Agency at the threshold, (2017)
  • Kirti Durelle | La Réunion

  • Author unknown, Isle de Bourbon, Paris (c.1708). Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France (public domain) Kirti Durelle, Geomorphology or Réunion, London (2017). Kirti Durelle, Sites of marronage, maroon hunts and early road infrastructures, London (2017)
  • Agency at the threshold, (2017)
  • Kirti Durelle | La Réunion
  • ‘The ‘Leguat’ island map acknowledges the mysterious immensity that lies beyond its authors’ geographic grasp, and does so with disconcerting subtlety. Hiding in plain sight, it is as if the large void at the centre of the image was too large to register as a source of ambiguity.’

    This work looks at the competing forces that contributed to the formation of geographic knowledge about the island of Bourbon (now La Réunion, Indian Ocean), during the governance of the French East India Company (1670–1767). Charting the colonisation strategies of early European settlers, a critical reading of the island’s cartographic representation suggests that subaltern epistemologies were also shaping this early modern context. In particular, practices of marronage – the subversive self-displacement of fugitive slaves – produced geo-political boundaries between areas of white supremacy, and areas of black emancipation, refuge, and survival. Woven through the study of these competing spatial regimes, Bourbon’s volcanic landscape becomes a key protagonist in the emergence of geographic knowledge, an agency obstructing and enabling human intentions. 


    Kirti Durelle is a PhD candidate in architectural history at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. His doctoral research looks at historical practices of marronage and the emergence of landscape knowledge on the island of La Réunion (Indian Ocean). He is a visiting lecturer in architectural design (Studio DS[2]06), in history and theory, and in critical practice at the School of Architecture and Cities, University of Westminster, and a post-graduate teaching assistant and thesis tutor at UCL. He is a registered architect (ARB, Architectenregister) and a graduate of the Bartlett’s MA Architectural History (2017). Previously, he studied Architecture and Structural Engineering at the University of Sheffield (2008, 2012).


    To attempt a landscape history of this Indian Ocean island requires the layering of three analytic strata – the geologic, the historical, and the biographical, each with their preferred timescales. As such, the historiography of the site emerges not only in spatial terms, but also as a particular chronology: a series of events located at the intersection of disparate timelines. 

    accumulation, early capitalism, landscape, marronage, racialised labour, resistance.


    Marcus Rediker, Titas Chakraborty, and Matthias van Rossum (eds), A Global History of Runaways: Workers, Mobility, and Capitalism 1600–1850, (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019).

    Jonah Textor, ‘A Marxist critique of the “postmodern identity left” and identity-political anti-racism’, 30 July 2020, Kommunistische Organisation ( 

    Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, (Chapel Hill: The University of California Press, [1944] 1994).

    Other projects
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  • The Fluid Pavement and Other Stories on Growing Old (2006)
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