‘Spiritual Flavours’: A Screening of Laura Cuch’s Documentary Film

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Photography by Ed Brookes.

For the last Landscape Surgery of Term 1, Surgeons were invited to a screening of the film ‘Spiritual Flavours’. As detailed on the film’s website (http://www.spiritualflavours.com/page.php?series=film) ‘The film Spiritual Flavours interweaves biographical narratives and spiritual accounts from Betty, Aziz and Ossie (who belong to a Catholic church, a mosque and a liberal synagogue, respectively) with the experiences of cooking in their homes. The chosen recipes weave together the narratives of past, present and future aspirations, spirituality and the everyday. The commonalities and differences between them are expressed through visual and sonic synchronies and asynchronies; and a variety of visual materials and formats make visible the nature of the film as a research process. At the end, Betty, Aziz and Ossie meet, cook and eat together’.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Spiritual Flavours is a collaborative arts project with members of different faith communities in the area of Ealing and Hanwell, who contribute recipes that they relate to their spirituality and religious practices. Through interviews and cooking sessions, the project pays attention to affective relationships with food, as a vehicle to explore ideas about inheritance, tradition and belief.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

The project is part of the wider Making Suburban Faith research project funded by the AHRC as a part of its Connected Communities programme and is a collaboration between the Geography Departments of UCL and Royal Holloway. The project explores the ways in which suburban faith communities create space focusing on architectures, material cultures, rituals, music and performance. The project is based in Ealing in West London and focuses on diverse faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions. These include a synagogue, a Sri Lankan Hindu Temple, a mosque, a Sikh Gurdwara, an Anglican church, a multicultural Roman Catholic church and an ethnically diverse Pentecostal church.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

The film is directed by documentary and fine art photographer Laura Cuch (Geography, UCL) as part of her practice-led PhD which uses photography and film to explore the domestic material cultures of faith in suburbia, with a particular focus on food and foodways. After the screening of her film, Laura led surgeons in a discussion of the film itself and the themes it explored.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Discussion began with Laura explaining the theoretical lens of the film which sought to investigate the relationship between material culture, religion and domestic space. Laura described how she used food as the foci to explore this focus on material culture as she felt there was a fundamental relationship between food and faith which crossed boundaries of religion/secularism and community/private/public space in interesting ways. Surgeons then discussed with Laura, ideas of participant recruitment and choice of food featured within the film. Laura described how she chose participants in order to best display both gender and generational differences and similarities between food and faith within the film. Discussion then turned to ideas of visual culture and questions surrounding whether Laura felt an obligation to present a positive narrative within the film.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Laura rounded off the discussion by highlighting the potential contributions of the film and the wider Suburban Faith project. These potential contributions were many and varied but included the idea of food as a research medium, food as material culture, the journeys of material cultures within and between community faiths and spaces, ideas of practice as research and the creation of new spaces of public engagement through research.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Surgeons credited Laura on the affective capacity of her film, the film’s evocative stills and soundscape and how the film eloquently captured and explored both the sensory surfaces and soundscapes of food and cooking. On behalf of Landscape Surgery as a whole, we would like to thank Laura for sharing her wonderful and thought-provoking film with us and wish her all the best with the project!

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

A trailer to ‘Spiritual Flavours’ can be found here:

 

 

 

 

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Author Meets Critics (Without the Author): Violence, Mourning and Politics

judith_butler_ap_img_0Judith Butler – Courtesy of Google Images

In the first landscape surgery session of ‘Author Meets Critics (Without the Author)’, we discuss a chapter from Judith Butler’s book Precarious Life (2004). The chapter in question, ‘Violence, Mourning and Politics’ (pp.19-50), was selected as many surgeons felt it had continuing relevance in both their own academic work and with recent political events concerning global conflicts and disasters such as the Grenfell Tower fire.

The session is led by Oli Mould (Lecturer in Human Geography, RHUL Geography) and Miriam Burke (ESRC PhD, RHUL Geography) who begins with a summary, drawing out many of the key themes from the chapter. Starting with notions of ‘grief’, Oli discusses how Butler questions what it means to grieve.  In particular, the idea that we define who we are as humans through what makes a ‘grievable’ life. This questions who ‘we’ are in the collective sense as through the act of grieving we come to realise that we are inherently connected to others, both human and non-human. There is a realisation that there is a ‘you’ in the collective notion of ‘we’ and that part of us is lost when we grieve for others. This notion is aptly summarised by Butler, as she highlights how we are undone by each other’ (pp.23).

