Dancing bodies

Colectivo Zeta in a performance of 'Anónimo Ser', Quito 2013

Colectivo Zeta in a performance of ‘Anónimo Ser’, Quito 2013. Photo: author’s own

I’m Sofie, a fourth year PhD student at Royal Holloway, and I had the privilege of presenting some of my research at the last Landscape Surgery session of term. I talked about my work on the production of contemporary dance in Quito, Ecuador, and my interest in how the particular histories and geographies of the city get articulated and negotiated through dancing bodies. After returning from an extended period of ethnographic fieldwork in the summer, I’m currently working through a number of ideas as I try to get my material into shape, so the session was really helpful in thinking through a few of these!

To draw out some of the relationships between geography and dance, I began the session by discussing a draft Geography Compass paper I wrote earlier this year. Within the confines of the article, I wanted to try to take dance beyond its common use as a vehicle for the non-representation/more-than-representation debate to instead explore the complex coming together of the material, historical, and political in dance practice through a focus on its production at three intersections: the body; dance-spaces; and institutions and their networks. Here I wanted to think about the relationships of individual, creative, idiosyncratic dancing bodies to: their corporeal histories of training and performance; particular imaginaries of and relationships to space in practice; and the processes of creation, regulation, moderation, and innovation at work in institutionalised spaces and networks of production and exchange. In drawing out a few of these connections in the paper, I suggest that the geographies of dance involve both dancing bodies and the various spaces, sites, and networks that dance with and through them.

Wilson Pico in a performance of 'Fervorosos Pasos', Quito 2014

Wilson Pico in a performance of ‘Fervorosos Pasos’, Quito 2014. Photo: Andrea Cuesta

The intersection of bodies, dance-spaces and institutions is also important in my approach to the production of contemporary dance in Quito. During fieldwork my experiences as both an observer of and participant in the contemporary dance scene led me to explore the dynamics at work between diverse actors including independent artists and collectives, national dance companies, state and municipal government, theatres and cultural institutions, training schools, funding organisations and, of course, audiences, in the production of dance practice and their particular articulation in relation to the social and cultural context of the city.

A key part of this research has been thinking about the emergence of practice through dancing bodies. In the session I talked a bit about a chapter I’m working on at the moment, which focuses specifically on the material, bodily aspects of practice. Here I’m interested in the syncretic and negotiated construction of dancing bodies and how particular geographies of the national and international dance worlds might be implicated in this process in Quito. In the chapter I think about various threads of practice that run through contemporary dance in the city as ‘bodies’ that variously overlap and pull apart in different artists’ practice. In the session I illustrated three of these: the narrating body, the festive body, and the sensing body.

In the narrating body I consider the practice of dance-theatre in Quito and explore how certain artists work to shed their everyday bodies in order to inhabit others that narrate particular histories or social realities of the city. In the talk I looked particularly at Colectivo Zeta, an independent group whose works have explored themes of sexuality, gender, and domestic violence among others. I also talked about artists’ engagement with traditional practice in the exploration and experimentation of character and movement in ideas of the festive body, such as in Wilson Pico’s series of works Fervorosos Pasos, which explores characters from popular festivals. Lastly I considered ideas of the sensing body. Here I was interested in the ways practice emerges through intimate and spontaneous dialogue with the body’s own inner rhythms and those of surrounding bodies and spaces. This body has been explored in the work Cultivo de Babosas (Slug’s Garden), by Esteban Donoso and Fabian Barba, and in the work of the collective Movimiento Centrífuga, which focuses on the production of movement in conversation with urban textures of concrete, metal, wood and stone.

A performance of 'Entre Líneas de Acero y Mármol', Fausto Espinosa (Movimiento Centrífuga), Quito 2013. Photo: author's own

‘Entre Líneas de Acero y Mármol’, Fausto Espinosa (Movimiento Centrífuga), Quito 2013. Photo: author’s own

As I write, a number of questions are coming to the fore, including how to relate the nuances of practice and the diverse reality of the dance scene in Quito to the analytical imperatives that come with academic writing. Sharing my work with the group was a great help in thinking through some of these questions, so thank you to everyone who contributed with their very interesting ideas and comments!

