post scale
Place as Emergence
Place is emergent. It trespasses fixity. And its flows exceed the lines of
any nested narratives of scale (from local to regional and national to
transnational). In closing with this claim, I have in mind the work of
recent humanist geographers who arrive at an outright rejection of tradi-
tional notions of geographical scale. Scale is itself a highly flexible term.
But what seems outmoded from the start, at least for new directions in
literary studies, is thinking about scale in its long- standing geographi-
cal sense as something like sequences of vertical differentiation. For
example, urban theorist Neil Brenner describes geographic scale as “ter-
ritorial units stretching from the global, the supranational, and the na-
tional downwards to the regional, the metropolitan, the urban, the local,
and the body.”1 In such a schema, the rigging of social space is most
clearly inferred by size and, importantly, sums of power. Local decisions
are effectively enveloped into wider economies of power. And power as
a kind of agglomerative effect concentrates itself furthest away from the
embodied self, from the individual on the street. Power is corporatized.
I could also draw attention to a fitting visual analogue for scalar descent,
something Andrew Herod and Melissa Wright have called the Russian
doll model of scale.2 Such a model conceptualizes place as a kind of
nested leveling. But it also presents a closure of lower levels by higher
ones; lower levels can be accessed only as parcels of the higher. As ge-
ographer Richie Howitt has argued, scale as a nested hierarchy “assumes
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