Learning from Stoke-on-Trent: Multiple ontologies, ontological alterity and the city

Pile, Steve (2022). Learning from Stoke-on-Trent: Multiple ontologies, ontological alterity and the city. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12558

Abstract

This paper seeks to learn from Stoke-on-Trent by asking questions about the ontologies of cities. It does so by counter-posing two accounts of Stoke-on-Trent. One grounded in a critique of neoliberal urban development (or rather postindustrial decline). The other grounded in the experiences of Spiritualists. Placed side-by-side, Stoke-on-Trent demonstrates that cities accommodate more than one lived reality or mode of existence (ontology). The coexistence of multiple ontologies has been observed elsewhere, as a discussion of the work of Tariq Jazeel and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro shows. The important point then is that Stoke-on-Trent highlights the ontological heterogeneity of a city that seems to have only one story to tell: postindustrial decline. This raises further questions: in part, about ontological alterity; in part, about the production of new ontologies; but, significantly, about the politics of coexisting ontologies – which ontologies count, and which do not.

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