Monthly Archives: July 2015

‘Geography Flies’ Through Years of International History

By Benjamin Newman and Hannah Awcock

ICHG Name Tag and Programme

The International Conference of Historical Geographers took place from the 5th to the 10th of July at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in Kensington (Photo: Ben Newman).

As the International Conference of Historical Geographers drew to a close, amidst bids from St Petersburg and Warsaw to host the next meeting of the conference, Innes Keighren took to twitter to write that it was:

This, of course, was true in every respect. Over the previous six days, historical geographers from around the globe had come together in a frenzy of papers, plenaries, field-trips, lunches, dinners and a general hum of enthusiasm for historical geography. There was more to celebrate than just a successful conference with ICHG observing its 40th anniversary, and it was on that subject that Alan Baker (University of Cambridge) was invited to give the first plenary talk of the conference on the opening Sunday inside The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s Ondaatje Theatre. His plenary would serve both as a celebration of the evolution of the meeting of British and Canadian Historical Geographers in Kingston, Ontario 40 years previous, and also as a reminder of the barriers to participation in historical geography, both at the conference and in the Journal of Historical Geography. His talk and invited contributions from international scholars left much to muse over at the welcome drinks reception that followed.

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Professor Catherine Hall gave an excellent plenary about British slave-owners (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

Monday would see the conference officially begin with eleven parallel sessions offering a feast of historical geography for delegates to enjoy. It would be difficult to summarise the diversity of the contributions, from urban historical geography, feminist historical geography, and GIS, to historical geography of extreme weather, war, knowledge, instruments, books, architecture, photography and many more. As the full first day of the conference drew to a close delegates excitedly gathered in the Ondaatje Theatre to listen to the first of three evening plenary sessions. UCL-based Professor Catherine Hall spoke to the title: Rethinking Slavery and Freedom. Professor Hall took a novel approach to slavery, focusing on the slave-owners rather than the slaves themselves. Thinking about how slave-owners constructed their world and justified their ownership of human beings allows us to put slavery back into British history.

Tuesday would be another busy day of all things historical geography, with Landscape Surgery’s first speaker, David Rooney. He got the Surgeons off to a good start with a paper on ‘Technologies of Segregation on the Streets of East London.’ He would be the first of a large number of Surgeons who participated in the conference, with Liz Haines, Noeme Santana, Hannah Awcock, Bergit Arends, Bethan Bide, Janet Owen, Innes M. Keighren, and Veronica della Dora, all involved in either convening, speaking, or both. And of course our own Felix Driver was Chair of the local organizing committee! Tuesday’s plenary was a landmark session with Felix chairing the inaugural British Academy Lecture in Geography, welcoming Bill Cronon (University of Wisconsin-Madison) to talk under the provocative title: Who reads Geography or History Anymore? The Challenges of Audience in a Digital Age. His talk discussed the death of the book length monograph, reading practices in the digital age and challenged the academy to consider the potential of various non-traditional outputs.

The RGS-IBG provided a perfect backdrop for lunch in the sunshine (Photo: Sophie Brockmann).

The RGS-IBG provided a perfect backdrop for lunch in the sunshine (Photo: Sophie Brockmann).

Conference delegates may have embraced Bill Cronon’s calls for academics to engage with social media a little too enthusiastically with the appearance of the @Geographyfly twitter account. The tweets were supposedly by a fly who liked to participate in proceedings by crawling around on the projector in the Ondaatje Theatre during plenary sessions. There was a certain amount of ‘buzz’ about who the genuine culprit was.

On Wednesday there was a break from formal sessions for a series of field trips. A series of 17 trips, ranging from the historical geography of hop picking in Kent to a musical tour of Soho, proved that historical geographers do far more than just sitting in the archive. Surgeon Innes Keighren was one of the organisers of a trip to Maritime Greenwich. We both thoroughly enjoyed our field trips, and the general consensus was they were all well organised and informative.

The field trip to the site of the 1862 Great Exhibition also included a tour of the Albert memorial in Hyde Park (Photo: Ruth Mason).

The field trip to the site of the 1862 Great Exhibition also included a tour of the Albert memorial in Hyde Park (Photo: Ruth Mason).

