Geographies of alienation/alienating geographies

Jay Emery (University of Leicester) and Katy Bennett (University of Leicester)

This session aims to initiate a geographical research agenda focussed on the concept of alienation. We are often told by the media and political figures that certain demographics and the places they inhabit are alienated, and that political institutions, societies or spaces are alienating. Moreover, these alienations are claimed to be generative of the populist politics and democratic ruptures of recent times. Harvey (2018), in a Marxian framework of alienation (or estrangement), has recently argued that alienation is so widespread as to be ‘universal,’ suggesting that neoliberal political economies are at the root of this malaise. Conversely, geographers often use alienation as a descriptor for the opposite or absence of belonging. Like belonging, alienation has affective and emotional dimensions, as a feeling or sense of being ‘out of place,’ excluded or ‘othered’ (TenHouten, 2015). However, alienation is rarely defined or theorised, and little is understood about how alienation is formed, its affective intensities or its relationship to belonging. Despite the nebulousness of the concept, alienation has clear geographical dimensions, capacities and framings and geographers should have plenty to contribute in developing understandings of alienation, working toward its alleviation.

Empirical, analytical and theoretical papers are invited for a paper session, possibly ending with a short panel discussion between presenters. Abstracts could include, but are not limited to:

  • critical genealogies of alienation in academic inquiry.
  • the politics of alienation.
  • analytical and empirical papers on geographies of alienation or alienating geographies.
  • alienation and race, gender, class and/or sexuality.
  • a working toward a geographical conceptualisation of alienation.
  • the affective dimensions, dynamics and intensities of alienation.
  • how is alienation, perceived or tangible, being operationalised within political and social movements.
  • the relationship between memory, lived experience and alienation.

This is the website for the History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group (HPGRG) of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG)

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