The essays, papers and reviews collected in issue 4.1 of SPECTRA: the ASPECT Journal, are interwoven, marking collectively a question, blank space, or focal point oriented around the question of habitation. This theme, in all of its aspects, has recently gathered more attention from the academic community and the public at large. In its constructive and destructive aspects, the question of habitation continues to haunt all spheres social, political, ethical, and cultural: the annexation of the Crimean, justified by rhetoric about national and collective (be)longing; U.S. immigration policy, defending ‘our turf’ against ‘them’; surveillance invading homes; suicide bombings threatening homes; war, poverty, and global-scale climate change eradicating homes. In what modes, to which ends, by what means do we cohabit, inhabit, and ultimately dehabit our planet?
The essays collected here discuss avenues, probe constellations, and offer inquiries related to the issue’s theme. In Timothy Luke’s paper On Sustainabilization: Global Inequalities, Digital Habitats and Material Governance – A Critical Ecology, the ecological point of intersection between inhabitation and dehabitation is discussed. Engaging recent discourses about the anthropocene – the newly proposed classification of the age of irreversible human inhabitation on the planet as a distinct geological age – Luke discussed the normative implications of ‘sustainability’ discourses. Maintaining the habitability of the planet, he argues, certainly comes with daunting costs. Yet, these costs are also discursively invoked to maintain networks of profit associated with greening technology and, ultimately, greening the economy. If inhabiting the planet economically is at odds with inhabiting it ecologically, which of the two will prevail?
M. Clark Sugata engages modes of inhabiting space directly, focusing in particular on the question of access to habitation. In Spaces of Interest: Financial Governance and Debt Subjectivity, Sugata discusses the strange resurgence of the subprime lending sector in the aftermath of the 2007/2008 financial crisis. In the legal form of Alternative Finance Service Providers (AFSPs), particularly payday and title loan lending, the operationalization of habitation as a commodity appears to be at odds with its status as a human necessity once again. Both the spaces inhabited and the bodies inhabiting the spaces of those subject to such dangerous and often borderline fraudulent lending practices are are affected in crucial ways. Openly thriving in a post-crisis environment of economic decay, the title loan and payday loan industries appear to be open to critical questions more than ever. If the notion of homes as commodities is at odds with inhabiting them humanly, which of them will prevail, and to whose ends?
With Kent Morris’ intervention You Can’t Spell Crisis Without ISIS: Comments on “The Return of Geopolitics?”, destructive dehabitation is put into focus. Departing from a discussion of the often-mentioned group ISIS (IS, Islamic State; or Islamic Caliphate), Morris engages a recent turn within political sciences: the turn to, or return of, geopolitics as a viable field of inquiry. Against the backdrop of violent placements and replacements of political, social, ethical, and cultural boundaries, Morris discusses the trope of ‘crisis’ as a mode of conceptualizing international violence, and the implications it has for political order. In an age of dialectical oscillation between outside enemies and inside enemies – domestic whistleblowers, domestic terrorists; foreign terrorists, foreign traitors – how will a resolution of conflicts like ISIS be possible, and what role can geopolitics take in it?
Regarding a possible resistance to dehabitation – ecological destruction, financialized violence, outright physical devastation – Raluca Bejan’s book review The Untold Story of Changing Fate, examining Slavoj Zizek’s work The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, looks into finding possibilities for cohabitation. Once again we seem to find a political, social, ethical, and cultural inability of economic and ecological, economic and human spaces to coexist peacefully, refracted by Zizek and Bejan through recent global uprisings and upheavals. Yet, resistance to the violent ripple effects thereby engendered will, in turn, have to face a question: to which end does it resist, and by what means?
Finally, Johannes Grow discusses the separated yet mutually implied reality of space and time, social space and social time, in Beyond the Spatial? A Temporal Perspective, reviewing Sarah Sharma’s In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics. People may inhabit the same space at what is locally the same time, yet they do not cohabit: different time zones lead to jetlag; different speeds of everyday life lead to discontinuities; different discourses of time structure racialized, sexualized, marginalized temporal experiences. Cohabitation, if possible at all, is produced, it seems. If that is the case, have we come full circle, and is the economy of inhabiting time and space once more at odds with the ecology, or the human aspects thereof?
We strongly urge our readers who are particularly moved by a piece or theme to submit responses for inclusion in a future issue. We encourage a broad range of conventional and creative contribution in a variety of formats, including articles, book reviews, essays, interviews and other works in addition to original multimedia pieces, including podcasts, digital videos, internet-hosted texts, artwork, comics, and photography.
Blacksburg, 9 February 2015