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Ecologies of Affect

Placing Nostalgia, Desire, and Hope

Tonya K. Davidson, Ondine Park, and Rob Shields, editors

Environmental Humanities Series

Paper 360 pp.

ISBN13: 978-1-55458-258-7

Release Date: May 2011

Online discount: 25%

$42.99  $32.24


eBook availability

Ecologies of Affect offers a synthetic introduction to the felt dynamics of cities and the character of places. The contributors capture the significance of affects including desire, nostalgia, memory, and hope in forming the identity and tone of places. The critical intervention this collection of essays makes is an active, consistent engagement with the virtualities that produce and refract our idealized attachments to place. Contributors show how place images, and attempts to build communities, are, rather than abstractions, fundamentally tied to and revolve around such intangibles. We understand nostalgia, desire, and hope as virtual; that is, even though they are not material, they are nevertheless real and must be accounted for. In this book, the authors take up affect, emotion, and emplacement and consider them in relation to one another and how they work to produce and are produced by certain temporal and spatial dimensions.

The aim of the book is to inspire readers to consider space and place beyond their material properties and attend to the imaginary places and ideals that underpin and produce material places and social spaces. This collection will be useful to practitioners and students seeking to understand the power of affect and the importance of virtualities within contemporary societies, where intangible goods have taken on an increasing value.

Tonya Davidson is a Ph.D. Candidate in sociology at the University of Alberta. Her dissertation research is on the dynamic social lives of a series of monuments in Ottawa. She can be found at

Ondine Park is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Alberta and is interested in urban and cultural studies and social theory. Her most recent research focuses on the idea and promise of the suburb. She can be found at

Rob Shields is the H.M. Tory Chair in the Departments of Sociology and Art and Design at the University of Alberta. He is co-editor of the journal Space and Culture, and his most recent works include What Is a City? Rethinking the Urban after Katrina (ed., 2008) and Building Tomorrow: Innovation in Construction (ed., 2005).


“A stellar collection of essays; sharply focused, cohesive and very smart... The theory is never simply floating off the page and into the ether but is always grounded in some particular phenomenon or experience and, as examples of passionately engaged scholarship, the essays offer a coherent critical apparatus that simultaneously enacts how to go about using concepts like ‘affect’ or ‘the virtual’ in a very concrete fashion. That is, the chapters don’t just do the talk (they never bog down in pure philosophy-speak), they walk the walk.”

— Gregory J. Seigworth, Millersville University, Pennsylvania, co-editor, with Melissa Gregg, of The Affect Theory Reader (2010)

“The contributors to this excellent collection of essays maintain that affect is directly tied to both the body and to ecologies and that ‘infused with power, grounded in place and located in bodies, affect is viscerally political.’ Affect can be (and is) used in multiple ways to define, shape, and sell particular places, values, and ideals. The authors provide insights into these processes and critique the lack of attention to affect in current social analyses of particular places.... The case studies on offer in this collection utilize a range of methodologies to describe the intangible and to demonstrate why the subjective is precisely the point of view that reveals the most about our understanding of place. Through engagements with music, literature, and public art as well as community spaces, tourist destinations, and personal objects, the contributors to this volume uncover the ways in which places make us who we are, along with how we transform them through our values, imagination, and action.... The strength of Ecologies of Affect: Placing Nostalgia, Desire, and Hope lies in the many very different ways in which the contributors approach affect, place, and ecology. Beginning with natural objects as divergent as giant puppets, a mug, children’s picture books, and a young girl’s journal, or wildly different places like the bike trail, Las Vegas, and Fort McMurray, the insights offered by the authors about the way that affect shapes both space and place as well as our understanding of our relation(s) to particular places, are varied and often profound. For anyone interested in place, this book is a unique contribution to the existing literature, which suggests that affect should be a critical direction in this ongoing conversation.”

— Amanda Di Battista, York University, The Goose

“By using affect and ecology to enhance discussions concerning the ontology of space, the volume offers a well-balanced consideration of both material and discursive phenomena.... A clear strength of the project is the array of intriguing contexts with which to consider materialities and spatialities of affect and the careful consideration given to each case study. Through these wide-ranging and original analyses, the contributors fulfill their aim of blurring the line between the temporal, spatial, virtual, and material.... This book importantly draws the relationship between affect and matter into geographical discussions while signalling that more attention needs to be given to thinking through this complex relationship.”

— Neil Nunn, University of British Columbia, Social and Cultural Geography