Conference Panel: (Re)assembling the Politics of the Everyday: Things and Materials in Geographical Analysis; AAG 2019, Washington D.C.

(Re)assembling the Politics of the Everyday: Things and Materials in Geographical Analysis


Siddharth Menon (UW-Madison)

Andrew Grant (CU-Boulder)

Geographers and scholars in the social sciences and humanities are increasingly interrogating the social and political life of materials, ranging from smaller things like faucets, walls, and chairs to larger transnational infrastructure projects (Harvey et al. 2016; Anand et al. 2018). This approach is important for recalibrating scholarship so that political and social analyses can involve and attend to expansive notions of agency and responsibility (Bennett 2010). In our age of expansive urbanization, studying “sociomaterial assemblages” that include people and things, both organic and inorganic, is important for unpacking the everyday politics of life (McFarlane 2011).

Paying heed to Sarah Whatmore’s (2006) call for practicing a “more-than-human” geography, this panel aims to explore, through empirically grounded studies of everyday things and objects, the relationship between “sociotechnical assemblages” (Larkin 2008) and contemporary politics. Rather than focus on state mega-projects and macro-economic infrastructure effects, we invite micropolitical studies of things big and small. Possible paper themes include methodological explorations of the tension between traditional and modern house building materials and tools; day-to-day expectations about the success or failure of infrastructure provisions (e.g. Anand, 2011); resonances and dissonances in understandings of material promises (e.g. Anand et al. 2018); the role of things in memory and place-making; research that considers things and materials in relation to marginalized groups (gender, race, ethnicity, caste, tribal, indigenous, otherly-abled), and the intimate connection between deconstruction, reconstruction, and social worlds (e.g. Gordillo 2014). We encourage papers that explore both materials in all of their sensorial and energetic dimensions (Larkin 2013; Schwenkel 2015) and engage in conversations and literatures that speak across world regions and disciplinary divisions.

Please submit an abstract to one of the organizers by Oct. 15th if you are interested in participating. Feel free to contact us beforehand if you have any questions. Thank you.


Anand, Nikhil. 2017. Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in

         Mumbai. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Anand, Nikhil; Gupta, Akhil; Appel, Christina. 2018. The Promise of Infrastructure. Duke

University Press.

Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC: Duke

University Press.

Gordillo, Gaston R. 2014. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. Durham, NC: Duke

University Press.

Larkin, Brian. 2008. Signal & Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in

        Nigeria. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Larkin. Brian. 2013. “The politics and poetics of infrastructure.” Annual Review of

         Anthropology 42 327-343.

McFarlane, Colin, 2011. “The city as assemblage: dwelling and urban space,” in Environment

            and Planning D: Society and Space, vol 29, pp:649-671.

Schwenkel, Christina. 2015. “Sense.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology

            website, September 24, 2015.

Whatmore, Sarah. 2006. “Materialist returns: practising cultural geography in and for a                 more-than-human world,” in Cultural Geographies 13 600-609.

Panel 1

Nadine Plachta*, South Asia InstituteGarbage: Material sediments of the modern in highland Asia

Deborah Jackson*, Earlham CollegeSense and Sensibility: A Tourism Experience of Materials and Things in the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada

Siddharth Menon*, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison(Re)assessing the ethno in human geography: towards a technography of concrete

Discussant: Galen Murton, James Madison University

Panel 2

Daniel Abrahams*, University of South CarolinaSodas as Boundary Objects in Development Practice

Dylan Brady*, University of OregonOne Ticket, One Card, One Person: Legibility and Wayfinding in the Chinese Rail System

Mariya Shcheglovitova*, University of Maryland – Baltimore CountyThe Standing Dead: Constructing and Deconstructing the Urban Forest

Yang Yang*, University of Colorado – BoulderEnjoying Your Guilty Pleasure in Halal Ways: Milo, McDonalds, and Chinese Muslim Tourists in Malaysia

Discussant: Andrew Grant, University of Colorado at Boulder




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