cultural geographer

affect, mobilities, work
economic + affective transitions

IAG Film Shorts

New paper — “Embodying industrial transitions: Melancholy loss, interrupted habit and transitional memory after the end of a coal mine“

After finally finding some time to write between moving from Singapore to Bristol, I’ve recently had a paper published in Transactions drawing on my PhD research on two coal mine closures in Australia and China.

The overall project aimed to trace the gamut of ways in which workers responded to the unwilled changes presented by the mine closures, exploring how people embodied the closure’s afterlife through changing circumstances, intensities and evaluations.
This particular paper presents a slice of this project that focuses on the slower-paced bodiy transformations afoot in everyday life, and the non-linear intensities associated with these melancholy transitions. It’s an attempt to show (what might be called) ‘non-representational’ and ‘representational’ forces as always imbricated in embodied life, through the plural operation of memory in unfolding experience. I use the term ‘affective transition’ to denote this transformative process, but something about the term is still unsatisfactory to me insofar as it suggests clear boundaries for a timespaces whose fuzzy edges necessarily reach across unremembered pasts, unassimilated presents and unrealised futures (as I argue in the paper). So the paradoxes remain.

I first wrote up these ideas during my PhD, so as a piece of work it feels old despite being newly out. I did enjoy coming back to the vignettes and smoothing out the original argument, but I think I’ve had enough of this more didactic academic writing style for the next while. In this version, I ended up grounding the narrative in the idea of ‘memory’ because I felt it resonated more widely, but I do think ‘melancholy’ really is the driving void at the heart of this paper - it’s an affective condition that keeps calling to me, and no doubt I’ll continue to grapple with it in the future. 

Citation: Zhang, V. (2024). Embodying industrial transitions: Melancholy loss, interrupted habit and transitional memory after the end of a coal mine. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.