Englishness, Nationalism, Brexit.

Saskia and Jeremy

Image courtesy of Ed Brookes.

This week’s Landscape Surgery was convened by Saskia Papadakis (RHUL) and Jeremy Brown (RHUL in conjunction with the British Library) and was entitled Englishness, Nationalism, Brexit. The  session focused on historical and contemporary understandings of ‘Englishness’ and how nationalism continues to influence British politics.

Prior to the session, surgeons were invited to read Michèle Cohen’s paper (2001) ‘The Grand Tour. Language, National Identity and Masculinity’. Jeremy began by explaining how the paper explores changing attitudes to concepts of ‘Englishness’ and masculinity in relation to the notions of the Grand Tour in the 18th Century. Surgeons were then also invited to consider Satnam Virdee and Brendan McGeever’s paper (2017), ‘Racism, Crisis, Brexit’. Summarised by Saskia who highlights how the paper positions racism within England at the centre of debates around what may have led Brexit in the UK. Surgeons were then asking to note down three key words which we felt highlighted the relationship between the texts. A selection of these words are present within the word-cloud below:

LS Word Cloud

Following this, we broke off into smaller groups and were asked to consider the following pairs of questions and to feedback our thoughts and ideas to the wider group as a whole:

Firstly, Group 1 were asked to consider the idea of ‘is the nation-state a useful category of analysis/unit of space?’. Group 1 began with the provocation of can you afford to vacate the nation state? If you do vacate the nation-state, then do you leave it as a political weapon? This led to a consideration of questions around issues of strategic nationalism and the idea of the potential of the nation-state as a bottom up power. Group 1 also raised the idea of the limitations of the nation state as a unit of analysis being linked to the idea of the nation state being a bounded space that we want to imagine as sealed. This lead to subsequent discussion of the idea of the EU as trying to complicate the unitary nature of the nation state. Following this, the group introduced the idea of the known territory and ideas of the city state juxtaposed against the imagined community of the nation state to examine how the nation state may be limited as a category of analysis by the fact that is constantly either too big or too small. The discussion concluded on the evocative nature of the nation-state and the conclusion that the state-of-feeling surrounding the nation-state contributes to the problems of using the nation state as a useful category of analysis or unit of space.

Group 1 were then asked the question ‘what does ‘Britishness’ mean to them?‘. Discussion was ignited by dialogue describing how when this question has been asked previously, answers had usually involved stereotypes and consumption based activities. This raised additional questions surrounding the idea of ‘Britishness’ as a shared cultural way of life or ‘Britishness’ as an aesthetic. It was also noted how many responses to this question are intertwined with personal biographies such as personal migration histories.

Group 2 explored the question ‘can a national identity be constructed without an imagined outsider’. Group 2 deconstructed this question by asking what is truly meant by an outsider. They also considered what would happen if the question asked of an imagined other instead of outsider. The group then moved on to discuss issues such as if national identity is constructed or performed and if this performance of national identity can ultimately be disentangled from geographical imaginations. 

Group 2 were then to asked ‘Does the UK still serve a purpose‘. Following this, Group 2 noted how they felt that the answer to this question was dependant on what the group took the word ‘purpose’ to mean. Discussion then turned to potential imaginative future of the UK in a world of degrowth and ideas around the concept of the UK and territorial containers. Group 2 concluded on dialogue surrounding imaginary alternative futures such as giant bureaucracy and how these may effect embedded in ways of thinking about the world. 

Finally, Group 3 had to explore ‘when did Englishness/Britishness first begin’. In response to this question, discussion was ignited surrounding when the Act of Union was officially enacted, the historical background of the concept and the different incursions of the term throughout history. Group 3 then highlighted how this question is usually addressed by historians or politicians retrospectively. 

Discussion from this session ended with Group 3 contemplating the question of ‘is it possible to imagine a positive future post-Brexit’. Deliberation on the idea of a positive future post-Brexit was hard-pressed but amounted to ideas of damage limitation and the potential of the UK nation-state to move away from some of the EU’s neoliberal, bureaucratic problems. However, discussion ended on the point that the UK would be hard-pressed to change any of these problems following Brexit.

This commentary spurred a whole group conversation around how the lived experience of Europe, evidenced within Grand Tour narratives, has been enacted within contemporary Europe and how this may change in light of Brexit. Practices that cultivate Europe as a space such as the expat community and cross-European exchange schemes were used as evidence for this.

The session concluded on us all personally reflecting on how the issues discussed within the session may directly impact our research. We were challenged to summarise this in just 7 words! The 7 word sentences generated were extremely varied but highlighted the potential impact and influence the session had on surgeon’s research. We would like to thank Saskia and Jeremy for such a wonderful session.