Part of my work in Quito involved research into the production of traditional Afro-Ecuadorian dance, a range of practices that articulate very different geographies in the city to those of contemporary dance. I’m going to be posting another entry in the coming weeks that looks at an exchange between these two practices in Carapungo, a northern neighbourhood of Quito, that I organised in collaboration with the dancers Luzmila Bolaños, Tamia Guayasamin, and Tatiana Valencia as part of my fieldwork, so I look forward to talking some more about dancing bodies very soon!


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Landscape Surgery Programme Winter and Spring 2015


Tuesdays 14:00-16:00

11 Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, room F3


20 Jan.            Mark Bicton and Harriet Hawkins

                        Writing Environmental Change – Participatory Practices


3 Feb.              Pip Thornton

                       Language in the Age of Algorithmic Reproduction


17 Feb.           George Vassiadis (RHUL Hellenic Institute)

                       Mapping Diasporas: Goad, Pervititch and the Survey of Egypt


3 Mar.             Mike Duggan and Pippa Connolly

                       Dimensions of the Real and Virtual: Perspectives from an Artist

                       and a Geographer


17 Mar            Katie Boxall, James Cutler, Ben Felderhof, Finn Fordham, Innes Keighren,

                       Miranda Ward

                       Texts in Place/Place in Texts*




TERM 3      please, note room change: Senate House SH264


5 May            Miranda Ward

                      Bodies of Water


19 May          ​Anthony Shelton (Director, Museum of Anthropology, UBC, Vancouver),

                      and Felix Driver

                      Exhibiting Culture


2 Jun             First-year PhD presentations


* HARC-sponsored session


Regrettably, due to restrictions on space, participation in Landscape Surgery events is by invitation only.


Cultural Participation in Place- Labours of Cultural Participation Event: 11th December

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Lone Twin, The Boat Project.www.theboatproject.com.

The next in the series of cultural and creative participation in place events happens on the 11th December (6- 7.30 pm, Katherine Worth Building, Studio 1 and 2, Drama Department, Egham, drinks to follow).

This event will focus on the artists’ labour in the course of creation and cultural participation. Professor David Williams will discuss his on-going collaboration with Lone Twin, particularly on The Boat Project, a living archive that is captured in a boat made of donated objects. http://www.theboatproject.com. There will also be two parallel sets of discussions of particularly practice-based projects, these will focus on a range of key questions, including: What are the politics of participation and the labours of cultural participation? How do questions of craft, skills and artistic vision play into these debates? What are the intersection between practice-based research methods and other arts, humanities and social science research methods? How do creative practices enable interventions into the politics of knowledge making and society more generally?

The programme:

6 pm Studio 2
Introduction and Welcome (Helen and Harriet)

David Williams, Professor of Performance Practices

Focusing on The Boat Project, Lone Twin’s large-scale participatory project commissioned for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, David Williams (a long-term collaborator with Lone Twin) will describe the creation of an exquisite 30-foot sea-faring boat built from pieces of wood donated by people in south-east England. The presentation will touch on questions of encounter and exchange, collaborative co-creation, and a mapping of social histories and memory in the construction of this ‘floating archive’ – in particular, of a region’s relations with the sea.

6.30 Parallel Sessions
Studio 1: Chair: Harriet Hawkins
6.30 Jayne Lloyd Walking and Performance in dementia care
6.50 Chelsea Bruno Modular Synthesis Tuning Meditation and Cacophony
7.10 Siobhan O’Neill Tales from the Marsh

Studio 2: Chair: Helen Nicholson
6.30 Matt Smith Open and Closed Hands: The Applied Puppeteer as Meek Hero
6.50 Lucy Harrison Appropriating Technology: The use of hackable technology within composition and sound design
7.10 Nik Wakefield Immanent Encounters in the Lifeworks of Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša

7.30 Wine in Rehearsal Room B (ground floor)

Please do look at the abstracts. HARC Event 11th December

The event is sponsored by HARC @ RHUL and by Creativity Theme @RHUL

Job hunting….

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Job hunting…not really a task to bring joy to our hearts, but here is something to maybe make the task a little, little easier (every little helps!). Below is a compilation of some crit-geog forum posts and emails from Landscape Surgery friends around the world (thank you Mimi!) that include international websites and jisc-mail lists. There are also some advice blogs. Some of these have been circulated already but I thought it was worth collecting them together in a post.

good luck!!





