Mapping reflexive communities: visualising the geographies of emotion

MacKian, Sara (2004). Mapping reflexive communities: visualising the geographies of emotion. Social & Cultural Geography, 5(4) pp. 615–631.



Whereas 'simple modernity' was characterized by objective space, the grid of the map, and a removal of all subjective symbols or signs, 'reflexive modernity' is characterized by a re-subjectivization of space. Within this space 'reflexive communities' emerge to make sense of emotions and experiences, reflecting particular ways of behaving, thinking and being. As geographers one task facing us now is to visualize and map the spaces of reflexive modernization. This paper presents a means of visualizing the text of emotions uncovered in the research encounter--a way of 'mapping' reflexive communities--and shows how we can articulate, negotiate and represent, complex emotional landscapes. The 'maps'--which draw on spatial metaphors that permeate everyday emotions--such as 'distancing' ourselves, 'engaging', 'joining', 'feeling detached', 'embracing'--were developed initially through analysis of in-depth interviews with long-term sufferers of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Although the key focus of the paper is the experience of long-term illness, the method of visualizing emotional geographies of everyday life could be applied in any number of fields. As such, it adds to the search across the social sciences for understanding the reflexive nature of contemporary space.

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