If we opened people up, we'd find landscapes

(Agnès Varda)

All the rooms they smell like diesel / And you take on the dreams / Of the ones who have slept there

(Tom Waits)


September 2023

    In Posthuman Buddhism and the Digital Self, Les Roberts extends his earlier work on spatial anthropology to consider questions of time, spaciousness, and the phenomenology of self. Across the book’s four main chapters – which range from David Bowie’s long-standing interest in Buddhism, to street photography of 1980s Liverpool, to the ambient soundscapes of Derek Jarman’s Blue, or to the slow, contemplative cinema of Tsai Ming-Liang – Roberts lays the groundwork for the concept of ‘dwellspace’ as a means by which to unpick the shifting spatial, temporal and experiential modalities of everyday mediascapes. Understood as a particular disposition towards time, Roberts’s foray into dwellspace proceeds from a Pascalian reflection on the self/non-self in which being content in an empty room vies with the demands of having content in an empty room. Taking the idea of posthuman Buddhism as a heuristic lens, Roberts sets in motion a number of interrelated lines of enquiry that prompt renewed focus on questions of boredom, distraction and reverie, and cast into sharper relief the psychosocial and creative affordances of ambience, spaciousness and slowness. The book argues that the colonisation of ‘empty time’ by 24/7 digital capitalism has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of the corporate mindfulness industry, and with it, the co-option, commodification and mediatisation of dwellspace. Posthuman Buddhism is thus in part an exploration of the dialectics of dwellspace that orbits around a creative self-praxis rooted in the negation and dissolution of the self, one of the foundational cornerstones of Buddhist theory and practice.

    Through a series of fascinating case studies, Les Roberts explores what it means to be an emplaced and embodied human being in a digital, mediated age. His book is full of both vivid, concrete examples and suggestive theoretical interventions. It takes the study of the everyday into new, exciting areas.”

    Joe Moran, Liverpool John Moores University, UK