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Thinking Beyond Place: The Responsibilities of a Relational Spatial Politics



Although for many in contemporary human geography, it appears paradigmatic to conceive of space as a performed, networked, articulation of social relations; the political and ethical challenges of ‘thinking space relationally’ are only beginning to be considered. In this article, I attempt to review the account of spatial and political responsibilities elaborated through such writing, arguing that its focus upon spatial connections and flows develops those concerns with partialist and impartialist sentiments noted in literature on geography’s ‘moral turn’. The article reviews the development of the work of Doreen Massey in particular to consider how a relational politics of space has come to represent a call for a concern for both the relations which run ‘into’ and ‘out from’ place. By examining a number of examples of this form of a ‘politics beyond place’, I argue that viewing space relationally offers a versatile account of the diverse claims made by a series of spatial issues, such as climate change and fair-trade relations. The article concludes by suggesting how a relational politics might present an alternative geographical imagination of extensive political responsibilities.