Nostalgia is everywhere. In Left in the Past I explore its difficult, rarely acknowledged but central role in radical thought. In The Geography of Nostalgia I look at the power of nostalgia in environmentalism, global consumerism, migrant identities and modern popular culture.
‘Landscapes of Loss: A Conversation with Alastair Bonnett’, with Tom Smith, Dark Mountain, 13, 126-133, 2018, https://dark-mountain.net/landscapes-of-loss-a-conversation-between-alastair-bonnett-and-tom-smith
This book looks at the role nostalgia plays in the radical imagination to offer a new guide to the history and politics of the left. In “Left in the Past”, Bonnett re-assesses the place of nostalgia within radical politics and, in doing so, provides a new introduction to the history and politics of the left. Bonnett argues that nostalgia has been a chronic, but repressed, aspect of the socialist imagination. “Left in the Past” is premised on the idea that, in our ‘post-socialist era’, the relationship between radicalism and a sense of loss, and the ambivalent position of socialism in and against modernity, can be viewed with greater clarity.
Review symposium, ‘Left in the Past’, Global Discourse 2: 2, 2011, 1-3, (available at https://globaldiscourse.wordpress.com/contents/left-in-the-past-by-alastair-bonnett/)
We are familiar with the importance of ‘progress’ and ‘change’. But what about loss? Across the world, from Beijing to Birmingham, people are talking about loss: about the loss that occurs when populations try to make new lives in new lands as well as the loss of traditions, languages and landscapes. The Geography of Nostalgia is the first study of loss as a global and local phenomenon, something that occurs on many different scales and which connects many different people.
The Geography of Nostalgia explores nostalgia as a child of modernity but also as a force that exceeds and challenges modernity. The book begins at a global level, addressing the place of nostalgia within both global capitalism and anti-capitalism. In Chapter Two it turns to the contested role of nostalgia in debates about environmentalism and social constructionism. Chapter Three addresses ideas of Asia and India as nostalgic forms. The book then turns to more particular and local landscapes: the last three chapters explore the yearnings of migrants for distant homelands, and the old cities and ancient forests that are threatened by modernity but which modern people see as sites of authenticity and escape.
“it was especially the work of Alastair Bonnett that put an end to the idea of nostalgia as something constructed and invented in the West for the West. Basing his work on studies of different continents he revealed the diverse facets of nostalgia”
Katharina Niemeyer, 2022
Introduction 1. Nostalgic Commodities and Nostalgic Resistance 2. The Anxieties and Adventures of Green Nostalgia: Environmentalism after Constructionism 3. Nostalgia across Asia: The Uses of the Past and the Dilemmas of Authenticity 4. Migrant Nostalgias: The Persistence of Loss 5. Nostalgia for the City: Conservation, Mobility and Critique 6. Getting Back: The Forest, Home and the Local Walk Conclusion