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Engineering affective atmospheres on the moving geographies of the 1897 Andrée expedition

[journal article]

McCormack, Derek P.

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Abstract How might the dynamic materiality of atmosphere be addressed in ways that register simultaneously its meteorological and affective qualities? The present article considers this question via a discussion of the kinds of atmospheric spaces in which the emergence and experience of modern balloon (or aerostatic) flight is implicated. In doing so it argues that aerostatic flight can be understood simultaneously as a technology for moving through atmosphere in a meteorological sense and as an event generative, at least potentially, of atmospheres in an affective sense. This argument is exemplified via a discussion of a particularly notable instance of balloon flight: the attempt, in 1897 by a Swedish engineer, Salomon August Andrée, and two companions, to fly to the North Pole in a hydrogen-filled balloon. Drawing upon a range of contemporaneous accounts, the article makes three claims about the expedition: first, that it can be understood, following Spinoza, as an effort to engineer a mode of addressing the meteorological atmosphere as a relational field of affect; second, that the passage of the expedition can be understood in terms of the registering of atmospheres (in both meteorological and affective terms) in moving, sensing bodies; and third, that the expedition was also generative of a distributed space of anticipation and expectancy. In concluding, the article speculates upon how conceiving of atmospheric space as simultaneously as meteorological and affective might contribute to recent attempts to rethink the materialities of cultural geographies.
Free Keywords affect; Andrée; atmosphere; emotion; feeling; materiality; Spinoza;
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 413-430
Journal Cultural Geographies, 15 (2008) 4
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)