Title

It is Not Just the Little Things: A Case for the Consideration of Structure

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Political Geography

Volume

69

Publisher

Elsevier Ltd

Publication Date

3-1-2019

First Page

177

Last Page

185

Abstract

Nigel Thrift (2000) claim that “it is the little things that matter” is much quoted and has been a fertile idea that has invigorated much research. It lies at the root of Dittmer's book and the idea of assemblage. It has framed a meta-paradigm of human geography analysis that embraces a number of ideas such as the everyday, the prosaic, the fuzzy, and the contingent. Such analysis provides detailed understandings of human agency within particular contextual settings. I use this intervention to note that this meta-paradigm, of which Diplomatic Material is an outstanding example, has led political geography to be a sub-discipline that has stepped away from the generalizable and the analytic to the specific and the descriptive. Dittmer's book is an excellent and laudable example of the scholarship of the “little things” using the key theoretical frames of assemblage and new materialism. I applaud the scholarship of the book and how it provides an accessible example of the mobilization of assemblage theory. My intervention aims to question how useful assemblage theory is as an explanatory framework for political geography, while recognizing the skill that Dittmer employs in discussing assemblages and materialism. In sum, using assemblages to focus on the “little things” takes us away from explaining the persistence and operation of “bigger things.”

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