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Encountering Berlant part two: Cruel and other optimisms

Anderson, Ben; Awal, Akanksha; Cockayne, Daniel; Greenhough, Beth; Linz, Jess; Mazumdar, Anurag; Nassar, Aya; Pettit, Harry; Roe, Emma J.; Ruez, Derek; Salas Landa, Mónica; Secor, Anna; Williams, Aelwyn

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Akanksha Awal

Daniel Cockayne

Beth Greenhough

Jess Linz

Anurag Mazumdar

Aya Nassar

Harry Pettit

Emma J. Roe

Derek Ruez

Mónica Salas Landa

Aelwyn Williams


Part 2 of Encountering Berlant amplifies the promise of Lauren Berlant's influential concept of ‘cruel optimism’. Cruel optimism names a double-bind in which attachment to an ‘object’ holds out the promise of sustaining/flourishing, whilst simultaneously harming. The lines between harming, sustaining, damaging and flourishing blur, sometimes collapsing entirely. By holding together opposites the concept exemplifies and performs the centrality of ambivalence to Berlant's thought, as well as their orientation to overdetermination and incoherence. Geographers and others have found in the concept a way of understanding the intersection between affective and political economies in the crisis-present following the 2008 financial crisis. Together with Berlant's linked concepts such as ‘crisis ordinariness’ and ‘impasse’, cruel optimism has offered a way of understanding why detachment can be so difficult and how damaging conditions endure. Contributors begin from these starting points, amplifying the concept's promise: a new way of researching and writing about the reproduction of ordinary damage and harm. By writing from diverse encounters with Berlant's work, they move the concept in multiple directions, juxtaposing it with other optimisms across a variety of empirical scenes and locations. The result is a repository of what cruel optimism, and Berlant's mode of thinking-feeling more broadly, offer geographers and others.


Anderson, B., Awal, A., Cockayne, D., Greenhough, B., Linz, J., Mazumdar, A., …Williams, A. (2023). Encountering Berlant part two: Cruel and other optimisms. The Geographical Journal, 189(1), 143-160.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 2, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 25, 2022
Publication Date 2023-03
Deposit Date Jan 4, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 28, 2023
Journal The Geographical Journal
Print ISSN 0016-7398
Electronic ISSN 1475-4959
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 189
Issue 1
Pages 143-160


Published Journal Article (579 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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