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.
Jeremy Brown, MAPS AND THE ITALIAN GRAND TOUR
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).
Keith Alcorn, THE EMPIRE IN THE GARDEN
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.
Jonathan Moses, THE POLITICS OF ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN IN THE BRITISH PUBLIC HOUSE, 1979 – PRESENT
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.
Hattie Coppard, STAYING WITH THE IN-BETWEEN: WHAT INSIGHTS DO ARTIST’S METHODS OF INQUIRY BRING TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF PLAY IN PUBLIC SETTINGS?
I 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.
Patrizia Casadei, FASHION CITY: EXPLORING NEW DYNAMICS, NETWORKS, STRUCTURES AND PERCEPTIONS
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.