Spiders, Sartre and ‘magical geographies’: the emotional transformation of space



Drawing on interviews with individuals suffering from arachnophobia, we suggest ways in which phenomenologically oriented aspects of Jean-Paul Sartre’s (geographically neglected) work, particularly the concept of ‘magical’ thinking outlined in Sartre’s early Sketch for a theory of the emotions, might help both elucidate the spatiality of phobic lifeworlds and provide wider explanatory resources for understanding emotional geographies. If emotion evokes a world in which the relations of things to our awareness of them is, indeed, ‘magical’, then we may begin to explain the transformations of space recounted by phobics who are severely troubled by spiders' unpredictable movements within the geography of their homes. Sartre’s treatment of the phobic event as an event of worldly awareness, we argue, has critical implications for understanding how highly nuanced modes of attenuation, attraction, and repulsion compose the intimate geographies of our lives.