Translating Space: the Politics of Ruins, the Remote and Peripheral Places


  • I would like to thank John Darwell, Patrick Keiller and Stavros Stavrides for granting their permission to reproduce images from their work in this essay. I am grateful also to Dave Beer, David Hill and three anonymous IJURR reviewers for their comments — all provided constructive suggestions for improvements, and any remaining errors are my own.


This essay surveys recent artistic, literary and philosophical treatments of landscape that use metaphors of ruination, remoteness and the periphery. The discussion primarily focuses on Patrick Keiller's recent works, particularly his film Robinson in Ruins, the account of remote spaces in Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts' book Edgelands, and a collection of essays by Stavros Stavrides on peripheral urban spaces, Towards the City of Thresholds. These treatments of landscape offer an attention to the social significance of spaces overlooked within wider cultural representations of place. It is suggested that all three illustrate the argument that mundane spaces can be read and translated into politicized landscapes offering alternative readings of past events, as well as potential directions for future forms of sociality.