European Union




Post-doc funding sites













First point for most academic jobs https://jrecin.jst.go.jp/seek/SeekTop?ln=1

New Zealand
http://www.unijobs.co.nz/ (There seems to be lots of versions of these globally)






Environmental sciences: http://www.aess.info/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=939971&module_id=167704


Climate change: http://disccrs.org/

Academic resources:
http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Geography_2014-2015 (Really helpful resource for finding out about jobs and if interviews/ references have been requested- although I did find out upon reading this that I hadn’t been shortlisted for a job as a word of warning).


http://www.regionalstudies.org/opportunities city and regional research vacancies




‘How digital maps are changing the way we understand our world’


I was interviewed for a comment piece in the Guardian recently, which was published today. The article aims to describe the ways in which digital maps have changed the way we experience life in the city. Whilst not reflecting the entirety of my research, the piece does highlight some of my key findings so far: for instance how location-based services can be used to simplify the complexities of navigating the city, and what it is that digital maps do differently to paper maps in an urban context. I include the link below:


Mike Duggan (PhD Candidate)

Precarious Geographies: Reflections on Landscape Surgery

At last week’s landscape surgery we (Ella and Mel) presented an early draft of a paper that forms part of a collaborative research project called “Precarious Geographies” (a podcast of the session can be found here).

The idea for this project emerged from discussions we had early on during the PhD about our research projects. Ella’s work is on temporality within pop-up culture and Mel’s work looks at the criminalisation of squatting and the impacts of coalition housing policy; so both of our work looks, in different ways, at precarious spaces in London, and in particular at the ways in which precarity is produced, experienced and resisted.
Within the project we are organising a workshop in London to be held on February 10th and three sessions at the AAG in Chicago in April next year. We are also writing a journal article which aims to provide a conceptual grounding for the expansion of the term ‘precarity’ into geographical studies.

The project starts from the premise that, while there is an established body of work on precariousness, such analysis is often focused on precariousness as a temporal phenomenon linked to uncertainty, and orientated towards studies of labour economies. There has been little substantial exploration in geography of the role of place in instigating, advancing and exploiting precarity, although the importance of considering place within precarity is evident; for example, in processes of gentrification, localism policy, and housing benefit caps. Such considerations are particularly pertinent at a time of austerity politics; which brings into focus questions around how far and in what ways everyday precarities are exacerbated and created via varying political and socio-economic mediums.

Following on from Judith Butler’s assertion that, while precariousness is common to all life, precarity is politically induced (2009) ‘Precarious Geographies’ seeks to understand the stratagems behind both the exploitation of precariousness, and the instigation of precarity.

In particular, we talked through the reciprocal ways in which subjects produce places and places produce subjects which/who are either precarious or are able to withstand or induce precarity. We then went on to discuss the ways in circulations of geographical representations can heighten or diminish visibility and in so doing can either reduce or increase precarity of place. Lastly we explored the ways in which precarity is inherently destructive and instrumental in the unmaking of places, but also holds the potential for remaking place – as precarity can also expose and illuminate structural injustices.

It was an early draft of our paper on precarious geographies which we presented at Landscape Surgery on November the 25th alongside a fascinating paper from Dr Mara Ferreri from the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London. Mara’s work addresses temporary urbanism through an attention to the relationship between work and life precarity in the cultural and creative sectors and temporary occupations of vacant spaces in cities. In the paper, she drew on her doctoral research into community-oriented pop-up shops, as well as on more recent work into the phenomenon of ‘property guardianship’ (with the Property Guardian Research Collective) and into the grass-root interim uses strategies in and around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to discuss the emergence of policy mechanisms and cultural formations around the phantasy of flexible urban living. Precarity of place can be seen as a coping strategy and a mode of acting for individuals and groups increasingly subjected to – and encouraged to embrace – dynamics of labour and life uncertainty.