Thursday’s tube strike—minus some sore feet from walks across London—did little to dampen the atmosphere as parallel sessions kicked off again after Wednesday’s hiatus. That evening the final plenary of the conference was given by Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge), on the topic of ‘Astronomy at the Imperial Meridian: The Colonial Production of Hybrid Spaces.’ It is of note that none of the plenary speakers (apart from Alan Baker) identify as historical geographers, which reflects the truly interdisciplinary nature of the subject. In the opening plenary on Sunday evening Professor Mona Domosh (Dartmouth College) had suggested that maybe it doesn’t matter so much whether scholars call themselves historical geographers. Rather, what matters more is that people are doing historical geography in new and interesting ways, and after attending the ICHG it would be very hard to argue that it is anything less than a vibrant and dynamic discipline.

Historical geographers work hard, and they play hard! (Photo: James Kneale).

Historical geographers work hard, and they play hard! (Photo: James Kneale).

On Friday morning the finish line of this six-day marathon was in sight, but sessions continued unabated. The conference drew to a close with delegates choosing the hosts of the next ICHG. We would personally like to thank the Local Organising Committee and the RGS-IBG for doing such an excellent job of organizing and running the conference, and then all that remains is to say see you in Warsaw in 2018!

by Benjamin Newman and Hannah Awcock.

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Upcoming event: ‘Cities of Void’ and the apocalypse in film

News of the next Passengerfilms event. It’s on the 11 August and titled ‘Cities of Void’ – an event looking at the apocalypse in film.

Follow the links for more information.



When: Tuesday August 11th, 7PM-10PM.

Where: JetLag Bar, W1T 6QB London (directions)

How much: £5 at the door – no reservation required.

This screening event focuses on an emerging cultural interest in post-apocalyptic space across literature, film, video gaming and academic scholarship. This growing interest is developed in the light of climate change and current economic crises.

The fascination with the dystopian is looked at through the lens of two videos shedding different light on the meaning of the apocalyptic. The first is the 1971 science-fiction feature The Omega Man (directed by Boris Sagal) which follows an immune scientist as he fights his way through deserted Los Angeles after it has been struck by a biological warfare.

The second, the award-winning typographic short film Apocalypse Rhyme (2014) by visual artist Oliver Harrison, reveals an already-present and slowly-evolving state of apocalypse.

The two films will be followed by a…

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Stealing Geography

Old Bailey

“Old Bailey”. Plate 58 from The Microcosm of London (1808–10).

Whilst historians of geography have devoted considerable attention to the publication and reception of geographical texts, relatively little consideration has been given to the status of these books as commodities—desirable items to be bought or sold, accumulated or exchanged, kept safe or stolen. The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674–1913, a wonderful on-line resource, provides a partial means of examining geography’s books in this last category: “hot” property.

A quick trawl of the database (below) highlights a number of occasions on which geographical books circulated as stolen property. Unsurprisingly for the period covered by the database, the majority of these books were geographical grammars or dictionaries. More interestingly, perhaps, is the evidence that the owners of these books spanned a wider social range, from a Spitalfields market tradesman (William Galloway) to a leading middle-class publisher (Thomas Cadell).

In all cases, however, the trial transcripts reveal the dire straits in which those who had resorted to stealing geographical books found themselves—ill, poverty stricken, unable to support their families. Those found guilty of stealing such works often paid a heavy price; whipping and transportation to a penal colony were not uncommon punishments.

On 4 December 1782 John Lewis, a hairdresser from Saint Domingo [now the Dominican Republic], was accused of stealing an unspecified “Geographical Dictionary”—along with four other books valued at 12 s.—from Mary Brooker. Lewis was found guilty of stealing one book only (the Bible) and punished with whipping.

On 3 June 1789 Richard Manley was accused of stealing seven books (valued at 20 s.) from the leading publisher Thomas Cadell. These books included “Blair’s Geography”—probably John Blair’s The history of the rise and progress of geography (1784). Manley would found guilty and sentenced to transportation for seven years.

