Call for papers – Besides affirmation: geography and ‘negativity’

by thomasdekeyser


Besides affirmation: geography and ‘negativity’

Call For Papers – Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers New Orleans, April 10-14 2018.

Session organisers: Thomas Dekeyser (University of Southampton); Joe Gerlach (University of Bristol); Thomas Jellis (University of Oxford).

‘the world is brimming with negative possibility…’ (Thacker, 2015: 9)

‘Affirmation’ and ‘vitalism’ have become prominent motifs in a cultural geographic thought invested in a distinctly Spinozist and Deleuzo-Guattarian ethos. Such an ethos underscores a hesitant disciplinary predilection for affirmative narratives – propagated, in part, by a concern for ontologies of becoming, and an ethics of joy. Against these vitalist refrains, an emerging set of critiques – established largely outside geography (see, however, Harrison, 2015; Gerlach, 2017; Rose, 2014) – are pushing against a vitalist or affirmative tonality in the social sciences and humanities. Positioning affirmation alongside sacrifice, capacities to act alongside capacities not to act, such critiques ask: what is affirmed in affirmation? To what does one consent if, and when, one consents to affirmation, hope and vitality? What is lost? And how does affirmation ‘play out’ in light of intensifying socio-economic expectations of connectivity (Culp, 2016), creativity (Osborne, 2003), compulsory happiness (Ahmed, 2010), productivity and usefulness (Berry and Galloway, 2016)?

Such questions are posed within a disparate array of intellectual and activist genres, namely ‘afro-pessimism’ (Sexton, 2016), ‘conspirational communism’ (Culp, 2016), ‘black nihilism’ (Warren, 2015), ‘insurrectionary communisation’ (Tiqqun; The Invisible Committee), ‘cosmic pessimism’ (Thacker, 2015) and ‘queer negativity’ (Caserio et al., 2006). Harnessing these conceptual energies, this session looks to explore ways in which geography might engage with the taboo of negation and negativity. The aim of the session is not to trace a singular line of ‘negative thought’, but instead it looks to inflect geographical conceptions of ‘ontology’, ‘nature’, ‘the body’, ‘affect’, ‘subjectivity’, ‘performance’, and the ‘political’.

We welcome contributions that speak to those topics, and we are particularly interested in the following themes:

  • ‘Negative’ conceptions of ‘life’, ‘subjectivity’ and ‘the body’: subjectivisation / desubjectivisation, individuation / disindividuation, potentiality / impotentiality, symmetry / asymmetry, affirmation / sacrifice, being / non-being, relation / non-relation.
  • ‘Negative’ conceptions of ‘affect’: capacities not to affect, vulnerability, dread, indifference, nonrelationality.
  • ‘Negative’ conceptions of ‘the political’: disappearance, invisibility, refusal, escape, disconnection, negativity, non-communication, abjection, disidentification (beyond identity politics), beyond a politics of hope.
  • ‘Negative’ approaches to neoliberalism: undoing the ‘happiness turn’, the pull of ‘connectivity’, the productivity paradigm.
  • Melancholia, the monstrous, and geography.
  • Historical (dis)similarities between geography and afro-pessimism, black nihilism.
  • Historical (dis)similarities between geography and techno-/insurrectionary-anarchism.

Please send abstracts (no more than 250 words) to Thomas Dekeyser ( by 14th October.

Cited works

Ahmed, S. (2010) The Promise of Happiness. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Berry, D. and Galloway, A. (2016) A Network is a Network is a Network: Reflections on the Computational and the Societies of Control. Theory, Culture & Society, 33(4), pp. 151–172.

Caserio, R., Edelman, L., Halberstam, J., Muñoz, J., & Dean, T. (2006) The Antisocial Thesis in Queer Theory. PMLA, 121(3), pp. 819- 828.

Culp, A. (2016) Dark Deleuze. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gerlach, J.  (2017) Middle Hope. Cultural Geographies, 24(2), pp. 333–339.

Harrison, P. (2015) After Affirmation, or, Being a Loser: On Vitalism, Sacrifice, and Cinders. GeoHumanities, 1(2), pp. 285-306.

Osborne, T. (2003) Against ‘creativity’: a ­philistine rant. Economy and Society, 32(4), pp. 507-525.

Rose, M. (2014) Negative governance: vulnerability, biopolitics and the origins of government. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39, pp. 209–223.

Sexton, J. (2016) Afro-Pessimism: The Unclear Word. Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, 29, available at:

Thacker, E. (2015) Cosmic Pessimism. Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing.

Warren, C. (2015) Black Nihilism and Politics of Hope. CR: The New Centennial Review, 15(1), pp. 215-248.