Becoming

Becoming designates a process based ontology of movement, in which the world is conceived of as a dynamic and open ended set of relational transformations. Becoming is frequently distinguished from and sometimes opposed to being, with the latter suggesting essential and relatively enduring entities (real or ideal) upon which existence, thought, ethics, etc., can be grounded. For philosophies of becoming, in contrast, such categories are generally understood to be the provisional outcome ‘of ’, rather than the precondition ‘for’, change.

Given how becoming suggests flux, change, and continuous transformation, it might appear to be something about which human geography has always been concerned: after all, geographers have often defined their disciplinary interest in terms of a concern with how humans have transformed their natural environments. Yet while much of human geography has clearly involved inquiry into processes of spatial transformation, such inquiry has often proceeded via a belief in the necessity of establishing certain fixed ontological and epistemological reference points which themselves are unchanging. The most obvious of these ontological reference points is space, often understood as a kind of preexisting, three-dimensional container within which things and events take place. On an intuitive level this seems relatively unproblematic. Yet it has an important limitation: space itself is not bound up in the process of change – it exists instead as a kind of fixed grid within which transformation unfolds. This ontological claim is linked with an epistemological one: namely, that knowledge is the purview of a knowing subject with the capacity to survey the world from a position of objective independence. Much geographical knowledge is premised upon such claims: insofar as this is the case, such knowledge has allied itself with philosophies of being. The primacy and legitimacy of such claims have more recently been questioned by human geographers interested in trying to understand space itself as a process: one best understood in terms of becoming rather than being. Reconceptualizing space in this way has implications for the theoretical and methodological practice of human geography. Most importantly, it has encouraged human geographers to understand the very activity of geographical thinking as the folding of theory and practice into one another as a process of ongoing differentiation.

A Brief Genealogy of Becoming

Becomings/Geographies