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Meet the editors!

Hello! We are Nina and Ed and we are the current editors of the Landscape Surgery blog. We are both first year PhD students and members of the Social, Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group at Royal Holloway University of London. We are both extremely excited to take over this role from Huw and Katy and to continue to dissect the exciting dialogue generated by this research group at our bi-weekly ‘Landscape Surgery’ meetings. We are also looking forward to operating an informative blog which highlights the research groups contributions in publications, through public events and academic conferences, interdisciplinary workshops and dialogue with other institutions. We welcome submissions from all ‘surgeons’ relating to their topical research interests, upcoming events, general PhD life, post-doc and career advice; and generally, all things Geography (and beyond!). We also welcome any guest posts and/or advice and ideas to improve the blog!  If you would like to submit a blog post or have any comments or queries, we would love to hear from you! Please get in touch with us at Nina.Willment.2013@live.rhul.ac.uk or Edward.Brookes.2015@live.rhul.ac.uk 

So here is five quick fire questions to get to know us a little bit better..

Ed Brookes

ed brookes

  1. Current Research Interests:

My current research foci centres around urban geography, with particular interests in social housing, architecture and home. My PhD combines these foci as it looks to explore the social history of the Robin Hood Gardens council estate in East London during its demolition. As part of that I’m also heavily looking into contemporary archaeology and how it can be used by cultural geography as a toolkit for exploring urban spaces.

  1. What was your MA dissertation about?

In short it was about corridors. I wanted to examine some of the spaces that we overlook in our everyday lives, the corridor being a place many of us frequently walk through but spend little time thinking about. Using this as my framework, I explored the corridor artwork of two artists; Bruce Nauman and a Danish architectural duo called ‘AVPD’. Using their work, I attempted to highlight how the corridor can provide a means to engage with the often-overlooked aspects of lived architectural space.

  1. What do you do outside academia?

Outside of academia I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy… probably an unhealthy amount. Films and board games also take up a good chunk of my spare time. I also love to cook, so am frequently found trying out new recipes for cakes and other unhealthy baked goods.

  1. What is your favourite song to work too?

Well I can’t work to anything with lyrics otherwise I get distracted. But anything by Thomas Newman is good. If I had to pick one of his pieces it would be ‘Any Other Name’, which was used in the film American Beauty (A good watch if anyone hasn’t seen it).

  1. What is your favourite book

Probably a cliché but it’s got to be ‘1984’ by George Orwell. Dystopian fiction at its best. Also, its got some solid corridor imagery.

Nina Willment

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  1. Current Research Interests:

My current research interests are around the intersection of economic and cultural geography, especially in relation to creative work. In particular, I am interested in the politics of creative labour and forms of aesthetic, affective and curatorial labour. I’m also interested in digital and visual methodologies and how these can be used to understand the changing form of the workspace. I’m currently trying to figure out a new empirical foci through which I can develop these themes.

  1. What was your MA dissertation about?

Within my MA dissertation, I wanted to examine the forms of aesthetic labour undertaken by DJs involved in London’s grime music scene. I developed three areas of focus to investigate the concept of aesthetic labour relating to the physical, performing and digital body of the grime DJ. Through these three foci, I aimed to expand the currently limited conceptions of aesthetic labour to include ideas of digital aesthetic labour and ideas of aesthetic labour as the propagation of affective atmospheres.

  1. What do you do outside academia?

Outside of academia, I absolutely love travelling! I try to go away as much as I can (probably why I have no money) Apart from that, I love walking my miniature dachshund (probably why I own waaay too much sausage dog stationary) and upcycling furniture (probably why procrastination always ends in the need to rearrange my room).

  1. What is your favourite song to work too?

Ahh I’m one of those people that have to be in absolute silence to get anything done but if I’m ever having writers block or feel a bit down, I always whack on Clean Bandit’s New Eyes album and instantly feel a bit better!

