‘Landscapes of Disappearance’ in Mexico — our new article, and a video

The Journal of Latin American Geography has published a pre-print of our article on the Project Muse website. Place-Based Politics, and the Role of Landscape in the Production of Mexico’s Disappeared, an article I co-authored with Oliver Hernández Lara (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México), is the latest statement from our ongoing collaboration. We also published a guest editorial in Political Geography in 2019, linked here. Our abstract for this most recent article is below:

The Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) government in Mexico is, within the limits of what is perceived as beneficial to AMLO’s MORENA party, working in support of what have in the past primarily been citizen-led efforts to redress generalized violence. But this government’s conditional support for historically citizen-led efforts tends to neglect a wider production of social vulnerability, of which forced disappearance is a symptom. This is evident through analysis of what we call landscapes of disappearance. By this term we mean the shape given to a place, or an idealized representation of place, that facilitates disavowal of responsibility for violence by territorial authorities—which is necessary to disappear people and to perpetrate violence without accountability. Through analysis of disparate examples, we show that attention to landscapes of disappearance enables us to understand 1) how territorial authorities produce a sense of place or give tangible form to space in such a way as to naturalize violence; and 2) how activists and organizers problematize scenes in which disappearance has previously been made to make sense, and accordingly politicize disappearance. This article also promotes an approach to geographical scholarship that accompanies political-strategic theory and practice.

We also recently collaborated with colleagues in Mexico as part of the LiveCLAG series of webinars, organized by Jim Biles for the Conference of Latin American Geography. The video is linked here.

Posted in Activism, Critical Human Geography, Cultural Geography, Fieldwork, geografía crítica, Mexico, Political Economy, Political Geography, Politics, Social Movements, The Americas | Leave a comment

My father, Howard Grant Crane (1941-2021)

Howard Grant Crane, loving husband, father, and grandfather, dear friend, teacher and scholar of Ottoman and Islamic art and architecture, died at 80 in Columbus, Ohio, on March 4. His life was unnecessarily cut short by COVID-19. Howard was born February 16, 1941, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, to Howard and Edna Crane. In 1960, he met his wife of nearly six decades, Meral Galin, while building a schoolhouse in eastern Kentucky at an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) work camp. Howard’s love for Meral drew him to study Turkish and live in Turkey for four years, where they had a daughter, Dushka, and taught in Tarsus. There, Howard became interested in Islamic art history, which led him to pursue a doctorate in Harvard University’s Department of Fine Arts and conduct archaeological expeditions in Turkey and Afghanistan (1970s-2000s).

Howard and Meral settled in Columbus, Ohio in 1975 where they had their long awaited second child, Nicholas. Howard taught at The Ohio State University (1975-2010) and served as Chair of History of Art (1978-1983). He wrote countless articles, reviews, and chapters on Seljuq and Ottoman art and architecture. He also produced four books—one on fieldwork in Tarsus, and three critical editions of key Ottoman primary sources, e.g., “to adorn that Beyt Allāh [House of God]… Let [the pure gold in the blessed roof of the Temple of Jerusalem] illuminate the world, not like the philosopher’s stone but rather like the most luminous sun.”

A generous educator and unceasing learner, Howard refined his teaching throughout his career, and remained intellectually curious until his death. He advocated fiercely for peace, social justice, and our planet, and he expressed these commitments with a modesty that family and friends recognized in his personal life. An avid reader of The New York Times, Howard wrote eloquent, engaged letters to the editor. His granddaughters inspired a sprawling genealogy project on which Howard collaborated with family members, notably Meral’s sisters, Aylin, Nilgün, and Müge. Few people live such a full life.

Howard is survived by his wife Meral Crane, children Dushka Crane and Nicholas Crane, granddaughters Miranda Ross, Katherine Ross, and Averil Pearson-Crane, and siblings Nathalia Sudnik and Tom Crane. Donations in Howard’s name are welcome to: the Southern Poverty Law Center, and efforts related to expanding voting rights and protecting our environment.

Written in collaboration with family and friends

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“Geographies of capital punishment” published in the political geography section of Geography Compass

Geography Compass recently published Alex Colucci on “Geographies of capital punishment: New directions and interventions” in the political geography section of the journal. Alex’s timely article reviews existing conditions and possible direction for political-geographical contributions to the literature on capital punishment. The article ought to be of interest not only for political geographers but also for scholars in other disciplines who are interested in geographical perspectives on justice, injustice, and state-sanctioned punishment. The abstract for Alex’s article can be found below, and the full article here.

