Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

'Knowing', Absence, and Presence: The Spatial and Temporal Depth of Relations

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

'Knowing', Absence, and Presence: The Spatial and Temporal Depth of Relations

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper examines the depth of feeling forged between people through place and time. I focus on the processes by which people, places, and objects become "mutually possessive" (Candea, 2010, page 127) or, in other words, the ways in which they become interconnected, as well as the temporal and spatial dynamics of these processes. The ethnographic locale where I conducted the research motivating this piece, however, is one where erasure and absence inform social relations as much as presence and continuity do. What, then, are the consequences of mutual possession in such an ethnographic context where people, places, and objects occupy seemingly incommensurate domains of the living and the dead, the present and the erased, the visible and the eradicated? These domain crossings are premised on cultural logics that, as I will argue here, can contribute to larger debates over subjectivity and affect. I shall be arguing that 'knowing' people and places, and 'being known', are relational aspects whereby people can be connected to (as well as disconnected from) each other through place (Ingold, 2011) and through social memory. Dodworth, the village where this fieldwork was based, is a setting of intense localism. Social interaction and public discourse here are characterised by the regular exchange of stories about shared historical experiences and of the micro-details of individual villagers' biographies as well as those of their wider family networks. Knowing thus reveals a set of practices of how people position themselves in multiple ways within overlapping webs of relations: relations with people, relations with places, relations with memory, relations with change and relations with the past.

While a growing literature in human geography on 'absent presences' (Crewe, 2011; Hetherington, 2004; Mansvelt, 2010) and on the ties between place, memory, ruins, and affect (Edensor, 2005a; 2005b) is a useful starting point for the analysis of such processes, so too are recent developments in anthropology that grapple with connection and relatedness (Edwards, 2000) and ruination (Navaro-Yashin, 2009). Respective disciplinary perspectives on these related issues, however, are not often brought into conversation, even though much might be achieved by opening up such a dialogue. This paper thus draws on recent work in human geography and social anthropology in order to examine in closer detail the spatial and temporal processes by which the intersection of people, places, and objects come to matter. As my work shows, and in contradistinction to the existing literature in geography on absent presences, these relations are not premised on consumption, disposal, or anonymity, nor do they set up an opposition between affect on the one hand and subjectivity on the other. Following Navaro-Yashin, I shall be arguing for a perspective on the mutual possession of people, place, and memory that can attend to both affect and subjectivity. Such a framing permits a fuller understanding of the ways in which relations come to have ontological depth that is both spatial and temporal. It also sheds critical light on a theoretical bind of the dilemma of choosing between an object-centred or a subject-centred perspective and what ruination can teach us about the imbrication of affect and subjectivity (Navaro-Yashin, 2009). Conversely, whilst the 'affective turn' has gained momentum in human geography and cognate disciplines, it has not received the same attention in anthropological theory. This has, arguably, instead been more concerned with an emergent ontological turn as well as a long-standing focus on otherness and alterity (see Alberti et al, 2011; Carrithers et al, 2010; Fontein, 2011). Placing these disciplinary preoccupations into direct conversation proves useful for developing both.

Having carried out long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the north of England and in a South Yorkshire village called Dodworth, near Barnsley, I access these issues via knowing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.