On 6 July 1803 Charles Field was accused of stealing three books, including William Guthrie’s A new geographical, historical, and commercial grammar (1770), from the bookseller John Mudie and then selling them to the bookseller George Kindon. Field was found guilty and sentenced to whipping and six month’s detention.

On 3 June 1824 Mary Wood, 30, was accused of stealing four books (valued at 5 s.), including an unspecified “geographical book”, from William Galloway, a potato seller at Spitalfields Market. Wood was found guilty and sentenced to one week’s detention.

On 4 April 1836 Edward Edney (17) and William Edney (18) were accused of pickpocketing two books, including “a catechisms of Geography” valued at 6 d., from a Mr Hotine at the Greenwich fair. Both defendants were found guilty. William Edney was sentenced to three months’ detention.

On 29 January 1838 Charles Cook, 31, was accused of stealing from Sarah Combley a box containing (among much else) 53 books, valued at £1 17 s. The books included “Goldsmith’s Geography”—probably A grammar of general geography (1819). Cook was sentenced to one year’s detention.

Innes M. Keighren


Guardian Cities Article by Ella Harris and Mel Nowicki

We’re excited to share this article, published today by Gaurdian Cities. The piece questions the impact of pop-up culture on cities world wide, drawing on issues and ideas we’ve been discussing as part of our collaborative Precarious Geographies project.

The article can be found here:

Ella and Mel


15th July – ‘Dis/Locations’ event on changing experiences of East London

Details of the next Passengerfilms’s have been published over at their website. This event is on the 15th July and is called ‘Dis/Locations’. The evening will explore the changing experiences of East London through film. poetry, song and music with Under the Cranes (2011) as the feature film and a panel discussion including Michael Rosen, Emma-Louise Williams, Owen Davey and Tom Wilkinson.

The event is a collaboration with LIVINGMAPS and A-Team Arts. More details about the event and ticket information can be found in the reblogged post.

Hope you can join us!


dis-locations poster1-page-001

We are delighted to be collaborating with LIVINGMAPS and A-Team Artson Wednesday the 15th of July for a unique event of film and discussion, reflecting on the changing cultural landscapes and lived experiences that are ‘East London’. 

The evening reflects on poetry, song and music as the preservers of place-memory; and focuses on economic change, the architecture of the urban landscape, regeneration and belonging through a mix of creative and documentary footage, archive and spoken word to create a multisensory quality of place-experience.

The ‘Dis/Locations’ programme will include three shorts: ‘Hackney Lullabies’ (2011) by director Kyoko Miyake, Robey (2014) by Craig Bilham & Owen Davey ( and ‘Robin Hood Gardens: Requiem for a Dream’ (2014) directed by James English. The feature film ‘Under the Cranes’ (2011) will be presented by director Emma-Louise Williams (film-maker, radio-producer) and script-writer Michael Rosen (poet, broadcaster and author). Presenters Emma-Louise Williams, Michael…

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Today (Friday, 3 July), and for the following two Fridays between 11:30 and 12 noon, the radio show Time Lines will be broadcast on Resonance FM (104.5 FM). This show has been produced by fourth-year PhD student Liz Haines, together with Adam Caulton for Modulations: Broadcasting Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Science (a collaboration between Resonance FM and the Arts and Culture Unit). This new series commissions researchers to bring their work directly to the public.

This new series commissions researchers to bring their work directly to the public.

Time Lines is an off-shoot from Liz’s PhD research into the colonial mapping of Zambia. The radio show focuses on Zambia’s Western Province and bridges the colonial period with the present day. It examines the causes and effects of the absence of maps (so-called ‘cartographic invisibility’) in the region. It explores cartographic invisibility from a variety of angles through a series of interviews with colonial and post-colonial British cartographers and administrators, contemporary scientific researchers, historians and politicians.

The programmes are streamed on the above dates but will also be available online, to ‘listen again’ via the Resonance FM website.

Liz Haines is an AHRC-funded CDA student working between the Department of Geography and the Science Museum. He supervisors are Innes M. Keighren and Alasdair Pinkerton (RHUL) and Tim Boon and Peter Morris (Science Museum).

