Monthly Archives: March 2015

a mini-family history, looking closer at personal archive work

“The Archive is made from selected and consciously chosen documentation from the past and from the mad fragmentations that no one intended to preserve and that just ended up there” (Steedman, 1998:67). I would like to bring up the topic of personal archive work. I would like to suggest that a personal archive is a very complex collection of things; they contain memories which embrace the emotional and intimate geographies of people’s lives.

A few years ago, before I started my undergraduate degree, my grandparents (who now live in France) were driving around their own home-town – this sparked hours/days of reminiscing about ‘the-good-old-times’, of which, I am ashamed to add, I knew very little about. Being the only grand-daughter in the family I thought I would ask them a favour…”pretty please spend some time putting together a collection of stories, histories, photos- anything- of your lives – not only for me but for our future families too”. It was a successful venture resulting in, a few months later, a car load of: diaries, journals, photographs, objects and scrap books arriving. So after a visit to the Royal Geographical Society for a half-day of archival research on the 12th February with my fellow Master’s students, my interest in Archives grew, I would not class myself as a ‘historical geographer’, and definitely not as an Archivist, but I like a challenge, and started to delve into the “Human Geography of a Family” (as my Grandmother called it in her main journal).

As I worked through the journals and collections of photographs and objects I found that not only was it was physically hard work but it was quite an emotional experience as well. This is what I decided to concentrate on for my Element 2 ‘Methods’ essay. Emotional geographies focus on exploring and trying to understand how feelings impact and alter our environments, landscapes and social relations (Ashmore, 2012). Emotions are essential when looking at human behaviour as they also have the ability to facilitate our attachment to people and places, as I found through looking into my Grandparents collection. However, although the importance of emotions is clear, they are commonly avoided as a topic of academic research: they are deliberately left out due their complex nature (Meth, 2003).  Emotional geographies are, without a doubt, personal yet at the very core of our collective existence. This emphasis on the significance of embodied knowledge and of celebrating feelings is a challenge to conventional geographical academic writing (Rodaway, 2002). So far through my MA in Cultural Geography I have explored how love can, and should be, an area of geographical study, how diaries can be used as a successful methodological tool for study, and now a paper on how personal archive work can lead to interesting exploration of more than just past environments- but also past emotions. Perhaps this research will lead into more exciting opportunities.

Emma Shenton (MA, Cultural Geography Research)

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Introducing Natalie Hyacinth- Geography and Music PhD Candidate


Greetings fellow Surgeons!

My name is Natalie Hyacinth and I am very happy to be a part of the Landscape Surgery collective. I have begun a PhD within the Geography and Music departments at RHUL supervised by Prof. David Gilbert and Dr. Henry Stobart. My PhD is part of and attached to a larger joint research project with UCL entitled ‘Making Suburban Faith’…which is again part of a larger AHRC funded ‘Connected Communities’ research programme…phew! So there are lots of new and exciting things ahead.

The preliminary title of my PhD is “Music and popular creativity in suburban faith communities”. My focus will be on music, sound and silence and how these work through and within the manifestation of spirituality for faith groups in the particular London suburb of Ealing. Thus my research will ‘embody’ dimensions of space (suburbia), creativity (music) and faith (performance & performativity of identity). I with the Making Suburban Faith project team embarked on a visit to 5 of the project’s faith spaces in Ealing where I recorded some sounds. As my interest and passion is music, I thought it would be great to incorporate some of these sounds into my music making. So I have set up a Sound Cloud page called ‘SacredSonix’:

…where I will embark upon a type of ‘audio ethnography’ or a digital sound archive of the project in the spirit of the recent rise of a ‘digital humanities’. So far I have uploaded some warped type sounds I have been playing around with and some dubs/beats I have produced. All in a very rough sketch kinda mode!

My own academic background I would say is broadly within Cultural Studies and Philosophy. I completed an MA in ‘Cultural Studies’ at Goldsmiths University in 2014 and completed a BA in ‘Music and Media Management’ at London Met in 2010. I hold such a wide variety of philosophical/political interests that anything which attempts to uncover and deeply explore our strange world usually seizes some form of fascination for me. So I am into anything from the philosophy of technology (I actually like and have written on Heidegger..!), Diaspora Studies and Afro Futurism to Poetry & Spoken Word, Feminism, Roots, Dub and Hip Hop music to now of course…Cultural Geography!!

I am always up for collaboration so if anyone would like to work together to make or perform something creative or anything really, please do get in touch.

