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Geography, death, and finitude


  • José Luis Romanillos


Despite growing interest in the geographies of death, loss, and remembrance, comparatively little geographical research has been devoted either to the historical and cultural practices of death, or to an adequate conceptualisation of finitude. Responding to these absences, in this paper I argue for the importance of the notion of finitude within the history and philosophy of geographical thought. Situating finitude initially in the context of the work of Torsten Hägerstrand and Richard Hartshorne, the notion is argued to be both productive of a geographical ethics, and as epistemologically constitutive of phenomenological apprehensions of ‘earth’ and ‘world’. In order to better grasp the sense and genealogy of finitude, I turn to the work of Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, and Georges Bataille. These authors are drawn upon precisely because their writings present powerful conceptual frameworks which demonstrate the intimate relations between spatiality, death, and finitude. At the same time, their writings are critically interrogated in the light of perhaps the most important aspect of the conceptual history of finitude: the way in which it has been articulated as a site of anthropocentric distinction. I argue for a critical deconstruction of this anthropocentric basis to finitude; a deconstruction which raises a series of profound questions over the ethics, normativities, and understandings of responsibility shaping contemporary ethical geographies of the human and nonhuman. In so doing, I demonstrate the geographical importance of the notion of finitude for a variety of arenas of debate which include: phenomenological understandings of spatiality; the biopolitical boundaries drawn between human and animal; and contemporary theorisations of corporeality, materiality, and hospitality.

Suggested Citation

  • José Luis Romanillos, 2011. "Geography, death, and finitude," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 43(11), pages 2533-2553, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:43:y:2011:i:11:p:2533-2553

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