Stuart Elden interview

Stuart Elden interviewed here by John Protevi. It’s a very candid and personal interview and even though I’ve worked with Stuart I learned quite a lot I didn’t know, about his early life and how he came to be at Durham.

He also drops some more details about his next two books (after the Birth of Territory that is). (Stuart writes–and reads–quicker than almost anyone else I know with the possible exception of Rob Kitchin!). One book will be an examination of Foucault’s History of Sexuality project, and how it changed from its original plan. The other

is to look at the relation between philosophy, territory and globalisation, tentatively entitled The Space of the World. The idea is not to do a thinker-based or thematic (economy, politics, culture) approach, but to take concepts such as violence, fossils, earth, wound, volume and play as ways of raising a wide range of philosophical, political, geographical and historical issues about how we think of the world and the globe.

I look forward to both of those.

One personal item he wasn’t asked about was what is your most embarrassing professional moment? I wonder if it would be the time at an AAG meeting, when I bumped into him going into a big talk by Noam Chomsky? We both had prior plans to see talks by colleagues and papers in other sessions but thought we’d drop in on the big man for the first ten minutes or so and then quietly leave.

It didn’t quite work out like that. Instead we went into this huge auditorium, swept along in the middle of the crowd. The main doors on our left were closed off against yet more people trying to get in (they didn’t quite put a broomstick through the handles but they may as well have done).

As soon as we sat down I knew it was a mistake. For one thing we weren’t anywhere near those doors. For another there was a bank of TV cameras arrayed off to our right. Going out the main door was not on, but there was a service door to our right. Unfortunately we had to go out pretty much in front of the cameras. So after only 10 minutes we gritted our teeth and made our way to the service door. On some tape somewhere you can probably see two red faced geographers creeping in front of the lenses (in my mind there is a whole bank of live TV cameras!). It’s not that you can’t leave, but that we were rudely doing so in front of everybody. Imagine 2,000 people sitting there without a noise as the great man spoke.

We go to the service door. We went through into the hotel service corridor. On the other side were hotel staff and one bouncer-like gentleman who calmly told us we couldn’t exit that way and we’d have to go back in! Apparently since it wasn’t a guest area of the hotel we might trip and hurt ourselves and the hotel was worried about liability. I have a very clear memory (deny it if you dare Stuart!) of him loudly saying there was no way on earth he’d go back and he’d “sign any paper they liked” to waive responsibility.

The crazy thing was, we could see where we needed to get to. It was only about a dozen steps away. I’m not that clumsy that I’m going to trip over the floor in a dozen steps. Eventually Stuart convinced them that we weren’t going back into that room for love nor money and they escorted us down the hallway to the door. Speaking personally, quite an embarrassing episode.

Moral: Always have an exit strategy.

(Via his blog.)

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2 responses to “Stuart Elden interview

  1. Pingback: Crampton, Elden, Chomsky | Progressive Geographies

  2. AAGs are occasions ripe with embarrassing stories. Like the great geographer I went to go see speak (don’t remember who it was anymore), only to realize it was a tribute after his passing; what was embarrassing, though, is that I came in late and as I stood against the wall, I accidentally hit the room’s light switch not once, but twice, darkening the room each time for several seconds. This was my last year as an undergrad, so it was quite humiliating!

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