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Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley

Psychogeography. Coverley M. Pocket Essentials. Amazon Kindle. Accessed 1.3.15

I read this book over the past work on recommendation from my tutor as an introduction to Psychogeography. I must confess I’d never even heard the term before this!

The most useful explanation of the term for me is was provided by Guy Debord, who also added a note about the ‘pleasing vagueness’ of the term that allows it to be so widely applied. Coverley says that for Debord it is the ‘point where psychology and geography collide’. And in Debord’s own words:

‘Psychogeography could set for itself the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviours of individuals.  The adjective psychogeographical, retaining a rather pleasing vagueness, can thus be applied to the findings arrived at by this type of investigation, to their influence on human feelings, and even more generally to any situation or conduct that seems to reflect the same spirit of discovery’

I found it interesting to discover there was a specific term to cover this way of thinking about the relationship with one’s environment and labels are always useful for communicating shared thinking.  However, it seems from Coverley’s book that the term struggles with gaining any real traction in common use and it is used often used by proponents to label other’s work, rather than those being labelled; many of whom were long since deceased before the term was coined (Daniel Defoe and Robert Louis Stevenson). I found the style of the book rather rambling (perhaps because of its chapters structured around characters, rather than themes) but given ‘wandering’ in cities is cited as part of psychogeography, perhaps rambling is appropriate.

Some further areas of research for me –

  • The work of Iain Sinclair, JD Ballard and Patrick Keiller
  • Photographers who are identifying themselves specifically with psychogeography.

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