Having been available online for some time, our Progress in Human Geography paper, ‘(Re)enchanting geography? The nature of being critical and the character of critique in human geography’ is now in print, yay.
Enchantment is a term frequently used by human geographers to express delight, wonder or that which cannot be simply explained. However, it is a concept that has yet to be subject to sustained critique, specifically how it can be used to progress geographic thought and praxis. This paper makes sense of, and space for, the unintelligibility of enchantment in order to encourage a less repressed, more cheerful way of engaging with the geographies of the world. We track back through our disciplinary heritage to explore how geographers have employed enchantment as a force through which the world inspires affective attachment. We review the terrain of the debate surrounding recent geographical engagements with enchantment, focusing on the nature of being critical and the character of critique in human geography, offering a new ‘enchanted’ stance to our geographical endeavours. We argue that the moment of enchantment has not passed with the current challenging climate; if anything, it is more pressing.
Our initial engagement with the theme of enchantment emerged through the organisation of two sessions – ‘Enchanting Geographies’ – at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference back in 2007. The sessions addressed the then ’emerging’ geographies of enchantment; those moments, events and encounters that reveal the power of objects and sites to enchant, delight and enrapture. Counteracting Weberian tales of the disenchantment of the modern world, the sessions elaborated upon Jane Bennett’s exposition of enchantment as ‘a mood of fullness, plenitude, or liveliness, a sense of having had one’s nerves or circulation or concentration powers turned up or recharged – a shot in the arm, a fleeting return to childlike excitement about life’ (2001:5). Enchanting Geographies drew together work on affect and materiality to address questions of wonder, awe and magic in the everyday and beyond, exploring those objects and sites “which motivate inferences, responses and interpretations”(Thomas 1998). Extending Alfred Gell’s (1992) notion of technologies of captivation, the sessions reflected upon the sites and things of enchantment as encountered through research (contemporary and historical) within and beyond geography. If we’re open and honest, the idea for these sessions was dreamed up on the back of a beer mat after we escaped early from yet another seminar that left us feeling rather depressed in response to the approach it took to academic study. We never dreamed our CFP would receive the great response that it did, or that we’d be writing about enchantment in the way presented in our recent paper some five years later.
Enchanting Geographies I
Enchanting encounters: film, tourism and the geographies of ‘Middle Earth on Earth’
‘The joyous things in the shop windows make me stand and gape’: the enchanting register of 1930s retail display
Realising enchanted geographies: suspending the known, willing the unknown
Patio poetics: the prosaic pleasures of the domestic garden
A very modern ghost: postcolonialism and the politics of enchantment
Enchanting Geographies II
Enchanted moments: the pleasures of technology enthusiasm
Crystals, angels and tarot cards: placing re-enchantment in the everyday
Forging connections: tracing he fragmentary lives of tourist souvenirs
Taxidermy as a technology of enchantment
Professor Clive Gamble
It’s interesting to read our paper alongside Chris Philo’s paper, ‘’A great space of murmurings’: madness, romance and geography’, in the same issue. Chris’s paper explores how Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation changed between versions, using this as a window onto certain ‘romantic’ currents within contemporary human geography. His paper is instructive on how meaning is lost with abridgement and translation. Indeed, he offers a different reading of Foucault to ours, tracing a phenomenology and romanticism that belies the structuralist accounts of Foucault’s work. Obscured from view is a phenomenology of dark space and engagement with the potential of addressing madness ‘in all its vivacity, before it is captured by knowledge’ (History of Madness xxxii, cited in Philo 2012). By tracing the resonances between the work of Foucault and the French poet Rene Char, one can sense how the former was inspired by a poetic sensibility. Hidden from the later versions of Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation is a wish to return to the vibrancy of unchecked human passions, the possibility of glimpsing other ways of being-in-the-world, and their potential for fuelling hopes for realising alternative realities. This earlier Foucault is one I would love to engage with. In relation to enchantment and our desire to emphasis its uncanny side, it would be great to delve into this dark space.
It is certainly encouraging that others see the benefits of returning to our disciplinary heritage for what it reveals about, and can offer our contemporary geographical endeavours.