Sequins, Self and Struggle

As a number of postings to this blog have illustrated, the Social and Cultural Geography (SCG) research group is enriched by its relationships with colleagues across the arts and humanities at Royal Holloway. Next year these ‘GeoHumanities’ conversations will be developed in (what we hope will be) interesting ways (more to follow…). One of the dialogues happening this last year was led by Oli Mould from Geography and Bryce Lease from Drama, as they thought about the role of performance and the performing arts in anti-gentrification urban activisms. Bryce has a broader interest in identity politics and its urban performativity, particularly around questions of sexuality. He is PI on an AHRC funded project on ‘Sequins, Self & Struggle: Performing and Archiving Sex, Place and Class in Pageant Competitions in Cape Town’. The final symposium inked to the project is happening in London in July. Details from Bryce are below.

Philip Crang

Dear Colleagues

We are delighted to announce that the final symposium for the AHRC-funded project, ‘Sequins, Self & Struggle: Performing and Archiving Sex, Place and Class in Cape Town Pageants’, has moved to the Southbank Centre as part of the Mandela Weekend.

We have assembled an extraordinary group of artists, activists and academics working on space, archives and sexuality in Southern Africa. This promises to be a weekend of rich and dynamic discussion, and we hope you can join us. This event is free, but requires registration.

Please register here:


Friday 17 July

Southbank Centre
St Paul’s Pavilion

Opening and welcome
10 – 10.15am

Catherine Cole (University of California, Berkeley)
Immorality Acts: Forbidden Sexuality in South Africa

Coffee break 11-11.15am

Histories, Spaces and Archives

Nadia Davids (Queen Mary University of London)
Queer Cosmopolitans: A second look at the District Six Archives

Naomi Roux (London School of Economics)
Double vision and suspended conversations: landscapes of memory in South End, Port Elizabeth

April Sizemore-Barber (Royal Holloway, University of London)
The MGWC archives in relation to GALA

Lunch 12.45-2pm

Drag Pageants

Graeme Reid (Human Rights Watch)
Performing gay identities in small town beauty pageants

Glenton Matthyse (University of the Western Cape)
Participation in Miss Gay Western Cape

Bryce Lease (Royal Holloway, University of London)
From RuPaul to the Cape Flats: MGWC and Glocal Drag

Coffee break 3.30-3.45

Mark Gevisser (Author and journalist)
TransGender TransNational: The case of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and other queer refugees in the ‘Global Culture Wars’

Embassy Tea Gallery
195 – 205 Union St, London SE1 0PB

Exhibition opening
‘Coloured’ curated by Siona O’Connell (University of Cape Town)

Saturday 18 July

Southbank Centre
The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall

Graeme Reid (Human Rights Watch)
Sex and Politics: What role did sexual politics play in South Africa’s troubled passage to democracy?

Lunch 12-1pm

Southbank Centre
Weston Roof Pavilion

LGBTQ Pride and Representation

Zethu Matebeni (University of Cape Town)
Contesting Apartheid Legacies/Pride Events in Cape Town

Jay Pather (University of Cape Town)
Interrogating form in the performance of black queer identities in contemporary performance

Coffee break 2.30-2.45

Performance Lecture
Mojisola Adebayo (Goldsmiths and Queen Mary University of London)
I Stand Corrected

Break 3.45-4pm

Anthony Bogues (Brown University)
Thinking about decolonization; the archive and the African body

Wine Reception 5pm

There are several extra events as part of the Mandela Weekend connected to the symposium that may be of interest:

Sunday 19 July

Southbank Centre
The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall

Nadia Davids, Writing Home

Award-winning playwright and novelist Nadia Davids discusses her career with writer Margaret Busby. The South African artist creates performances and literary works that explore the complex, vibrant – and barely chronicled – world of Cape Town’s Muslim community.

Over the Rainbow: LGBT Rights in South Africa

Gay rights have been at the heart of debates surrounding public culture and nationhood in post-apartheid South Africa. This panel considers the role that sexuality has played in the construction of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ – a name which implies a crossover between multiracialism and gay rights.

The panel includes Mojisola Adebayo, Mark Gevisser, Zethu Matebeni, Glenton Matthyse, Jay Pather and Graeme Reid, and is chaired by Bryce Lease

Best wishes
Sequins, Self & Struggle team