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The lure of an unavailable world:The shifting stakes of contemporary critique

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jonathan Pugh



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The lure of an unavailable world is becoming increasingly prominent in Geography and related disciplines. The concern is that much research today remains affirmational – still grasping and instrumentalising being and relation – and that, whilst no doubt modified in such developments as the relational and ontological turns, this nevertheless continues the legacies of the modern episteme in new ways. Indeed, there is a marked momentum, across the social sciences and humanities, from cultural geography (Bissell et al, 2021) to computer (Galloway, 2022) and Black studies (Harney and Moten, 2021), to read the reduction of the world to available ontic and ontological cuts and distinctions as a form of violence. In response, tropes of the non-relational, non-ontological, the negative, nothingness, the void, absence, and the abyss, for examples – what could be called ‘unavailable geographies’ – are of growing appeal and interest. This paper, foregrounding the importance of tracking how the material forces of history are read as enabling for the emergence of any new problem space, provides a distinct i ve pathway into this sense of a critical shift in Western critique. By way of an illustrative example, it focuses upon how the proliferation of logistics (broadly framed here as the logic of obtaining the world by way of cuts and distinctions, from metric culture, to identity politics, to the grasping of ontology and relation) is increasingly understood to open-up the power of an undifferentiating reality; one which expands and deepens the unavailable world as a problem space for critique. Thus, whilst Geographers, like many others, are currently critiquing dominant approaches for being too affirmational, the key argument of this paper is that we should also be taking one step back, asking: why now, and through what broader forces of history, the lure of an unavailable world today?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pugh J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Area

Year: 2023

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 27/01/2023

Acceptance date: 18/01/2023

Date deposited: 27/01/2023

ISSN (print): 0004-0894

ISSN (electronic): 1475-4762

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/area.12860


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