Spatial Anthropology

SPATIAL ANTHROPOLOGY: Excursions in Liminal Space

Les Roberts (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018 - hardback & ebook published June 2018, paperback Dec 2019) 

Spatial Anthropology draws together a number of interrelated strands of research focused on landscape, place and cultural memory in the north-west of England. At the core of the book lies an engagement with the methodological opportunities offered by new interdisciplinary frameworks of research and practice that have emerged in the wake of a putative ‘spatial turn’ in arts and humanities scholarship in recent years. The spatial methods explored in the book represent a consolidation of site-specific interventions enacted in landscapes located in the north-west and beyond. Utilising digital tools and geospatial technologies alongside ethnographic, performative and autoethnographic modes of spatio-cultural analysis, spatial anthropology is presented as a geographically immersive and critically reflexive set of practices designed to explore the embodied and increasingly multi-faceted spatialities of place, mobility and memory. From the radically placeless environment of a motorway traffic island, to the ‘affective archipelago’ of former cinema sites, or the ‘songlines’ and micro-geographies of musical memory, Spatial Anthropology offers a rich tapestry of landscapes, practices and spatial stories that speaks to both the particularities of place and locality as well as the more delocalised topographies of regional, national and global mobility.

Preface: in search of the north-west passage

I: Spacings

1.Spatial anthropology: an introduction

Spatial = Anthropology / Anthropological space / Anthropology and space

2.Of spaces in-between

Liminality / Spaces in-between / Deep mapping / Spatial bricolage

II: Soundings


Marooned / Time out / Rhythm mapping / Road to nowhere / Making tracks / Exit


First steps / Landscapes in the frame / Stalking | wayfinding | cinemapping / Stalking the ether / Reflections on method

III: Ghostings


Cinetopia: of other spaces / The archive city / GIS and new cinema history / Wirral cinetopia / Liverpool cinetopia


Music | maps | memory / Home / Dislocation / On the road /Story | coda


The digital Aleph / Seeing beyond / The psychogeography of drowning / The Cestrian Book of the Dead / Aleph redux / Glossary

IV: Earthings


Wetlands visitation / Sealand empire / Lines in the sand / Reclamations


False starts and detours / The necrogeography of oil / Reclaiming the sacred / Flirting with absolute space

Afterword: killing space | giving life to space

Killing Space, Giving Life to Space: Interdisciplinary Excursions in Spatial Anthropology   Royal Anthropological Institute Research Seminar

Thursday 14 October 2021

"If David Harvey once said that space is too important to be left to geographers alone, here we have precisely the confirmation needed." Kay Anderson, Professorial Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

"Like Roberts’ recent writing this book pursues ideas through crossing land in a flirtive manner; stories, other worldly sightings and readings; [the chapter] ‘castaway’ being typically wayward. Unusual and in a Sinclairesque manner, he opens up conceptually as he explores often unfamiliar territory, appealing to a wide range of disciplines beyond humanities with a style that works well." David Crouch, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Geography, University of Derby

"Spatial Anthropology expertly defines a new expression of spatial humanities and helpfully positions it as a field in-between disciplines. Drawing upon insights from anthropology, Roberts’ rejects space as an abstract container; rather, it is lived, practiced, and performed. Here, space is material and dynamic, replete with meanings and memories that shape who we are and how we navigate the world." David Bodenhamer, Executive Director of The Polis Center and Professor of History, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

"Spatial Anthropology is an ambitious text that seeks to conceptually and methodologically develop the work being conducted in the spatial humanities. The third in a series of interdisciplinary projects from the author, Spatial Anthropology appears as a natural successor to Roberts’s edited collection Mapping Culture: Place, Practice, Performance and a 2015 edited special issue of Humanities journal that explored the theme of 'deep mapping'... [T]he study is of great value to scholars working with ideas of space and place both within and exterior to human geography." Environment, Space, Place 11 (2), 2019.

"[Spatial Anthropology is] a contribution to a growing conversation in transdisciplinary humanities research around space, place, land, and cultural memory... [the book] could be read as an effort to broaden and deepen the study of human experiences of space, or indeed, spatial anthropology: less as a discipline, more as a provocation to the very idea of discipline. Roberts’ passionate and not at all straightforward call to do research that challenges academia (in its traditional and corporate varieties) is reminiscent of Tim Ingold’s later work, traces of whose thinking are palpable in the book. Suomon Antropologi 45 (2), 2020.