The politics of autonomous space

Keith Woodward, John Paul Jones, Sallie A. Marston

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


This paper offers a further exploration of 'flat ontology', an account of the world that takes the immanence of localized, material process to be fundamentally different from and ontologically prior to transcendent, structured, and formal treatments of space. Our previous work in this area aimed at developing the concept of the site - via site ontology- as an 'event-space' that describes the differential contours and pressures of aggregating and dispersing bodies. This paper's contribution lies in considering how politics and political potentials are specified by such event-spaces. In geography and other fields, politics has nearly always been thought to proceed from and to exist for subjects, regardless of how they get theorized. Here we explore how the site might initiate politics that neither presuppose nor undergird individual subject positionalities or mass identitarian categories. We argue that subjectivity - widely understood to be the motive force in organizing politics - is often 'suspended' where bodies encounter or get enlisted in the unanticipated connections and relations that site ontology describes. Thus, our account understands the site as autonomous with respect to the subject in two crucial ways. The site is: (1) organizationally autonomous: its rules emerge from its specific, localized relations and this material immanence makes the site the legislator of its own assembly; and (2) politically autonomous: that is, not conditioned by the political schemata of subjectivity per se, even though sites diversely and differently enlist and reshuffle bodies that often attend to, direct, participate in, and inhabit subjective politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-224
Number of pages21
JournalProgress in Human Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • materialism
  • politics
  • site ontology
  • subjects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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