Spatial interventions: Working the In-between

If interested, please submit a 250 word abstract to William F. Stafford ( and Kamala Russell ( by May 5 (Wednesday), and do feel free to be in touch with any questions!

Spatial interventions: Working the In-between

Organizers: Kamala Russell and William F. Stafford, Jr.

Discussants (Confirmed): Sarah Green (Helsinki), Bill Maurer (UC Irvine), Hoon Song (Minnesota), +1

In the practice of ethnography, space often features as a context, medium, or object to be accounted for descriptively, qualitatively, and relationally. As such, it is often employed as a ‘host’ for relations as they play out ‘across space’, in analyses of the affordances of infrastructure, cultural schemata, and environment, as well as in mediating judgements of distance, difference, position, place, and even time. In this panel, we aim to explore the possible manifestations, materializations, and meanings of spatiality as its own mode of information, action, or structure, in order to foreground space as it intervenes on and between other social forms. To do so, we offer experiments in examining spatiality through analytical methods associated with topology, or the study of the ‘shapes’ of spaces through their invariant properties. In looking at how anthropological processes may be constrained and produced on/as shaped spaces, we draw on topological concepts and heuristics such as continuity, transformation, equivalence, generality, neighborhoods, boundary, and dimensionality, among others. These concepts point to a notion of space as such, prior to any description of scale, size, measurement, and fixed edges. 

We seek papers exploring space, spaces, and spatiality as processes of signification/meaning, governance, commensuration, differentiation, design, valuation, and encounter inter alia, and the semiotic, institutional, embodied, technic, and environmental means by which space is made both instrument and object of analysis. How can this approach help us think differently about the governance, experience, or design of territory, borders, and spaces of transit? How might we understand the dynamic relation of bodily contact in dance, combat, or communication? How do the affordances of space as such intervene in mapping as an instrument of the valuation of work? How do we qualify the textures of substances or environmental surrounds as they act on the edges of bodies? How might extent and intensity qualify affective or atmospheric fields? How might the abstract nature of topology help us to work through concrete engagements with materiality, ethics, circulation, economy, community, and sovereignty, among others themes?

This panel grows out of an ongoing collaborative project that explores the formal and conceptual resources of topology, resulting in a collection of short essays for Cultural Anthropology and a workshop series organised under the Social Science Matrix at UC Berkeley. These may serve as a limited model or collection of points of departure. We envision submissions that take up resources in topology explicitly, or that may pursue themes that serve as different points of entry to this space of intervention, including but not limited to: boundaries without a categorical difference between inside and outside; space as agent, interpreter, or interpretation; regions without scale; parts that each resemble the whole; proximity without a context of measure.