  1. What is your favourite book?

I’ve absolutely adored the Harry Potter books since I was a kid but more recently I’ve fallen in love with Brandon Stanton’s ‘Humans of New York’ book series, which has been adapted from his Humans of New York blog. I’m also a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s and love his ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ novel.

Nina Willment

 

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Decolonising geographical knowledges or reproducing coloniality?

23666740_10155225931903693_505717603_nImage of Huw and Joy. Photography by Nina Willment

Geography: “a discipline that may not be ready to, or even capable of, responding to the challenge of decolonisation,” (Esson et al., 2017: 384).

Huw Rowlands (AHRC PhD, RHUL Geography) and Joy Slappnig (CDA PhD, RHUL Geography in collaboration with the RGS-IBG) expertly led Landscape Surgery this week, in a “Contemporary Debates in Human Geography” session concerning “decolonizing geographical knowledges” – a topic that not only formed the locus of important discussions at the recent RGS-IBG conference, but also inspired a forum in Transactions. Together we sought to ultimately explore and unpack the question: decolonising geographical knowledge or reproducing coloniality? To begin exploration of this challenging but salient topic, Huw and Joy posed three key reflective questions:

-What is geographical knowledge? How is it perpetuated? Why should we address it?

After a few moments of personal reflection, we were asked to document our initial reactions to these questions on post-it-notes, which we then used to populate flip-charts posting these questions around the room.

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Radical Cities, Radical Narratives

Radical Cities.pngImage Courtesy of Emily Hopkins

Radical Cities, Radical Narratives was an inter-disciplinary conference held by English and the Centre for the GeoHumanities on October 20th 2017.  I was really lucky to be invited onto the Radical Cities, Radical Narratives conference committee alongside Laurie, Serge, Ahmed and Gareth from the RHUL Department of English. The conference wanted to attract academic work that dealt with the themes of both narrative form and practice in relation to the social, material and aesthetic contemporary city.

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Analogic Spaces, Caves and the Ends of the Earth – Flora Parrott, Rachel Squire and Pete Adey

IMG_3507Photography: Ed Brookes

This week’s landscape surgery explored the world of analogic and subterranean geographies. Hosted by Flora Parrott (TECHNE PhD, RHUL Geography), Rachel Squire (Lecturer in Human Geography at RHUL) and Pete Adey (Professor of Geography RHUL). Split into two parts; Flora presented her work on caves, followed by Rachel and Pete and their research into the subterranean realms of analogic spaces.

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LS PROGRAMME AUTUMN 2017

LS meets on Tuesdays in BSQ, room 1-03,  2-4pm

10 Oct Catch-up session
24 Oct Caves: Flora Parrot and Rachel Squire
7 Nov Contemporary debates in human geography
21 Nov Author-meets-critics without author
5 Dec Spiritual Flavours: Screening of Laura Cuch’s documentary

 

Due to space constraints, participation is restricted to SCHG members and invited guests only

Visiting Academic Interview – Martin Thomas

Our Surgeries have been greatly enriched by our occasional academic visitors. Those that I have had the opportunity to meet have been fascinating people, and yet few of us get the chance to chat to them much. So it occurred to Katy and I that it would be a good idea to interview them for this blog while they’re here. We have developed ten questions and our first volunteer is Martin Thomas from Australian National University – many thanks Martin!

Surgeons and readers may remember that in May, Martin, with Béatrice Bijon, shared Etched in Bone, their documentary film, a work in progress, with us; you can read more about that here.

So, on to our first interview, which I’m sure you’ll find very engaging. Continue reading

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Towards a generic history of geography textbooks

Catechisms, grammars, and readers: towards a generic history of geography textbooks

Innes M. Keighren

 

Introduction

Scholarship in book history and the history of geography has highlighted considerable generic diversity in the evolution of geography’s textbooks, showing their form, content, and purpose to have be shaped variously by pedagogical, political, and moral concerns (Brückner 2006; Marsden 2001; Ploszajska 1999; Sitwell 1993; Withers 2001, 2007). The historical publication of geographical textbooks was shaped too, as it is today, by the commercial interests of publishers; questions of price, format, and audience sat alongside those of intellectual value and practical utility (Clark and Phillips 2014). The historical decisions made by authors and publishers over the appropriate stylistic means and material form by which to present geographical knowledge to an audience of, typically, young readers are important for what they reveal about perceptions of geography’s value and assumptions made about how it might most effectively be communicated. In what follows, I trace briefly the generic development of Anglo-American geography textbooks from their early-modern origins to Continue reading

YEAR 1 PRESENTATIONS: the digital workplace, boredom, ‘first encounters’ and indigenous maps

For our final meeting of the academic year, the Surgeons were treated to a snapshot of what our first year PhDs have been up to. Below are the abstracts for the sessions presented.

