Monthly Archives: May 2016


Like every year, the last LS meeting of term featured presentations by first-year PhD Surgeons, after which we also had the chance to hear about Patrizia Casadei’s project on fashion cities (Patrizia is a PhD candidate based at the Universities of Trento and Florence and she has been visiting our Department this term). Thanks to all the presenters for sharing their exciting (and very diverse) projects and to all the attendees for their constructive feedback.

Brief abstracts of the presentations follow in chronological order.



Nolli Piranesi 1748 La topografia di Roma

From his ascension to the throne in 1760, until his death 60 years later, King George III unceasingly collected maps, increasing the size of the Royal Collection – dating back to 1660 – to over 50,000 items. In 1823, his son and heir George IV promised the entire King’s library to the nation. Having passed over time into the care of the British Library, the maps and views of the Italian section of what is now known as the King’s Topographical Collection form the rich basis of this project’s focus. The primary goal is to investigate how the mapped representation of Italy affected British travellers’ perception of the land, and to what extent these attitudes changed throughout the Grand Tour years. In light of recent debates about the subjectivity of maps, the project proceeds on the basis that the presences and silences of the maps were able to mould the imaginations of Tourists in certain ways, and as such, iconographic analysis of their visuality is central. Part of the research will look into the written representation of place, situating the position of maps in relation to the Italy expressed through journals, guidebooks and Classical Roman texts, which were so important in seventeenth and eighteenth century education. As well as investigating the geographies of production and collection of cartographic knowledge, the project will explore the material role of maps, both in the embodied interaction with users, and in the representation of maps in other contexts (i.e. in travel diaries, portraits and engravings).



Repton pavilion (2)This research project will examine the way in which colonial plant acquisitions circulated as commodities in Britain during the first half of the 19th century, and will seek to locate plants within the literature on imperial commodity flows, as well as thinking about the ways in which exotic plants transformed the practice and content of horticulture during the 19th century, creating a new audience for `useful science`. This project will examine the mechanisms by which plants were introduced and the professional, trade and personal networks through which plants circulated. The period between 1780 and 1870 saw the largest volume of plant introductions as well as the emergence of a gardening press and a large-scale nursery business with a national reach. This focus will permit an analysis of the evolving circulation of plants as commodities alongside the evolution of imperial connections and domestic demand for gardens and knowledge about botany and horticulture. The research project will explore how plants as imperial commodities became part of the `taken-for-granted` of the British landscape.




The past decades have seen the rapid transformation of social life in Britain. The post-war institutions of the working men’s club and the vernacular local have been supplanted by the emergence of vast corporate PubCos, whose reach has become so extensive it marks every significant settlement in Britain with giants like J D Wetherspoon holding over 950 establishments across the country. Yet this state of affairs has not gone without challenge since the financial crisis. Innovative craft companies like BrewDog have capitalised on broader shifts in the zeitgeist, challenging the monopolisation of the brewing industry and establishing their own competing outlets. Meanwhile, changes to licensing laws in 2003 laid the foundations for the explosion of ‘micro-pubs’ – one room, community centred spaces governed by an ethical creed venerating simplicity, conversation, co-creation and independently produced real ale. My research tracks these phenomena primarily through the politics of design, exploring how shifts at the molecular level of experience intersect with broader dimensions of political and social change. The work is consequently concerned with a return to questions posed by the British New Left in its attention to the cultural dimensions of political hegemony, and aims to make a contemporary contribution to its intellectual legacy.



hattieI trained as a sculptor and for more than 25 years I have explored the relationship of environment and everyday behavior through exhibitions, public art, community projects, urban design schemes. In recent years my focus has been play in public settings and in particular the ways in which children inhabit and create space through playing. My PhD is concerned with geographies of play and the methodological and analytical insights artist’s methods can bring to an understanding of the affective and ambiguous dimensions of playing. Building on my MA study of play in an urban square, in which a dancer, a writer and a painter acted as co-researchers, I plan to investigate play in different public settings, drawing on a variety of creative methods. The challenge is to find ways of opening up informative and reflective spaces for doing and thinking around the on-going, everydayness of play, giving attention to its more-than-representational geographies. The spatial concerns of geography and the work of human geographers interested in how life is lived and performed make this a fruitful source of ideas for thinking about play. I am especially interested in the theoretical areas opened up by non-representational theories, which give attention to the performative and affective nature of being in the world, and in ‘creative geographies’, which bring together multi-disciplinary approaches that challenge assumptions of conventional ways of knowing and representing everyday life.



