Besides affirmationism? On geography and negativity

Thomas Dekeyser, Thomas Jellis

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This paper poses questions on the possibility of styles of working besides “affirmationism.” The paper begins by defining negativity as a force or status of disunification, and traces how it remains closely associated with dialectics within Geography. The paper goes on to explore how the renunciation of dialectics has meant that negativity more generally has been rendered outside thought, with a concomitant uptake of an affirmationist ethos. Despite the promise of such work, there remains disquiet. What is omitted or elided in the uptake of affirmationism? Critiques, largely from outside the discipline, highlight how affirmationism privileges the lively and Life, novelty and experimentation, and the generous and generative in conjunction with a suspicion of negativity. We home in on and reflect on three ostensible limits of affirmationism: affirmationist vitalism, affirmationist politics, and affirmationist critique. We argue that renouncing dialectics does not entail, necessarily so, a concomitant abandonment of negativity. Indeed, we need to embrace attempts to think and act that elude, or dispense with, the propensity to affirm, making space for affects that are far from hopeful, for those becomings‐otherwise that do not increase capacities to act, or for modes of critique that refuse; in other words, for that which is besides affirmationism or simply “unaffirmable.” Crucially, however, we point towards the dangers of a simple (re)turn to negativity, preferring a steadfast refusal to settle these tensions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-325
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Early online date25 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • vitalism
  • negativity
  • affirmationism
  • negative geographies
  • ontology

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