Witnessing space: 'knowledge without contemplation'

J-DC Dewsbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

213 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is about the importance of witnessing and how such an act, or call, makes place or our place in the world. Pushing forward the agenda of nonrepresentational theory, this is about attending to differences -- those imperceptible, sometimes minor, and yet gathering, differences that script the world in academically less familiar but in no less real ways. I am thinking here about the folded mix of our emotions, desires, and intuitions within the aura of places, the communication of things and spaces, and the spirit of events. Such folds leave traces of presence that map out a world that we come to know without thinking. Throughout, I argue the political importance of our current debates concerning a performative appreciation of society's unfolding. In the first part of the paper I sketch out the academic territory that makes witnessing space potentially unfamiliar by problematizing the representational setup and the interpretation of empiricism that facilities knowledge production. In the second part I present an overview of the operation of Gilles Deleuze's thinking as a possible apprecenticeship in becoming able to perceive, and hence better able to express, the folded mix of the witnessed and witnessing world. In the third part of the paper I investigate the philosophical and ethical mechanics of the act of witnessing itself, translating the arguments found here to question the laws regulating the act of representation. Throughout, as an exemplary witness to that which I am trying to present, the paper is haunted by Olga Tokarczuk's novella The Hotel Capital.
Translated title of the contributionWitnessing space: 'knowledge without contemplation'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1907 - 1932
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Volume35 (11)
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Pion


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