Bite Size Theory: The Passage of Power

“Lyndon Johnson had grasped in an instant what needed to be done with Kennedy’s men and Kennedy’s legislation: his insight into the crisis and the rapidity of his response to it a glimpse of political genius almost shocking in its acuity and decisiveness.”

Robert Caro, 2012, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Volume 4, The Passage of Power, Bodley Head.

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Statistical moralism

teacher7newCame across this last night, geographer Danny Dorling on the BBC’s HARDtalk programme, debating with Zeinab Badawi. If you’re of a certain age, Zeinab is the person who helped you learn all about economics.

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Bite Size Theory: Reason, Faith and Revolution

“One need not capitulate to a view of the world as a host of incommensurable rationalities to recognize that the criteria of what counts as correctness or well-foundedness in, say, anthropology are not the same as in art history.”

Terry Eagleton, 2009, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debates, Yale University Press.

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Bite Size Theory: Autiobographies

“Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.”

Charles Darwin, 2002, Autobiographies, Penguin.

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Bite Size Theory: Citizens to Lords

“The constitutive principles of Western liberal democracy, its ideas of limited and accountable government, have more to do with medieval lordship and its claims to autonomous power than with rule by the demos as conceived in ancient Athens.”

Ellen Meiskins Wood, 2008, Citizens to Lords: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, Verso.

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Bite Size Theory: Sophistical Practice

“Philosophy counts two, speaking of and speaking to, but regardless of what happens in the bosom of the one, they always come back under the regulation of the truth that governs speaking of. [...] Austin’s invention consists in counting three.”

Barbara Cassin, 2014, Sophistical Practice: Toward a Consistent Relativism, Fordham University Press.

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Doing Research

IMG_2576Today is the formal start date of my Leverhulme Fellowship, the start of 21 months of focused research time exploring the ‘urbanization of responsibility‘, facilitated primarily by funding to cover some of my teaching (I still have plenty of teaching, it seems, and other things to do, too).

Actually, I’m still not quite sure how to set about researching what is potentially a huge and diffuse topic. One reason for this is that it’s been more than a decade since I have worked on an empirical project all on my own. I’ve worked on projects where other people have been doing the bulk of the empirical work, and collaborated with others on the generation and analysis of empirical materials. So this feels a bit like starting out on a PhD, all over again, just without a supervisor (let’s hope it doesn’t drag on and on though).

The project is, rather obviously, about things ‘urban’, whatever that might mean. I’m trying to avoid being captured by some standard ways of approaching urban things. At the moment, I’m interested in approaching ‘the urban question’ along three more or less unrelated paths:

- by thinking about the potential of the notion of problematization as a lens through which to think about how things show up as ‘urban’ things (that is, not thinking of problematization as something one does as a (critical) analyst, but as the object of analysis);

- by thinking a little bit more about the concept of responsibility, subject to a great deal or moralistic commentary in and around geography-land it’s true, but I’m more interested in linking this to the first theme of problematization, as a way of thinking about the ways in which fields of action are configured;

- not necessarily linked to these two speculations, I’ve also found myself collecting various ‘things to read and/or re-read’ on the topic of documents, a rather obvious topic to some extent given the proliferation of reports and commentaries produced about cities and urban problems; I have in mind a range of work coming from various fields in which the status of documents has become a renewed focus of attention: my list includes the work of Richard Freeman, Matthew Hull, Lisa Gitelman, Leah Price, John Guillory. The list also includes dear old Foucault too, as well as Miles Ogborn; and Harold Garfinkel on the ‘documentary method’ in everyday life, which somehow seems an important supplement to these other more or less ‘post-textualist’ approaches.   

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Bite Size Theory: Behemoth

“Though a debunking doctrine may be a useful tool in scientific analysis, it cannot provide the basis for political action.”

Franz Neumann, 1944, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism 1933-1944, Oxford University Press.

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Bite Size Theory: Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future

“If we are all democrats today, it is not a very cheerful fate to share. Today, in politics, democracy is the name for what we cannot have – yet cannot cease to want.”

John Dunn, 1979, Western Political Theory in the Face of the Future, Cambridge University Press.


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Bite Size Theory: Define and Rule

“The indirect rule state was not a weak state. Unlike the preceding era of direct rule, its ambitions were vast: to shape the subjectivities of the colonized population and not simply of their elites.”

Mahmood Mamdami, 2013, Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity, Wits University Press.

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