We had wanted to present and circulate our paper in order to receive feedback on this early version as we are looking to eventually publish the article in a peer reviewed journal. We found the presentation very useful (albeit a little intense!) and have been left with plenty of food for thought as we work towards a redraft, particularly in defining the particular purchase of precarity as a term in contrast to other expressions of marginality, informality, vulnerability and victimhood. Thanks to everyone who gave us such constructive and critical feedback, the comments we received from you all were invaluable to improving our work and progressing our project.

We’ll shortly be circulating further information about our upcoming workshop. We have confirmed our keynote speakers; James Rhodes from the sociology department at Manchester University, who will be discussing urban decline in the US rust belt, and Louise Waite and Hannah Lewis from the Geography department at Leeds, who will be discussing their recent ESRC-funded project ‘Precarious Lives’. In the meantime, please do get in touch if you’re interested in presenting a short paper as part of the workshop. We look forward to seeing you all there!

By Ella Harris, Mel Nowicki and Mara Ferreri

Literary Second Cities

Jason Finch, from Åbo Akademi University, has sent along details of a fascinating-sounding conference to be held next August in Turku, Finland: “Literary Second Cities”. The CFP follows below.


Literary Second Cities

The Second International Conference of the Helsinki Literature and the City Network (HLCN)

Åbo Akademi University (Turku, Finland), 20-21 August 2015

 The conference ‘Literary Second Cities’ invites papers on new approaches to the study of literary cities, smaller cities, and cities or portions of cities judged secondary or subordinate in any historical period or part of the world. See attachment or link below for the conference abstract. The deadline for the call for papers is 15 March 2015. The language of the conference is English. Please send proposals (length approximately 300 words) to secondcities@abo.fi.

The keynote speakers are Professor Marc Brosseau, University of Ottawa and Professor Bart Keunen, University of Ghent. Professor Brosseau has written extensively on literary geographies. He is the author of Des romans-géographes (Paris, 1996). His most recent publications in English include the entry on ‘Literature’ in the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2009) and work on the literary geographies of Toronto, as well as on the operation of spatial traps in the fiction of Charles Bukowski. Professor Keunen is an internationally-renowned expert on literary urban studies and the head of the Ghent Urban Studies Team. Among his latest publications are journal articles and book chapters on landscape, narration and contemporary urban design in various settings, and the monograph Time and Narration: Chronotopes in Western Narrative Culture (Northwestern University Press, 2011).

Papers on subjects including, but not limited to, the following themes are welcome:


  • Literature defining the second city and which cities are to be understood as secondary
  • The literature of provincial cities and those which are distant from other urban centres or from today’s globalised megacities
  • The literature of cities and city districts that can be understood as shadow partners to major cities: the Left Bank of Paris; South London; Oakland to San Francisco; Salford to Manchester.
  • Scaling the city: comparisons between larger and smaller cities
  • Scaling the city: shifts between small-scale, localised views and overall perspectives
  • Scaling the city: topographic and synoptic views of cities in the light of work by Michel de Certeau, Andreas Huyssen and other theorists
  • Second cities in pre-modern literature
  • Second cities in African, Asian and Latin-American literatures
  • Literature defining the second city and which cities are to be understood as secondary
  • Regional urban literatures
  • Modes of definition of non-metropolitan or non-primary cities, for example Chicago or Birmingham as working city; Liverpool or Glasgow as primary port of the British Empire
  • Former capitals and declined or marginalized cities
  • Mobilities (spatial, identity-related) and secondary cities
  • Specialized cities (their function deriving from e.g. tourism, a harbour or airport, religion)


Particular sessions on urban literature and scale, Nordic second cities and modernism and literary second cities have already been proposed, and further sessions will be organized on the basis of the final applications.

During the conference, a round table discussion will be held to discuss the development of the network and the possibilities for further cooperation between international scholars in the field of urban literary studies. A peer-reviewed publication on the basis of selected conference papers is planned.

For more information contact:

Jason Finch, Åbo Akademi University (jfinch@abo.fi)
Lieven Ameel, University of Helsinki (lieven.ameel@helsinki.fi)
Markku Salmela, University of Tampere (markku.salmela@uta.fi)


Conference website: http://www.abo.fi/fakultet/hlcn2
Full conference abstract: http://www.abo.fi/fakultet/confabstract
HLCN website: http://blogs.helsinki.fi/hlc-n

Introducing Katherine Stansfeld, new PhD student

Hello! I joined the Geography Department at RHUL this October (2014) as a new PhD student. I am jointly funded by a CASE Award from the South East ESRC DTC and Ordnance Survey. My supervisor at Royal Holloway is Prof. Phil Crang and my second supervisor is Dr. Gwilym Eades, with Dr. Jenny Harding being my supervisor at Ordnance Survey.

