University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Department of Geography - Seminars in Cultural and Historical Geography > Performance and aesthetics in geography: a cultural politics beyond representation?

Performance and aesthetics in geography: a cultural politics beyond representation?

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The shift away from the perceived pervasiveness of representations in the so-called ‘new cultural geography’ has left open the question of cultural politics in geography. In Anglo-American ‘cultural geography’, but also in ‘human geography’ more broadly, there has been a move from identity politics onto the embodied, affective and emotional aspects of experience that can resist the apparently stabilising tendencies of fixed social categories. A result is that explanations for why ‘the world is marked by inequalities and injustices’ have ‘disappeared from at least some strands of cultural geography’ (Cresswell 2010). This rather parochial academic debate mirrors ongoing wider narratives of a ‘post’ (-feminist; -race; -gay etc) era, in which questions are being posed over the sorts of contests that should be made for and through categories of gender, sexuality, race and class. For some, these questions constitute a present marked by ambivalence, anxiety and vulnerability. This talk foregrounds such a condition of ambivalence, suggesting that it is central to the subject of culture in recent geographical work and is vital to any attempts to understand a ‘cultural politics’. I put forward aesthetics as a means for apprehending this ambivalent present through the uncertain matter of culture. Through three different usages of aesthetics in recent geographical scholarship, I suggest that a cultural politics emerges in the contradictions and resistances involved of the work of the human as a sometimes universal, sometimes differentiated figure.

This talk is part of the Department of Geography - Seminars in Cultural and Historical Geography series.

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