A wizard of disquietude in our midst: Melanie Klein and the critical geographies of manic reparation

This article invites critical geographers to reconsider the conceptual offerings of Austrian-British object-relations psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (1882–1960), whose metapsychology has had a significant but largely unacknowledged contemporary influence on the field via theorists like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Lauren Berlant. Excavating the Kleinian genealogies of Sedgwick’s concept of “reparative reading” and Berlant’s notion of “cruel optimism,” I argue that geographers engaged with these ideas would benefit from a more sustained consideration of Klein’s influence on them. I then point to the potential utility for critical geographers of just one of many Kleinian concepts that has largely remained off the map of recent debates: ”manic reparation,” sometimes referred to as mock reparation or manic denial, which defends against the anxiety of wanting to repair a damaged object of attachment. Sketching possibilities for how this concept could productively illuminate concerns near and dear to critical geographers—such as the political ecologies of climate change, critiques of neoliberal multiculturalisms, debates over urban development, and abolition geographies—I argue that Klein’s idiosyncratic, though at times problematic and counterintuitive, body of work offers critical geographers an insightful, expansive, and underutilized conceptual vocabulary for examining the affective dimensions of a wide range of political formations.

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Volume 41 Issue 2

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