My provisional PhD title is ‘Mapping Vernacular Geographies in Places of Super-diversity’. I intend to explore how, in the context of ‘super-diversity’ and multicultural London, the ‘vernacular geographies’ of different people represent both cultural complexity and shared spaces of encounter and civic culture. As well as in the context of wider arguments for the ‘thrown-togetherness’ of place, I aim to evaluate how contemporary cartographic and geographic information can map places as constellations of trajectories. I am hoping to discover how the power of mapping can be used by Ordnance Survey to engage and provide for ‘super-diverse’ users. I’ll be focusing on one particular area of London (likely North-East), which is still to be confirmed!

Katherine Stansfeld


My background is in Sociology, institutionally from Goldsmiths where I completed my MA in ‘Critical and Creative Analysis’ and prior to that the University of Bristol where I received a Bsc. in Sociology. My interests include (but are not limited to) urban multi-culture, the diversity and hybridity of forms in cities, identity and belonging to place, critical cartographies, immigration and integration as well as the power of everyday encounters for change. To name just a few topics! (Believe me I was tempted to add more). I have a background as a research assistant with the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths, doing projects as a researcher with community-arts organisations. I developed my interest in visual urbanism at Goldsmiths, as I have a great passion for photography, which I am hoping to bring to my PhD. I also (incidentally) developed my love of cultural geography while at Goldsmiths, reading lots of Nigel Thrift, Michael Keith, Tim Cresswell and Doreen Massey and feel honoured to be so welcomed to this department and Landscape Surgery!

Prior to this I took a year out and spent time living in Florida, US and Cape Town, South Africa (I’m half South African) as well doing some traveling in Colombia. I spent time making portraits and photos in each place, and I’m currently (in my spare time?) putting it together into a photo-book entitled ‘finding my place’ (so watch this space). I also, unfortunately not very successfully, started a blog on urbanism with a friend (see info below) but am in the process of reviving it, so if interested also stay tuned for that.

If you’d like to be in touch, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Email: katherine.stansfeld.2014@live.rhul.ac.uk

Twitter: @katsta_

Collaborative Urbanism Blog: http://urbanimaginings.wordpress.com/

Photo Blog: http://kstansfeld.tumblr.com/

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Entering The Field


It sounds easy, to enter the field. It’s a simple case of unlatching the gates and walking in. What could be simpler, I thought, whilst I stood staring at the gates looking for the latch at the beginning of term. This was never considered. It was just meant to happen, seemingly all by itself. One year I’d be in the library, the next in the field, and the following writing-up. This was the way of a PhD, I thought. My three-year plan.

I’ve heard stories about it, read books about it, and watched videos about it. I’ve seen people walk in with no problem. I’ve seen others take a run at it and hop the fence, and I’ve even seen a few bulldozing their way through without any regard for the landowner, let alone the ethics board. For some it’s nothing. Or so it seems. Then there those who are nudged ever so gently towards the gate. Those that take such tentative steps that you wonder if they’ll ever make it in, even with the gates wide open. Eventually the weight on their shoulders convinces them that this must be done, and only then do they take that final stride. But it wasn’t easy, I can assure you. Such transitions rarely are.


So I find myself in the field. I’ve made it. It’s huge and there’s PhD students everywhere. Now what? It’s certainly not what I was expecting. There’s much that was invisible to me as I sat staring out of the library window these past twelve months. So many practicalities that I hadn’t considered, so many logistical nightmares that I hadn’t anticipated, and most worryingly so little time. All of a sudden the deadline has appeared on the distant horizon, eerily so.

