Air: a breathless report

I write with haste having just come energised from another of our post-graduate research seminars, this one for 1st year PhD’s presenting their projects. Last week was the Politics, Development and Sustainability group MSc student presentations, this week its the Social and Cultural Geography group. Having recently moved to RHUL, I am routinely staggered by the breadth and depth of work going on.

There were talks on some amazing subjects from everyone, especially the historical work from Liz Haines on colonial air-survey in Africa, a lot of thoughts in there on re-thinking cartography, verticality, politics, objects, knowledge, archives etc, and also Weiqiang Lin gave an insightful talk on his project on Singapore’s airspace, with important themes on nodes and the politics of connectivity, air-space as a fiercely contested geopolitical resource, and trying to forward an alternative perspective to the aeromobilities literature.

I also want to share some news about my own book project Air, coming out in Reaktion’s Earth series which just published its first book Volcano. I had a lot of feedback from the publishers on my first draft last week and I’ve got quite a bit of revisions to do. I think they will certainly improve the book.

The book tries to look at Air as a substance between the scientific, the cultural and the political, concerning themes as wide as the science of climate change, breathing, instruments and technologies, art, literature, early conceptions of air from antiquity, architecture, security, uncertainty, urban health, flying, to the politics of life itself. Not such an easy task! At the moment the contents look something like this.

  1. The Invention of Air
  2. Airborne
  3. An Excess of Air
  4. Restoration
  5. Insulation
  6. Mirage
  7. Dust to Dust

I hope to say a lot more about this project as I work on the revisions over the next few months. I hope the book will be timely given emergent agendas in geography right now on verticality, the volumetric, aerographies, affective atmospheres and ambience. But the book centrally tries to do things a bit differently with this taken for granted substance for wider audiences, and that’s an exciting challenge.


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