Urban Atmospheres and Transversal Geographies

Authors: Angharad Closs Stephens*,
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: Exhaustion, Atmosphere, Terrorism, Transversal Geographies, Care
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Hampton Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


What is at stake when we feel worn down or exhausted by outrage? How might exhaustion lead to a critical and hopeful reworking of the politics of response to horror and violence? This paper addresses ‘digital structures of feeling’ (Kuntsman, 2012; Merrill, 2017) witnessed in the aftermath of ‘terrorist attacks’ in European cities and addresses how we mourn some deaths more than others (Cole, 2016: Butler, 2016). I am also interested in uncovering different modes and registers for responding politically, whilst considering the dilemmas of looking / not looking at the horrors of the world (Lisle, 2016). I take the distinctively urban nature of European ‘terrorist attacks’ as a springboard for thinking about how the ‘literary city’ (Nuttall, 2008) provides rich resources for conceptualising other ways of imagining being political (Isin, 2002). The paper examines two novels that engage ‘urban atmospheres’ (Gandy, 2017) in the aftermath of different histories of ‘terrorism’: Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), set in New York following 9/11, and Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album (1995), set in London in 1989, following the fatwa. Through them, I consider ways of living, enduring, and acting beyond those made possible by the frame of ‘emergency politics’ (Honig, 2011), thinking instead about ‘crisis ordinariness’ (Berlant, 2011). Overall, I seek to critically engage questions of affective solidarity through this frame of ‘exhaustion’, and ask again, what it means to care for others here and elsewhere.

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