Reflection

Image courtesy of Ed Brookes

Nina Willment

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Flow and the City: Adam Badger

 

AB1If a picture really can tell a thousand words, then Edgar Allan Poe’s Man of the Crowd could be depicted in just over three and a half images. Although clearly metaphorical, it does highlight the power of the image in cultural forms and debates. The geographical literature on visual methods is far too big and better written than anything I could pen for me to bother condensing into this small space. So I just won’t.

What follows, is a collection of images captured on one psychogeographical wondering through Brixton, on one dark and wet night a couple of years ago. Obsessed at the time with the notion of ‘flow’ and it’s place in the city, these present a mix of long and short exposure images that hopefully play with the idea of stasis conjured by the photographer – why is it when we take photographs we so often stand still? None of them have names because I don’t want to taint your judgement of the image, of what it is – and also because I’m terrible with names.

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‘Urban detours: play, performance, politics’

27653443_10155422464308693_1111895170_oIn this week’s landscape surgery we are taken on a tour of London organised by the ‘Urban Detours Guide Team’ (Cecile Sachs Olsen, Hattie Coppard and Jonathan Moses). They invite us to take part in a ‘walkshop’ and explore urban space in alternative and creative ways, as we play with its meaning, content and context.  The tour takes the form of a ‘sound-walk’, walking silently through the city in order to embrace sounds and experiences as they happen. We are given three rules:

  • No Speaking
  • Follow The Instructions
  • Play Along

What follows is a series of text and images that attempt to document part of our experience as we delve into the various textures, smells and audiovisual registers that the city produces.

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MA students visit the RGS-IBG

MA students in the archive

On 5 February, the MA Cultural Geography (Research) students were introduced to the holdings of the RGS-IBG. Following a series of talks from current (and recent) CDA researchers, the students spent time investigating the journals and logbooks of Foley Vereker. In what follows, the students offer their reflections on their experience.

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Roundtable: the materialities of geographical representation

 

Roundtable

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

On Tuesday this week, Landscape Surgery were fortunate enough to host Tania Rossetto (University of Padua, Itlay), Luciana Martins (Birbeck University) and Emily Hayes (Oxford Brookes). The three led a panel session on the materialities of geographical representations, with a specific focus on their ongoing research on maps, films, photography, drawing, and lantern slides, and broader methodological issues.

Picture3Image Courtesy of Pavel Fric/ Yvonne Fricova

The session began with Luciana discussing her work on Guido Boggiani and the Caduveo body painting. Luciana described how she works through the visual archive of expeditionary travel and the distinct forms of visual culture implicit within European travels in South America (1850-1950). She aims to bring exploration photography and film into dialogue with expeditionary drawing. She also describes how she seeks to explore the embodied experience of image making in expedition and the ‘dialogical aspect’ of image making which occurs through cross-cultural interaction in the field and the editing and re-editing of these images through new contexts of storage and display. Luciana began by describing her first encounter with the Caduveo images in an exhibition of images, drawings and postcards of the Caduveo at the Museu Historico de Pantanal Corumba.

Picture4Image Courtesy of Pavel Fric/ Yvonne Fricova

Luciana then traced the process of transformation of Caduveo body painting into the ethnographic and material work of Guido Boggiani. Boggiani drew many sketches of the Caduveo and their body paint. Following Boggiani’s death, German ethnologist Robert Lehmann-Nitsche published Boggiani’s photographs in a postcard series. Lehmann-Nitche however believed he needed to adjust and calibrate these images in order for these postcards to fufil their role in the circuit of the visual economy of ethnographic types. Luciana used these postcards to begin her discussion into how the body painting of the Caduveo has been re-embodied and re-materialised as it moved from skin to paper to tiles, ceramics and fashion.

Lantern Slides 2

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

Next, Emily began her presentation by distributing a variety of lantern slides, asking us to engage with them and ask questions of our interactions with the medium; how they looked, how they felt, what we thought of them. This opened up her discussion of the role of lantern slides in the history and development of the RGS and the geographies of geography. Through a focus on the lantern slide, Emily discussed the implication of material objects in shaping both the RGS and the wider body of geography. Emily discussed how during the 19th century, lantern slides were used to both educate and entertain. As a result, Emily explained that the medium transformed who the geographer was and could be, through the presence of the lantern slide in scientific, mixed audience and children’s lantern slide lecture series at the RGS. These lectures shaped and diversified the demographic studying geography and lantern slides were often the centrepiece of these discussions. 

