Nonrepresentational Theory and Symbolic Interactionism: Shared Perspectives and Missed Articulations
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Nigel Thrift’s Non-RepresentationalTheory is the latest—and more coherently and thoroughly formed—of his recent attempts to develop the ontological foundations and the practical agenda of an interdisciplinary theoretical perspective that has come to be known as nonrepresentational theory. Nonrepresentational theory is still largely unknown in North America, though its growth in European (primarily British) academic circles over the last five years has been impressive. Originating within human geography but expanding rapidly across the social sciences, nonrepresentational theory is a mosaic of ideas borrowed from feilds as different as performance studies, material culture studies, contemporary social and cultural theory, political economics, ecological anthropology, biological philosophy, cultural studies, the sociology of the body and emotions, and the sociology and anthropology of the senses. Theoretically, nonrepresentational theory stands as a synthesizing effort to amalgamate diverse but interrelated theoretical perspectives such as actor-network theory, biological philosophy, neomaterialism, social ecology, performance theory, post-structuralist feminism, critical theory, and interactionism and pragmatism. In light of Thrift’s close attention to both the intellectual historical heritage of classical pragmatism—in particular to the thought of Peirce, James, and Dewey—and to more recent manifestations of symbolic interactionist theory and research, it seems apropos to reflect here on the relation between interactionism and nonrepresentational theory and thus to tease out points of convergence and missed articulations.