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Possible geographies: a passing encounter in a café

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The rise of non-representational theory in human geography has prompted searching questions about how researchers might ‘represent’ what they encounter in their fieldwork. A central problem is that we reach an insurmountable impasse, an aporia, because we cannot share thoughts, meanings, feelings, etc., in a manner faithful to our experience of them or equally that certain spectacular or horrific events and encounters escape their retelling. We argue that this impossibility should not become a warrant for withdrawing from the world, and instead propose that close descriptions can still be offered of particular encounters, attending in the process to the situated, embodied sense-making work being (unavoidably) undertaken by the peoples involved that makes those encounters what they are. Such work may be threatened by scepticism, because it assumes the possibility of representation being at least partially successful, here and now, and relies on the ‘just-thisness’ of things. Scholars of social life can, scepticism contained, learn much from taking seriously how any encounter unfolds without transcendental or structural guarantee in the immediacy of the life-worlds where it is made and re-made.

Keywords: cafés; encounter; ethnographic; public space; representation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Geography, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, Email: 2: Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ

Publication date: 2006-12-01

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