All the best,




Making Suburban Faith Project Website:


Royal Holloway Science Festival

So it is the beginning of term, and we (as a collective: MA Cultural Research Group) are given our handbooks for the course and timetable for the course ahead. We spend a bit of time flicking casually through the pages, knowing that we have months to complete the course. Zoom forward 6 to 8 months, and little did we know that this time would literally fly! We were under the impression we had a long time to complete our essays let alone the blog-posts and podcasts and other things which we participate in as a fundamental part of the course. We are now about to enter the last teaching week, we have just completed our group podcast, so we thought we’d devote this post to a reflection upon an activity we both got involved with as part of the ‘public geographies’ portion of our course.

In this manner, this post is a joint one, written by the both of us regarding our participation on the 7th of March in the Royal Holloway Science Festival. For those who unaware of what the annual Science festival is, it has been running at RHUL for over 20 years and attracts usually around 4,000 visitors. The Festival is an invitation for schools and the public to come and get involved and (hopefully) be inspired by different aspects of science.

As part of the MA in Cultural Geography we are required to participate in either helping on the Festival, or get involved with Passenger Films; we decided to pick the Science Festival due to our interests in outreach. It is so important to inspire and encourage younger children to take part in days like this to help them understanding that learning is fun – not always the easiest thing to do! Our participation involved the creation a map with the help of Jenny Kynaston for an activity called ‘Where do these animals call home?’. Alongside the production of the map, we purchased some small model animals. This enabled us to make an interactive world – where children (and adults) had fun deciding where in the world each animal came from. There was quite some confusion over our ‘red panda’ – apparently it resembled a fox. Perhaps when it comes to writing the Amazon review on the animals that should be mentioned!

The biogeographical derivations of animals has endured as a research focus in the geographical discipline. It is a fascinating topic, encompassing discussions revolving around issues from evolution and climate change, to species diversity and ecological revolutions. There is an estimation of around 7 million species of animals living on earth today, which makes it an interesting topic not only for us academic scholarship, but also for school children too to consider too. Indeed, It was apparent that the animals captured the imaginations of the children, many of them reminiscing about experiences of zoos, or childrens television programs. Unsurprisingly, the model Giant Panda featured in many recreations of Kung Fu Panda throughout the day! Whilst this is not perhaps ‘our-kind-of-geography’ as cultural geographers, the visitor’s interests in geography was evident through their enjoyed participation in our activity. It was incredibly rewarding to see.
Overall, the day was a success, the sun was shining and everyone seemed to be having a great day, including us. We would most definitely recommend future undergraduate and postgraduate students participate in the annual science festival.

Emma Shenton and Oliver Knight, (MA Cultural Geography, Research). science festival

Sans Dust- Flickr and Instagram as Archives

Rachel Taylor is is a past member of Landscape Surgery, she completed the MA Cultural Geography last year, and is now working for the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). In this post, she reflects on one of the methodologies she used for her Masters dissertation, online image archives.

Turbulent London

Rachel Taylor graduated from Royal Holloway’s research-based MA Cultural Geography last year. She is currently working for the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Her research interests include public engagement with academia, museums, identity politics and how we understand human remains. Here she reflects on online archives, particularly photographic ones, as a research method. The internet is not one of the first things that springs to mind when you think of archives, but it is a valuable resource for academics if we only made use of it. Follow Rachel on Twitter: @mereplacenames

A photo of the British Museum available on Flickr (Source: Alex Roach) A photo of the British Museum available on Flickr. Rachel Taylor used websites such as Flickr and Instagram to analyse visitor behaviour in museums in the research for her Masters dissertation (Source: Alex Loach).

In an age where the most popular ‘camera’ used by Flickr uploaders is the iPhone 4S, it’s time to reconsider photography, contemporary archival methods and…

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Creating Hackney as Home

The last Passengerfilms event spoke to the themes of home, identity, and gentrification. Our next event, Bordering Strangeness, will be on the 2nd of April. Check out Twitter and our blog for more details.


The Creating Hackney as Home audience (Photo: Ella Harris). The Creating Hackney as Home audience (Photo: Ella Harris).

London is a city of constant change. At the moment, you would be hard pushed to find a run-down or poor area that isn’t going through a process of rapid gentrification and development, and Dalston in Hackney is no exception.  There are constant debates in the media and online about this process, but how young people feel about these changes are often overlooked. The Creating Hackney as Home, a youth-led visual research project into home and belonging at the Open University, aimed to rectify that. 5 young people from Dalston were given training in research methods and film making, and each produced a short film about Dalston as their home as part of the project.

