Pathological Geographies: The Materiality of the Global Financial Crisis, Sept 2011

This essay is available to download as a PDF from, a digital research platform hosted by the Centre for Research Architecture , Goldsmiths College, University of London

Unfinished houses in Co. Leitrim, Ireland. Photo, Emma Cummins, 2011

Widely considered to be the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the global financial crisis of 2008 is highly indebted to the collapse of property markets and urban development programmes that were initiated throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. As such, if one visits contemporary China, Great Britain, Spain, Ireland, Dubai or the US, for example, there is a high probability that one will stumble across a variety of recently constructed, yet vastly under populated enclaves of apartments and housing units that failed to fulfil their original utopian purpose. Recently recategorised as ‘ghost estates’ or ‘ghost towns’, the proliferation of empty buildings and unfinished construction projects in Ireland and Spain simultaneously reveal the problems of long waves of investment in the built environment and the interior pathology of a highly irrational system.

Inspired by Eyal Weizman’s ground breaking analysis of forensic architecture – a practice where ‘the testimony of things’ and buildings is performed, or ‘ventriloquized’, by humans in a court of law – Pathological Geographies aims to provide a comprehensive reappraisal of these supposedly ‘ghostly’ developments that is firmly situated in the broader, ideological context of capitalism itself. Rather than focus on the social effects of ‘ghost towns’ and ‘ghost estates’ the text considers the hidden forces and complex trajectories of capital that are harboured, or concealed, by the concrete materiality of the built environment.