 423–445.

    DOI: 10.1177/1474474012443201Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This paper draws on time-lapse photography in examining the temporal unfolding of everyday practices. The author argues that being able to compress the temporality of events allows for a range of longer rhythms and patterns to emerge that may not be obvious to the researcher looking in normal time.

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