These films were shown at the Creating Hackney as Home event on the 5th of March at the Russet in Hackney, alongside Legacy in the Dust

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Home? My thoughts, feelings and experiences…

“we enter our house through the front door, but enter our home through our slippers” (Bachelard’s 2003:1939).

Home can shift across geographical space, yet it is usually the centre of each person’s universe (Douglas, 1991). This post is going to explore my own, personal associations with ‘home’ and my own experiences with having multiple homes. Geographers have realised that home is essential to everyday life, and is therefore an important site of geographical research (Blunt and Varley, 2004). Domestic space – the home – is an ever growing sub-discipline within geography and due to international migration, the movement and settling of people is also changing, and consequently, so does the theoretical context in which home is placed (Walsh, 2011).

Okay, so to start; I was born in Holland, quite a small country, famous for the stunning scenery, tulips, clogs and windmills. I was born in Groningen, (North) Holland and as my mother is Dutch, I have a Dutch passport: so I am, therefore, Dutch; The Netherlands is my ‘homeland’. I guess I end up with a diasporic identity; which along with material and imagined connections of my childhood means I always feel ‘at home’ in Holland but maintain connections with other places as well (Blunt, 2007).  Whenever I go back to see my family, as I fly in over the coast and land in Amsterdam, I hear the language, see familiar places and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling which makes me happy. A full sensory overload of being ‘at home’ – I like to think this will never go away. I am proud to call Holland home.

Dubai, in contrast to Holland is huge, and with the city comes a variety of connotations of wealth, skyscrapers, beaches and Palm Island; it’s a city that attracts thousands of migrants (and tourists) each year, for a variety of different reasons. Having said this, Dubai also has a negative global image of “gated communities, conspicuous consumption, exploitation of labour and ‘unsustainable’ growth” (Walsh, 2012). Dubai is one of the richest cities in the world, through oil wealth, huge tourist industry and international investment. Due to these circumstances it is a popular destination for expatriates and their families; however, owing to its rapid growth and globalisation, it can be argued that it is a difficult country in which to feel ‘at home’. Expatriate feelings of ‘home’ in Dubai are complex; feelings of belonging, security and everyday-life can be quite different to what people expect. According to Ahmed (1999), a home can be multiple places, which reiterates the expatriate’s idea that ‘home’ is a more complex understanding than just a house which one inhabits.

In Walsh’s study on Home in Dubai; there is a specific interest in how families recreate the feelings of belonging and intimacy through friendships. Walsh (2009) goes on to say that friendships in places such as Dubai are often strong; mainly due to the mutual characteristics and experiences that the expatriates share. People are highly dependent on their relationships with others, and the social ties that are created within an unfamiliar space are vital to feel comfortable and to produce a sense of belonging. Basically, the friends I made really did make me feel ‘at home’ when I was growing-up, which is something I remember fondly about Dubai. Remembering and imagining homelands is common (Blunt, 2007). Home can be a physical location, but also a metaphorical space of emotion and belonging; and this is definitely true in my case, as these are the feelings I get when thinking about Dubai; it will always feel like a home.

I moved back to England when I was 10, I remember feeling quite lost, but of course, those feeling of insecurity soon disappeared when I settled into school and make new friends, and now I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I had similar emotions when I moved away to university to Royal Holloway, University of London: students end up living in two homes with differing qualities,  the parental/familial home; and the temporary student home; new spaces which then become meaningful and important to each one of us through freedom for personalisation and independence (Hinton, 2011 and Thomsen, 2007). The importance of identity, security and self-esteem reiterate that although student housing may be temporary, the feeling of being ‘at home’ and the emotions which surround this are still very important.

I recently, moved again; having lived in university halls in my first year of university, I thought it would be great to live in them again as a ‘post-grad’ – I was quite wrong. From my previous experience in my first year, it was a great social space, designed so you had communal space to be with friends and your own space when needed. Having said this, when you take the ‘social’ out of the communal space, it can become lonely. I’m not afraid to admit that halls can be unsociable, lonely and claustrophobic. Home’ is meant to be a place in which we belong, where we are familiar, a site where we feel at ease and comfortable (Blunt and Dowling, 2006). This was certainly not the case for me for the first few months. So, as all good things start with a dream, I asked my best-friend if she would move out of her halls and live in a house with me… and thankfully, 3 months later; we have a beautiful little house, where I am happy, comfortable, and cozy and I feel safe. Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that as people change, our ‘homely’ needs change as well. Four years ago I was happy in halls, this year the tiny room did not quite meet my expectations, on any level.

