Geopoetics of the postcolony: The elemental geographies of Cairo

Authors: Aya Nassar*, University of Durham
Topics: Middle East
Keywords: Geopoetics, materiality, storytelling, Cities of the Middle East
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper is inspired a trajectory of political geography that call on poetics as a critical and decolonial praxis. This scholarship harnesses poetics of space (or geopoetics) to negotiate the materiality of space in understanding the world in practices of translation and critique (Last 2017a; 2017b; Jazeel 2019). Geopoetics here become a more critical engagement with geophysical geography than geopolitics which primarily sees the earth ‘as a resource and a military playground’ (Last 2017b, 160). Taking inspiration from this, I use geopoetics to focus on the power of metaphor and excesses in language to probe the inscription of the self in the city. In this paper, I propose an approach for a material and affective geography of the postcolonial city that is developed from within the spaces of Cairo and its archives. I propose story-telling the city through its constitutive geopoetics. What could dust, traffic and noise - the banal and irritating features of the city are made central in probing its affective making and breaking? I argue for a practice that accommodates materiality as a source of writing postcolonial histories, and as a corrective to centring (mis)representation of the Middle East. I further propose that the urban has yet to make a decisive incision into world politics; and that by attuning to Geopoetics as an approach that disrupts the lines of inside and outside and the disciplinary fault-line between geography and Middle East Studies, the postcolony can enrich political accounts of the eventful as well as the everyday.

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