Unsettling responsibility: postcolonial interventions

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Abstract:

This paper contributes to debates about geographies of responsibility. In contrast to much of the previous literature in this field, which has concentrated on teasing out the intimate interconnections between different people, places and spaces, in this paper we highlight the limits to such connections, focusing on more unsettled versions of responsibility. Our critique draws on postcolonial readings to highlight two limitations of responsibility: its availability as an ethical gesture that can be ascribed even where it is not practised; and its imputed agency that makes it possible for responsible agency to be usurped by the global North. This starts to muddy the water of responsibility, showing how it may involve refusal, denial, withdrawal and contamination. More problematised enigmatic and risky versions of responsibility arise from these critiques. In particular, we argue that in considering responsibility as practice, a recognition of the provisional, contaminated and complex myriad of power relations involved may signal a move towards more ambivalent versions and visions that acknowledge the vulnerabilities and disconnections involved in geographies of responsibility.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00474.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN 2: Department of Geography, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA 3: Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH

Publication date: July 1, 2012

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