Image -  Research project on Fashion Cities

The idea of the ‘fashion city’ has received increasing attention as an important element in the promotion of cultural and creative economy, as well as in the future of creative cities. The fashion city has the potential to contribute to the development, growth and regeneration of contemporary urban environments. Over the past few years, local governments, policy-makers and academics across a number of disciplines have been paying increasing attention to this phenomenon. This research project is aimed at contextualising the fashion city within the existing theories of the ‘creative city’, ‘cultural and creative industries’ and ‘cultural and creative economy’. Its main purpose is to contribute to the academic debate on the fashion city definition, in an attempt to identify different ideal types of fashion centres which have developed in the world via a ‘manufacturing’ and ‘symbolic’ perspective. The comparative analysis of the globally acclaimed ‘symbolic-oriented’ fashion capital of London with the ‘manufacturing-oriented’ fashion city of Florence could possibly lead to the definition of different ideal types of fashion centres. This may focus on  the physical manufacturing of garments, the symbolic production of fashion, or on a combination of both. Another goal of this project is to explore how the process of globalization has changed contemporary fashion centers and how the fashion city is likely to change in the future, particularly in terms of its impact on local economic development.


Geography in Review: Historical Perspectives, Practical Advice.

Governing our scholarly output, the peer review system is a much-discussed component of the academy’s publishing nexus. Following our Easter break, Surgeons reconvened to explore the history of peer review as it manifested itself in the Royal Geographical Society’s Journal, before benefiting greatly from some excellent advice given by staff emerging from their experience as reviewers, editors, and authors.

The historical emergence of peer review and the value of considering the system’s historical development has been demonstrated in some excellent accounts by historians of science. The disparities of peer review’s emergence have been evidenced in the work of Alex Csiszar and Melinda Baldwin. Although Csiszar has dismissed suggestions that peer review began as early as the seventeenth century in the pages of Henry Oldenburg’s Philosophical Transactions, he has evidenced peer review emerging in the nineteenth century throughout London’s burgeoning learned networks and societies. Baldwin complicates the trajectory of peer review’s emergence by demonstrating how the respected scientific journal Nature eschewed a systematic approach to peer review until 1973. As such, the history of peer review is long, contested, and particular to disciplines and publications.

NPG D34914; George Bellas Greenough by Maxim Gauci, printed by  Graf & Soret, after  Eden Upton Eddis

George Greenough by Maxim Gauci.

I understand the term ‘peer review’ itself to be a twentieth-century creature. During the nineteenth century, reviewing, refereeing, and referee were the commonplace terms. George Bellas Greenough—a founding member of the Royal Geographical Society in 1830—is the gentleman whom Csiszar credits with introducing the term ‘referee’ to the scientific community, having done around 1817. Whilst Greenough is known for his work as a geologist, it was in his earlier training as a law student where he had first encountered the term. Throughout the 1820s, learned societies—including the Astronomical Society and Geological Society—had begun to experiment with reports on papers they received.

Given the Royal Geographical Society’s close and intimate relationship with London’s learned societies it is not surprising that reviewing existed in the Society’s publications from its establishment in 1830. The practice of reviewing papers submitted for publication in the Society’s Journal can be conceptualised in two distinct periods: 1830–1850 and 1850–c.1900. Quite how reviewing took place in the first twenty years of the Journal’s history is difficult to establish. Reviewers typically wrote a letter to the editor conveying their thoughts on the manuscript, some reviewers were involved in direct correspondence with authors asking them to answer a series of questions about their manuscript, and, I suspect, other reviews were delivered orally at the Council’s meetings. In this early period having a paper published in the Journal was not simply the product of receiving a favourable review—some manuscripts passed into the pages of the Journal without being subjected to independent evaluation. Even when receiving a favourable review, publication was ultimately decided on by the Council who voted on each paper. Reviewing at this point was largely in the hands of those closest to the Society, often council members themselves.

