Nothing-much geographies, or towards micrological investigations

Authors: Chris Philo*, University of Glasgow
Topics: Geographic Thought, Social Theory, Social Geography
Keywords: Adorno, micrology, negativism, smallness
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Nothing much, of little note, trivial, petty, minimal, fragmentary – and maybe mean, shabby, damaged and suffering at the same time – as well as likely being neglected and forgotten. Such are the unprepossessing foci of attention for what the Frankfurt critical theorist Theodor Adorno might term ‘micrological investigations’, as perhaps the only way to spy something of the ‘non-identical’, the secret otherness of lives and worlds, that are the whispers of enchantment in an otherwise thoroughly un- or disenchanted creation. It is to wonder about a geography of very small things, moments, bits and pieces, bric-a-brac, or perhaps a geography of near-silences haunted by tiny echoes of what might-have-been or might-still-be, or perhaps the geography of a forever doomed “attempt to map what inhabits nothingness” (Pedriali, 2016, p.406). This paper will be an occasion to consider Adorno’s micrology, itemising ways in which the kinds of terms/concepts used to start this abstract - ones of interest to the nothing-much geographer - appear and proliferate throughout his writings. Efforts will also be made to trace a few of the intellectual lineages here, with brief nods to Walter Benjamin’s ‘magical urbanism’, to Simone Weil’s attentiveness to ‘every smallest thing’, and to ‘negative theology’ (or better ‘inverse theology’: Nosthoff, 2018). Nothing much may come of it, but that may still be more than zero.

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