A running theme throughout all of these places: Dubai, Holland, my familial home, and university, it is the people I interact with in each space which makes it meaningful and therefore; in part, my home. These people create the feelings which one’s home should illustrate: belonging, comfort, love, and safety; I think this quote from Kaika illustrates this well; “The modern home became constructed not only as a line separating the inside from the outside (a house), but also as the epitome, the spatial inscription of the idea of individual freedom, a place liberated from fear and anxiety, a place supposedly untouched by social, political and natural processes, a place enjoying an autonomous and independent existence: a home” (2004: 266).

-Emma Shenton (MA, Cultural Geography Research)

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RHUL geographers in Chicago


The preliminary programme for the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers has recently been published. The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London will be strongly represented by both staff and doctoral researchers (detailed below).

Hannah Awcock


The Battle of Cable Street: Space, Place and Protest in London


Geographies of Activism and Protest I — Presenter

Andrea Burris


Discourses of Creativity and the Global Division of Digital Labour


From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs (session 2): Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries — Presenter

Mike Duggan


Smartphones, places, bodies: location-based services and everyday assemblages of place


Geographies of Media II: Big Data/Technology/Security — Presenter

David Gilbert


Cultures of Consumption and the Financialisation of Urban Space: from ‘Swinging London’ to ‘Carnaby Village’.


The Financialization of City-making: Articulating critical perspectives (2) — Presenter

Ella Harris


IDocs as a Contemporary Imagination of, and a way to Imagine, “The Present”


‘The Present’: Session 1 — Presenter
Precarious Geographies (I) Precarious Places: Urban Decline, Welfare and Employment— Organizer
Precarious Geographies (II) Precariously Placed: Migrants, Gender and Sexuality — Chair, Discussant, Organizer
Precarious Geographies (III) Sites of Resistance, Resilience and Response — Organizer

Harriet Hawkins


‘The Interface Envelope’ by James Ash: Author Meets Critics — Panelist
Author meets critics: Derek McCormack’s ‘Refrains for Moving Bodies’ — Discussant
Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation — Chair, Organizer
Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation (2) — Organizer
Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation (3) — Organizer
Is hope radical? Creative methods, experimental politics and diverse adventures in living through environmental change — Chair, Organizer
Presidential Plenary Session: Radical Intra-Disciplinarity — Speaker

Innes M. Keighren


“Consistent neither with candour nor truth”: negotiating authorship and authority in William Macintosh’s “Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa” (1782)


Authorship and Authority: Piracy, Plagiarism, and Truth in Geographical Writing — Organizer, Presenter

Dorothea Kleine


Digital inclusion, female entrepreneurship and the production of neoliberal subjects – views from Chile and Zambia


Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Peripheries — Presenter

Marton Kocsev


From Hub to Hubris – the Liquid Demograpies of the Silicon Savannah


From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs (session 2): Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries — Presenter

Chen Liu


Making the ideal home with culinary cultures in urban Guangzhou, China


Chinese Urbanism: everyday critical geographies — Presenter

Oli Mould


Function, minority and the event: Towards an urban politics of subversive creativity


The Urban Political at a Time of Late Neoliberalism I: Theorizing the Urban Political — Presenter

Mel Nowicki


‘I see myself as more of an occupier’: Squatting as protest in post-criminalisation London


Geographies of Citizenship and Dissent — Presenter
Precarious Geographies (I) Precarious Places: Urban Decline, Welfare and Employment— Chair, Organizer
Precarious Geographies (II) Precariously Placed: Migrants, Gender and Sexuality — Organizer
Precarious Geographies (III) Sites of Resistance, Resilience and Response — Chair, Discussant, Organizer

Alasdair Pinkerton


Remnants of No Man’s Land


Remnants of No Man’s Land: History, theory and excess — Presenter

David Simon


Bearing the Brunt of Environmental Change: gender and other social differentiators within adaptation and transformation challenges in urban Africa


Climate Change Adaptation and Gender — Presenter
Development Geographies: Looking Forward — Panelist
Geographies of Resilience 4: Cultural Perspectives on Everyday Resilience: Contributions from Geography — Discussant

Rachael Squire


“Man in the Sea”: The Geopolitics of UnderseaTerrain


Terrain 2 — Presenter

Pip Thornton


The Meaning of Light: Seeing and Being on the Battlefield


Terrain 2 — Presenter

Miranda Ward


Bodies of Water


Exercise and environment: new geographies of the exercise experience 2 — Presenter