The arrival of Norton Shaw as Secretary of the Society and Editor of the Journal in late 1849 brought a change to the Society’s reviewing practice. Shaw proposed a so-called ‘referee’s circular’ at the Council’s meeting on 14 January 1850. The minutes of the meeting record that with “some alteration” it was to be printed. Shaw’s circular asked reviewers to evaluate the paper on the basis of four predefined questions that related, variously, to the manuscript’s originality, its potential for publication, its possible abridgement, and whether it should be accompanied by any illustrations. Now each manuscript—whilst still being reviewed by a single fellow of the Society—was subject to the same evaluation criteria. Before sending the circular to the reviewer, Shaw would write the title of the paper and the name of the author on the sheet, and as such any notion of anonymity was largely lost in this closed network of geographers.

Shaw’s circular and the increasingly formalised networks of review at the Society continue into the twentieth century. Here, then, we begin to see the emergence of system which resembles our contemporary practice—this also extends to author’s and editor’s frustrations and anxieties. One referee, George Long, returned his circular complaining that the manuscript that had been sent to him was too long and “had taken up a great deal of his time”. Occasionally authors objected to suggestions or corrections. On return of his manuscript marked with reviewer’s corrections, Robert FitzRoy penned a letter to the editor stating:

Some of your suggestions I have more or less adopted with thanks—but others I not only cannot concur in but should entirely oppose if I thought anyone would interfere in matters of opinion or statement for which I alone am responsible. We look at things through various glasses—& I may have reason for my views which do not occur to another person.

Other referees complained of being overworked or that the refereeing practice was antiquated. In 1845 one anonymous contributor to Wade’s London Review launched an attack on the reviewing system of the Royal Society (a system similar to that of the RGS). The Review saterised the internal reviewing culture of the Royal Society and the process by which papers were communicated and accepted. The critique culminated with a description of the possible fate of a manuscript in the hands of a reviewer:

The paper is referred, of course, to some person of the same class of pursuits, a rival for fame in the same line of inquiry, carrying on a similar course of investigation, meeting perhaps with obstacles which the ‘referred paper’ itself may have successfully removed; possibly, too, intending to make these topics important elements in his own communication to the society. The referee may be a man of integrity in general matters; he may have no personal animosity, no ‘green dragon’ in his eye; he may even soar above all personal feelings, and with a noble disinterestedness give a fair and candid report…On the other hand, he may be a very different person; he may be full of ‘envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness;’ he may, in fact, wish to ‘Burke’ or ‘Bank’ the paper which is submitted to him, and what is there to prevent him? His enemy is in his hands, the darkness of night covers the deed, no record can exist of the part he takes in the matter, and he is overcome by the temptation!

Following on from the discussion of peer review’s historical emergence and its nineteenth-century frustrations (which appear remarkably contemporaneous) we received helpful advice from around the room. Some of the top tips for academic authors included:

  • Before you begin writing think about the focus of your article, where you want to publish, and how the two fit together.


  • Keep your submission well within the word limit as it is likely that a revise and resubmit will require you to add words.


  • Remember that you do not have to respond to every comment made by reviewers. When you are responding to comments, remember what the core of your paper is to avoid making so many alterations you receive another R & R.


  • When first receiving feedback it can be helpful to bullet point the report to unpack the comments. This way you can make notes on the points you have addressed.


On the history of scientific peer review, see: Alex Csiszar, “Peer Review: Troubled from the Start,” Nature 532, no. 7599 (2016): 306–8.!/menu/main/topColumns/topLeftColumn/pdf/532306a.pdf

On the history of peer review in the journal Nature: Melinda Baldwin, “Credibility, Peer Review, and Nature 1945–1990,” Notes and Records 69, no.1 (2015): 337–352.

On contemporary frustrations of peer review as an editor, see: Stuart Elden, “Editorial: The Exchange Economy of Peer Review,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 26, no. 6 (2008): 951–3.

