Topological twists: Power's shifting geographies

Allen, John (2011). Topological twists: Power's shifting geographies. Dialogues in Human Geography, 1(3) pp. 283–298.



Topology is one of those words that, since finding a place in the discipline’s vocabulary, has hovered over debates rather than been central to them. The appeal of topology, especially among certain poststucturalist geographers, seems to rest with the looser, less rigid approach to space and time that allows for events elsewhere to be folded into the here and now of daily life. A new found relief from the more fixed spatial trappings of Euclidian geometry clearly forms part of that appeal (see Amin, 2004, 2007; Amin and Thrift, 2002; Doel, 1999; Bickerstaff and Simmons, 2009; Hetherington, 1997a and b; Latham, 2002; Marston et al, 2005; Jones III et al, 2007; Murdoch, 2006). Such relief, though, is often short lived when the metaphorical use of familiar words in unfamiliar contexts – the ‘twists’ in the spatial arrangements of political authority or the ‘folding’ in of the global into the local – serve only to confuse rather than enlighten. The confusion, however, whilst real, masks a fallible attempt to capture something new, or rather shifts less well understood, within a makeshift, often borrowed vocabulary. A topological sensibility, to my mind, prompts us to think again about such things as scale and territory, networks and connection in a less rigid manner, but above all about power and its geometry, in ways that make a difference.

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