8 December 2021

New special issue of Society and Space

Congratulations to visiting researcher Professor Michele Lancione and Professor AbdouMaliq Simone on a new special issue. 

A person sat on a bench outside ruins

Society and Space examines “dwelling in liminality". In light of the relegation of the marginalized, impoverished, and racialized to both objects of extraction and purveyors of unforeseen potential, what constitutes viable performances of generativity beyond the conventional notions of usefulness and efficacy? What practices and conceptualizations might at one and same time acknowledge the precarity of lives and engage the dispositions of brokenness that no available vernacular is able to really understand?

Questions around what it means to be ‘at home in the world’  retain a fundamental ambivalence, reflecting the pragmatic need to both become familiar with a terrain but at the same time refuse any tendency to stabilize it, hold it within some consolidated view. Getting beyond prevailing modes of inhabiting has been the only way of assembling life for those living through the maximum intensifications of current forms of extraction. And yet, such going beyond is not the revolutionary program we have been educated to expect. Rather, it is a tensioned endurance that ‘moves along’ by contesting the ground of its given capacities, in fragmented circulations that are never just of one’s own or of “their” own control. The ‘contestation’, here, is of mundane displacements and re-arrangements, scattered, often without formulation, and largely unnoticed.

What makes some forms of the ‘everyday liminal’ other, what renders their performance ‘going beyond inhabitation’, is not the adherence to a defined form of redemption, but their capacity to interlace forms of concerns and to use them as a gateway to set loose a position, to elaborate an affirmation. Sometimes this interlacing gains rhythm, and coalesces in a tide capable of announcing and organising its mobilisation against dis/possession. But most often the ‘liminal other’ is a mundane politics, a momentary elaboration of assembling a life in-dealing-with dis/possession while affirming its own becoming beyond it. A refusal in the minor, a facing that is also a staying on the side, where circulations are continuously spun with one hand while an equilibrium is sought with the other. Such is undertaken to sustain social reproductions and aspire to personal and collective emancipations.

These all too fragile endeavours are easily turned to axioms by the dominant calculations, when not directly silenced and killed; but even in the less dramatic cases, when noticed from afar, they are neglected as non-political, non-worthy, and left at the device of colonising epistemologies of humanitarian intervention and policy fix. As scholars, we are aware of the risk of inflating the capacities of these liminalites, but we are also wary of the silencing operated by the sociology of technocrats offering policy fixes while reducing experience to manageable problems, often pivoted around colonial pasts and present industrial (also of knowledge-production) interests. Here, romanticisation can occur in the celebration of practices of dwelling as ‘other’; in the discourses articulating unapparent capacities; in the call for its adherence to the prosaic formulations of a ‘right’. But in tracing those instances in which everyday life affirms its own becoming - not in the open and in spite of dis/possession, but in mundane dealings with it - liminal inhabitations becomes less a matter of sustainability and salvation, and more propositions of its own politics of life.

We thus join those who are rethinking inhabitation, situating our collective work through the urban interstices, tracing how storylines allow for their own affirmation through expropriated forms of dwellings and within their banishment. This special issue builds on multifarious, nervous, and sensuous terrain of investigation to look at the politics of inhabitation as a pragmatic, a process, a way of tracing where the multiple forms that it takes do take, usually provisionally, as a platform to extend, undo, regroup. Ours is a methodological attempt at theorising structural change from the multiple ontologies of the everyday counter-political; that is, from those propositions that are conventionally silenced by scholarship, infantilised by governance, and set aside with a shrug by the Westernised (white) ‘radical’.

Download the introduction to the special issue