Adam Badger, Space, Freedom and Control in the Digital workplace

This interdisciplinary PhD works across the schools of Geography and Management to understand the ways in which the use (and implementation) of digital technologies at work are transforming the identities and lives of those engaging with them. By utilising the relational ontology of ‘digital sociomateriality’ in conjunction with growing discourses of ‘workplace geographies’ this study seeks to explore how labour is continuously emergent through the interrelations of workplace and practice in contemporary employment. Primary analytical focus is (at present) geared toward developing understandings of how new digital work geographies are impacting; workplace surveillance, display, and (de-)territorialisation and will do so utilising research gathered from at least three linked case-studies. In this talk I will look to introduce the relevant debates currently present in the field and frame their relationship to possible case-studies.

 

Katy Lawn, Working through Boredom: Creatively Approaching Questions of Workplace Emotion

This paper will set out a proposed approach to a study of boredom as it relates to questions around the experience of work. As a key register of lived experience in contemporary society (Mann, forthcoming), boredom is often said to have arisen in tandem with modernity and the industrial process (Moran 2003). But, if boredom is so closely intertwined with the production process historically, what of boredom in our ‘post-bureaucratic’ era?
In considering questions around work (which are more usually framed in economic terms) the aim is to take a cultural-geographical approach to look at how work is experienced. I will set out the proposed structure of the research project, which is composed of two halves. The first half will deal with a set of case studies which demonstrate the ways in which artists and cultural practitioners have tackled the theme of workplace boredom through fine art, socially engaged art, poetry and photography. The second half will involve using creative methods such as photo elicitation and epiphany object interviews to produce a set of richly textured case studies which address participants’ working lifeworlds. This two-part structure fits in tandem with a wider concern with firstly: cultural approaches to studies of work and the workplace, and secondly: workplaces and work practices as emotional or “affective soups” (Thrift 2008:244).

 

Huw Rowlands, The Unbearable Rightness of Seeing

My working title is “Historical and contemporary performance of cross-cultural encounters: temporal and spatial dynamics”. My main interest is in ‘first-contact encounters’, what they are, why they are chosen for particular attention, and how performance analysis might help us understand their repetitions. So the key phrase in my first few months’ reading and thinking has been ‘first-contact encounters’. I have problems with each of these words; and I’m not even sure about the hyphen. I was drawn to this during research for my MA dissertation, through learning about how one story has been told over the years. Marine Lieutenant William Dawes sailed with the First Fleet, sent to establish a convict colony in New South Wales. The tellings in which he appears usually focus on his relationship with Indigenous Australian Patyegarang, from whom he learned most about the local language spoken at the time. Subsequently, I have chosen to focus on Cook’s first Pacific voyage in my search for PhD case studies. I will draw on these two contexts to explore some of the problems with ‘first-contact encounters’, as I work towards my first annual review over the next few weeks.

 

Joy Slappnig, The Indigenous Map: Native Information, Ethnographic Object, Artefact of Encounter

Assessing Indigenous contribution to colonial collections, such as the map collection at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), poses challenges of approach and methodology. Western collecting and cataloguing conventions have traditionally obscured Indigenous presence in the archive, and the small number of maps that have been categorised as ‘native’ often show more hybridity than might be assumed (having been co-produced by Europeans and Indigenous people during the process of colonial expansion, for example). Relational approaches to material culture, especially the study of ethnographic museum collections over the last decade, suggests new ways of conceptualising these maps. Rather than approaching them as images (as they have traditionally been analysed), studying these maps as objects can help to disentangle colonial relationships between Indigenous peoples and the British, and it can provide new insights into the role colonial collections such as the RGS play in defining the ‘Indigenous’.

 

Many thanks to our four speakers; and the Landscape Surgery cohort for their invaluable feedback, comments and enthusiasm. Wishing everybody a happy and productive summer 2017!