Last years structure is out and I’m forced to build another, essentially around other people’s time. Gone is the freedom of the evening or weekend, replaced only by a quiet morning or lazy afternoon. My working day has become about as unstructured as it can be, changing from day to day, week to week. Am I doing too much, am I doing too little? It’s hard to tell when there’s nothing concrete yet, save for a reel of field notes and pages of observational scribbles. I’m told it will all come together, and I’m sure it will, but at this stage it’s certainly disconcerting.

That said, this field is exciting. I must say. It may not always have decent WiFi, a coffee shop and central heating, and I may find myself bogged down at times, but it has so much more in terms of sheer sense of adventure. Often it simply feels like play, like one big intellectual expedition that I’m responsible for leading. I’m not sure where we’re going yet but it’s going to be quite the trip. I can tell already.

The project is underway now. Finally. It has come off the page and manifested itself as an adventure in the field before it surely screams to be put back on it in the years to come. I for one look forward to my time here.

Mike Duggan (PhD Candidate)

Introducing the MA Cultural Geography students 2014/15

Landscape Surgery has strong links with the MA in Cultural Geography, taught by the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway., University of London. The course teaches a range of cultural geographic ideas and is combined with research training, practice-based courses and is formally recognised by the British research councils. As such, many of the alumni go on to PhDs and successful careers in academia, policy and beyond.

Below, we introduce the current cohort (2014/15), with a summary of their research interests and links to their work.

Thomas Dekeyser
Thomas-Dekeyser-IDI have a theoretical and practical background in media studies and specifically in film making. I am interested in bringing these together with my broad research interest: the urban. This includes (but is not limited to) urban interventions, activist practices and processes of demolition. Related to this, I organise a series of unoffical pre-demolition exhibitions called Last Breath.

Twitter | LastBreath website

Ben Gilby
PhotoI am studying part-time, whilst spending the other half of the week as a primary school teacher in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. My research interests surround Geographies of Regionality, with a particular focus on Cornish Culture & Identity. I am especially interested in how different regions demonstrate and celebrate their unique culture and how, in some cases this clearly influences the local political, economic and even sporting scene.

Twitter | Blog

Oliver Knight
PhotoForLSBefore starting this MA, I graduated from Royal Holloway with a BA in Geography in Summer 2014. My particular research interests within the discipline of socio-cultural geography are based in the arena of the geographies of sexualities. In particular, I am interested in how our everyday behaviours, experiences and emotions affect the formation of sexual identities both in the private and public spheres of the rural environment. Most recently, I have turned to both psychological and sociological literature regarding queer phenomenology to enrich my approach to this topic.


Alice Ladenburg
Handstand 2013 04 01 13 Drakensberg02As art-school educated (Edinburgh College of Art, 2008), one half of an Art/Science collaboration with Professor Iain Woodhouse (School of Geosciences, Edinburgh University) and initiator of Jambula (an artist-led project raising awareness of deforestation in Malawi) I am interested in exploring the potential value of working as an artist in both academia and development.

Twitter | Website | Red Horizon Art | Why Equals

Huw Rowlands
Coming back to the academic world after 25 years as a project manager in the public, charitable and education sectors is exciting. Things have moved on in the meantime (it would be surprising if it hadn’t!) and the breadth of interest is mind expanding. Much of my work involved some form of applied geography, and it was very diverse, but I always knew I’d be back to study. My route from project management to Royal Holloway has been via leading a samba-reggae drumming band in France, junk percussion workshops for children and Steiner teacher training. I’m still teaching some classes this year, and I currently imagine taking my newly expanded mind and finding valuable applications for learning contexts. This may well include (at least) child development, sense of place and indigenous mapping practices.

Twitter | BlueSkyPoint website | FranceRant blog | BatalaMassif

Robert Sheargold
Before this MA, I finished a BA in Human Geography earlier this year at Aberystwyth University, where I took up an interest in the relationship between physical and digital spaces and how we as everyday people approach these questions.  Since joining RHUL I have taken an interest in ideas of mobilising traditional research methods.


Emma Shenton
unnamedI have a strong interest in gender and in emotional geographies. My interests have developed since the second year of my undergraduate degree where I proposed and carried out research in Malawi, Africa, focusing on women’s access to transport. At the moment my research is concentrating on the geographies of love and belonging and how this is performed through different situations. This work stems from previous work on the home and the emotional and sensual geographies which surround it.

Twitter | Blog


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