Lantern Slide

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

Emily then went on to highlight how lantern slides afforded experiences of wonder and virtual travel to increasingly wide audiences within the RGS and beyond and therefore the implication of lantern slides in the reconfiguring of time and space. Emily concluded with a discussion of her work in re-mediating the lantern slide within the digital world through her cataloguing, photographing and image editing of 1000 lantern slides from the RGS-IBG collections to LUCERNA ((https://www.slides.uni-trier.de).

Map Tracing

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

Finally, Tania introduced us to her research which applies the ‘pragmatic speculative realism’ proposed by Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology to the realm of cartography. She explained how her work is inspired by an object-orientated philosophy to propose an ontography of maps. Tania highlighted how this object-orientated approach can contribute to map studies but also how an object-orientated cartographic theorization can contribute to ideas of speculative realism. In passing around map-like objects, Tania asked us to consider how the explosion of geovisual devices and practices is profoundly changing the profile of cartography within society and has meant that cartography has somehow receded into the background. Tania therefore proposed that a more explicit object-orientated approach to maps should be adopted as emergent cartography remains concentrated on human knowledge, action and use. Map theory has therefore not yet attempted to put cartographic objects in the foreground and therefore Tania described how her object orientated approach can allow the anonymous lives and various spatialities of cartographic objects to be made visible.  Tania also discussed her use of photographic and visual methods, which she feels allow the map to give back its experience of being touched.

 Picture2
Image Courtesy of Tania Rossetto

The subsequent discussion session ranged from questions of the ‘cragginess’ of material culture vs the ‘repulsiveness’ of digital culture, the uses and limitations of digital methods, the role of geographers as peddlers of illusion, the responsibility of digital restoration and the role of the interface in object materialities. We would like to thank Luciana, Tania and Emily for leading such a lively and well received session. We wish them all the best with their ongoing research and hope to welcome them back to a Landscape Surgery session in the near future!

edit: We would very much like to thank Emily Hayes for clarifying her work with the cataloguing and image editing of lantern slides. The blog had previously incorrectly stated that Emily’s work involved the ‘uploading of
some of the 20,000 lantern slides owned by the RGS to LUCERNA: the
Magic Lantern Web resource platform.’ In fact, Emily work involves the ‘cataloguing, photographing and image editing of 1000 lantern slides from the RGS-IBG collections to LUCERNA
(https://www.slides.uni-trier.de)’. The society estimates that there are approximately 20,000 slides in the society’s holdings overall and other individuals were involved in the actual uploading of the images. We would like to thank Emily for clarifying this and for bringing this mistake to our attention. We would also like to apologise for any inconvenience this error caused.

 

 

Nina Willment

RGS-IBG Mid Term Conference 2018: Call For Papers

HOlloway

The next RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference is being held at
Royal Holloway, University of London over the 18th-20th April 2018.

Hosted by PhD students in the Department of Geography, this event provides a great opportunity for postgraduate students to present their research and discuss new ideas in a relaxed, friendly and supportive environment.

Postgraduates from all stages of their research are welcome to present, and the conference provides an ideal opportunity for first-time presenters, or those preparing for other conferences or their PhD Viva. If you want an opportunity to practice your presenting skills or to network with fellow postgraduate geographers, this event aims to foster a relaxed and informal space to discuss your research, offering a diverse and often interdisciplinary array of topics.

On top of a packed programme of paper and poster presentations, the registration fee (£60) will also include: workshops, keynote speeches, research working group meet and greet sessions, a drinks reception and three-course meal on the Thursday evening.

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The call for papers is currently open, and the conference invites any submissions from postgraduate researchers from all areas of geography, proposals may focus around a specific paper or chapter, a research project or thesis more generally, or topics relating to research methods and fieldwork (whether successful or challenging).

Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words along with four keywords, your full name and university, and your intention to present a poster or paper to rgsmidterm@rhul.ac.uk by no later than Friday 19th January 2018.

To find out more and apply please visit the conference website the http://www.pgf.rgs.org/mid-term-conference-2018/

Please follow  @RGSmidterm2018 for more information and regular updates.

If you have any additional enquiries regarding the conference, feel free to contact the organisers at: RGSMidterm@rhul.ac.uk

 

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The 12 Books of Christmas

books

As i’m sure many of you know, the song ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ begins with a series of increasingly grand gifts given on each of the twelve days before Christmas day. Well this year Landscape Surgery (whilst not quite having the budget for various exotic birds and leaping dignitaries) is providing you with twelve books that would make great reads over the holiday period.

Each book has been selected by surgeons in the group, along with a reason why they liked it and why you should read it too!

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‘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’.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_02

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.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_01

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.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_07.jpg

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.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_05

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.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_03.jpg

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.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_06.jpg

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!

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_04.jpg

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

nina-willment.jpg

  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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