Non-representational theory

Non-representational theory

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Non-representational theory is a theory
Theory
The English word theory was derived from a technical term in Ancient Greek philosophy. The word theoria, , meant "a looking at, viewing, beholding", and referring to contemplation or speculation, as opposed to action...

 developed in human geography
Human geography
Human geography is one of the two major sub-fields of the discipline of geography. Human geography is the study of the world, its people, communities, and cultures. Human geography differs from physical geography mainly in that it has a greater focus on studying human activities and is more...

, largely through the work of Nigel Thrift
Nigel Thrift
Nigel John Thrift is the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Warwick and a leading academic in the field of human geography.-Early life and career:...

 (Warwick University), and his colleagues such as J.D. Dewsbury (University of Bristol
University of Bristol
The University of Bristol is a public research university located in Bristol, United Kingdom. One of the so-called "red brick" universities, it received its Royal Charter in 1909, although its predecessor institution, University College, Bristol, had been in existence since 1876.The University is...

). It challenges those using social theory
Social theory
Social theories are theoretical frameworks which are used to study and interpret social phenomena within a particular school of thought. An essential tool used by social scientists, theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies , as well as the primacy of...

 and conducting geographical
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

 research to go beyond representation
Knowledge representation
Knowledge representation is an area of artificial intelligence research aimed at representing knowledge in symbols to facilitate inferencing from those knowledge elements, creating new elements of knowledge...

. Thus, Dewsbury describes practices of "witnessing" that produce "knowledge without contemplation".

Instead of studying and representing social relationships, non-representational theory focuses upon practices – how human and nonhuman formations are enacted or performed – not simply on what is produced . This is a post-structuralist theory drawing in part from the works of Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

, Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty was a French phenomenological philosopher, strongly influenced by Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in addition to being closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir...

 and phenomenonologists such as Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

 , but also weaving in the perspectives of Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

 and Félix Guattari
Félix Guattari
Pierre-Félix Guattari was a French militant, an institutional psychotherapist, philosopher, and semiotician; he founded both schizoanalysis and ecosophy...

, Bruno Latour
Bruno Latour
Bruno Latour is a French sociologist of science and anthropologist and an influential theorist in the field of Science and Technology Studies...

 and Michel Serres
Michel Serres
Michel Serres is a French philosopher and author, celebrated for his unusual career.-Life and career:...

, and more recently from political science (including ideas developed in radical democracy
Radical democracy
Radical democracy as an ideology was articulated by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe in their book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, written in 1985. They argue that social movements which attempt to create social and political change need a strategy which...

) and anthropological discussions of the material dimensions of human life. Non-representational theory's focus upon hybrid formations parallels the conception of "hybrid geographies" developed by Sarah Whatmore
Sarah Whatmore (geographer)
Sarah Whatmore is a Professor of Environment and Public Policy at Oxford University and from 2012, Head of School. She received her PhD in geography in 1988 at University College London, and previously taught for 12 years at Bristol University and briefly at the Open University.Whatmore is a...

.

Others have suggested that Thrift's use of the term "non-representational theory" is problematic, and that other non-representational theories could be developed. Richard G Smith
Richard G Smith
Dr Richard G Smith is a British geographer with interests in social theory and cities.He is a senior lecturer in human geography at Swansea University in the UK. At twenty he graduated with a first class degree from the University of Hull, and at twenty four with a PhD from Bristol University...

 suggests that Baudrillard's work could be considered a "non-representational theory", for example which has fostered some debate. In 2005, Hayden Lorimer (Glasgow University) suggested the term "more-than-representational" as preferable.