A thorough analysis of capital punishment from a political–geographical perspective is lacking in the discipline of geography. This is despite the fact that capital punishment overlaps with numerous geographic approaches, concepts, and areas of study. This study serves as a call to geographers to begin considering capital punishment’s wide interaction and interrelation with developed areas of knowledge in the discipline. Specifically, political geographers stand to contribute in novel ways to wider discussions about capital punishment by analyzing executions relative to contemporary work in geography on violent, legal, and carceral spaces. I first introduce the need for geography’s engagement with this pressing issue. Then, I clarify several terms needed to understand this violent practice. A third section highlights several pathways of development in the critical geographies of capital punishment. It is organized around four broad themes—critically mapping capital punishment, bodies in motion, politics of access, and executing the “other”—connecting capital punishment to developing concepts, literatures, and subdisciplines in geography. The final two sections outline an epistemological approach to the geographies of capital punishment and how legal and carceral geographies might contribute.

Posted in Critical Human Geography, Policing, Political Economy, Political Geography, Politics | Leave a comment

New article with Zoe Pearson: “Liberation” as a political horizon amidst the coronavirus pandemic in the United States

Human Geography just published ‘Liberation’ as a political horizon amidst the coronavirus pandemic in the United States,an essay I co-authored with Zoe Pearson. Our goal was to distinguish between different ideas of freedom and liberation at play in responses to the coronavirus pandemic in the US, notably a neoliberal/libertarian “free to choose” response, which is — for now, at least — hegemonic,  and an already-existing alternative of active social solidarity.

Posted in Activism, Critical Human Geography, geografía crítica, My publications or presentations, Political Economy, Political Geography, Politics, Social Movements, The Americas, Transnationalism | Leave a comment

“In defence of the hearing?” published in the political geography section of Geography Compass


Geography Compass recently published Jo Hynes, Nick Gill, and Joe Tomlinson, in an article titled “In defence of the hearing? Emerging geographies of publicness, materiality, access and communication in court hearings” in the political geography section of the journal. Jo, Nick, and Joe reflect on recent developments towards Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution in justice systems, which are at present fundamentally changing the relationship between space and law, and which are yet to be significantly explored in the relevant political-geographical literature. The abstract for their article can be found below, and the full article here.

The shift towards dispute resolution taking place outside traditional legal arenas is fundamentally changing the relationship between space and law, presenting legal geography with pressing new research opportunities. This paper explores how the emerging geographies of publicness, materiality, access to justice and communication shed light on the consequences of alternative and online dispute resolution. Crucially, these consequences raise urgent interdisciplinary questions for geography and law. We set out these questions and suggest that legal geography will be best placed to address them by working through some of the practical, applied ramifications of its concepts and perspectives.

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“Using ethnography and assemblage theory in political geography” published in the political geography of GECO

A few weeks ago, Geography Compass published Pooya Ghoddousi and Sam Page on “Using ethnography and assemblage theory in political geography” in the political geography section of the journal. Pooya and Sam provide brief history of ethnography in political geography, its latent intersections with assemblage thinking, and the potential committing to working at those intersections. The abstract for their article can be found below.

While the focus on the ‘everyday’ in qualitative human geography has greatly increased the need for, and relevance of, ethnographic methods, Megoran argued that this is particularly true for political geography as it has the potential to challenge its focus on elite discourse, allowing researchers to bring forward multiple voices to investigate the becoming of political events. More recently, assemblage theory has gained traction in political geography, not only because of its capability to include the role of the material and the affective, but also revealing the links between micro‐ and macro‐politics by showing how agency emerges out of complex relations. In the first part of this paper, we present an overview of the recent uses of ethnography in political geography that have not embraced assemblage. Second, we explore the theoretical conceptualisations of, and opportunities provided by, an assemblage approach. Third, we go through the use of assemblage ethnographies in political geography, with a particular focus on Pooya’s experience of research with Iranians in London. In this, he embraced a variety of ethnographic approaches, including ‘auto‐ethnography’, ‘netnographies’, ‘participant sensation’, in combination with observations, participatory workshops and activism. Showing the role of ethnography as a qualitative tool for political geographers to interrogate discursive social constructions, we argue that it holds even more promise for analysing and intervening in the emergent politics of socio‐material‐affective assemblages.

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“The anti‐geopolitical cinematic eye” published in the political geography section of GECO

A few weeks ago, Geography Compass published Edward Holland’s “The anti-geopolitical cinematic eye: Documentary film and critical geopolitics” in the political geography section of the journal. Ted’s review article critical-geopolitical thinking on how documentary film configures the world of political engagement. The abstract for his article can be found below.