On the popular press and peer review, see: Elaine Devine, “Why Peer Review Needs a Good Going Over,” The Guardian (UK), October 28, 2015.

Industrial Photography Performed: The Struggle for Energy from Modernism to the Cold War


Our joint presentation drew upon photographic materials produced in the context of the industrial development of energy production in the United States and the GDR. While the photographs discussed in our presentations were produced in distinct political systems, at different points in time—Modernism in the early 20th century and towards the end of the Cold War in the 1970s—from different perspectives and for different audiences, the common ground between both papers is the analysis of the uses of photography and how they performed in the struggle for energy. Therefore, both case studies present different views on how photography was used as a medium through which the exploitation of natural resources for energy production was visually represented and commercially and socially understood.

Using the Ralph Arnold photographic album collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, the first study outlined the use of photography as a key element in the formation of the emerging oil industry in the Western United States in the early twentieth century. Ralph Arnold (1875-1961) was an American geologist and petroleum engineer whose photographs taken during several geological surveys in California, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas were part of a collective scientific and financial effort to lobby for appropriate oil taxation and the recognition of the role of the petroleum engineer in oil exploration.

The second study discussed the visual dialogue between Nguyen The Thuc’s Kohle unter Magdeborn (Coal beneath Magdeborn) (1976), a photographic album documenting an open cast coal mining site and the devastation of its inhabitant community in the GDR, and Christiane Eisler’s series of commissioned photographs of the revisited mining site and contemporary Leipzig, produced in the period 2012 to 2014. The album and the new series of works were shown together in the 2014 exhibition Freundschaftsantiqua in Leipzig (Germany). The bodies of work reflect the changes in the industrialised environment through expanding and contracting resource extraction and the effects on its inhabitants. They are also documents of an international cultural production and GDR culture politics. The medium of photography was selected as exhibition focus due to its propensity to visually communicate across different cultures.

wood fossil_Magdeborn

Fossilised tree fragment, entrance area at Zweckverband Abfallwirtschaft Westsachsen waste deposit site, 2015, photograph: Bergit Arends

Freundschaftsantiqua_installation detail

Freundschaftsantiqua 2014, Galerie fuer Zeitgenoessische Kunst Leipzig (Germany), exhibition detail, photography: Sebastian Schroeder


Jointly we explored the performativity and fluidity of meaning of photographic images. How is meaning shaped by institutional discourses, disciplinary perspectives, and expertise. How were photographs taken by petroleum engineers used to shape the oil industry in terms of scientific exploration, commercial capabilities and policy reforms in the American West? How did the project from the GDR contribute to, or contravene, a political and environmental discourse in documenting how humans were affected by a visibly polluting energy production? Or did the images in both case studies contribute to a discourse of personal sacrifice towards a collective ‘greater good’ and moral duty for the nation?

Bergit Arends and Noeme Santana



+ contextual reading on the international circulation and audiences of photographs of American West taken by Timothy O’Sullivan during the Clarence King Surveys between 1867 and 1872:

Brunet, F., (2012) ‘Showing American Geography Abroad in the Victorian Era: The International Reception of the King Survey Work’, in: Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs, Davis, K. and Aspinwall,J. (ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 185-195

+ for some insights into GDR photography by a GDR/Germany-based curator. Exhibition catalogue of the first survey exhibition of GDR photography in the UK, curated by Matthew Shaul:

Immisch, T. O. (2007), ‘Appearance and Being: GDR Photography of the 1970s and 1980s’, in: Do Not Refreeze: Photography behind the Berlin Wall, exh. cat., Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications, pp. 24-27

+ one history on the subject of energy in the USA and Germany

Radkau, J., (1996), ‘Energy: Genie or Genius? – How steam, electricity and oil heralded global change’, History Today, vol 46; MNTH 11, pp. 14-19

+ photography theory from 1983 for social and economic discourses on images at the example of images (1948-1968) by a commercial photographer in the coal-mining region of Cape Breton:

Sekula, A. (2003) ‘Reading an Archive. Photography between Labour and Capital’, in: The Photography Reader, Wells, L. (ed.), London: Routledge, pp. 443-452

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