This article considers documentary film as a format for critique and alternative viewings of the geopolitical. To do so, it reviews work in film studies on documentary film, emphasizing the theorization of the documentary ethos and the role of filmmakers in determining how documentaries depict reality. Identifying three points of consonance between documentary films and critical geopolitics, it reviews the geopolitical nature of many topical choices, the importance of authorial intent and creation, and the viewing of documentaries as texts whose interpretation is determined by their creators and viewers. The conclusion advocates for documentary film as a basis for a return to the consideration of format in critical geopolitics.

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“On geopolitics and education” published in the political geography section of GECO

We have recently published Nicole Nguyen in the political geography section of Geography Compass, on “On geopolitics and education: Interventions, possibilities, and future directions.” Nicole’s review article advances a feminist-geopolitical perspective on the intersection of education and geopolitics as discourse. The abstract for Nicole’s article can be found below.

In this article, I survey the rapidly developing literature on the symbiotic relationship between the education sector and geopolitics. Scholars across disciplines increasingly have studied how schools are implicated in and affected by broader geopolitical goals, particularly related to territorial security and national defense. Given the range of disciplinary interventions from international relations to education studies, discussions on the school‐geopolitics nexus often have been isolated and placed in relationship to other disciplinary conversations, forestalling rich cross‐disciplinary engagements to advance theorizations on the relationship between education and geopolitics. This review article, therefore, places studies on schools and geopolitics in conversation with each other and plots future directions for this emerging subfield. In doing so, I call on geographers to further engage the multi‐scalar analytics of feminist geopolitics, which can generate a more nuanced understanding of the school‐geopolitics nexus by more fully accounting for how geopolitical processes are differentially experienced, negotiated, and contested and for how the education sector itself maintains its own internal logics and contradictions irreducible to the external forces exerted on it.

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‘The mainstreaming of “vulgar territory”’ in the political geography section of GECO

We have recently published Chris Lizotte in the political geography section of Geography Compass, on “The mainstreaming of ‘vulgar territory’ and popular visions of hyper‐bordered and feminized territory.” Chris’ timely review article identifies and outlines an approach to understanding popular-geographical articulations of territory in ethno-nationalist movements and regimes. The abstract for Chris’ article can be found below.

I lay out a case for recognizing “vulgar territory,” a fusing of superficial categories of spatial sovereignty with identarian rhetorics of belonging. I argue that vulgar territory is composed of two primary elements: first, a simplistic conception of sovereignty as being entirely contiguous with state borders. Second, affective elements of spatial belonging, particularly hope and fear. These two basic elements combine in various ways depending on the particular meanings, images, and emotions that are assembled in particular geohistorical contexts. I show this with a rough typology of “vulgates” of hyper‐bordered and feminized territory by examining recent examples from around the world.

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My new article in Cultural Geographies on a creative-geographical response to the legacy of concentration camps in the Americas

My co-authored article on an artwork that problematizes the enduring significance of concentration camps for Japanese-descended people throughout the Americas is recently published in Cultural Geographies. The article — Questioning the exceptionality of the exception: Annabel Castro’s ‘Outside in: exile at home’ (2018) in Cuernavaca — can be found here and here. Here’s the abstract:

Annabel Castro’s art installation ‘Outside in: exile at home’ (2018) problematizes indefinite detention at the Hacienda de Temixco, in Morelos, Mexico, a facility which functioned as a concentration camp for Japanese immigrants and their descendants between 1942 and 1945. The Hacienda de Temixco, like other sites for indefinite detention of Japanese-descended people in the Americas, was contingent upon making detainees’ lives intelligible for security action as the embodiment of a ‘crisis’. This essay interprets Castro’s artwork and its premiere in Cuernavaca as a creative-geographical way to engage visitors around relationships between past and contemporary distinction-making processes by which particular groups of people are refigured as threats to national security. To interpret the artwork as a creative practice of geography, we (1) briefly describe the artwork’s historical context and (2) analyze its composition and exhibition in Cuernavaca at a time when activists in Mexico and the United States were articulating a sense of solidarity that exceeds exclusionary constructions of threatened national bodies.

This article emerged from my participation in a 2018 panel in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, around the opening of the artwork, Outside in: Exile at home (photo above of my remote participation; photo below from the installation itself). The artist, Annabel Castro, is a co-author on this article and therein details her process and choices.

The other co-author, Sergio Hernández, is a historian at the INAH in Mexico City and has written extensively on Japanese immigration in the Americas. A recent essay of his revisits 20th century concentration camps in relation to systemic racism that inheres in the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Posted in Aesthetics, Art, Cultural Geography, geografía crítica, History, Mexico, Political Geography, Politics, The Americas, Transnationalism | Leave a comment