Category Archives: Centre for GeoHumanities

Commons, Greens, and the end of a decade

Image of a grassed field, surrounded by green trees. There are two black and white pigs grazing the land. The text "Customary rights, property and contested belongings in English commons and village greens, 1795-1965,' is overlaid.

The last Landscape Surgery session of the decade was opened by Katrina Navickas’s (University of Hertfordshire) presentation : ‘Customary rights, property and contested belongings in English commons and village greens, 1765-1965’. The seminar was a collaboration with Provincialism at Large – a new seminar series co-ordinated by Ruth Livesey (RHUL),  building on the collaboration between the Centre for Victorian Studies and the Centre for the GeoHumanities. Katrina was joined by Ruth and two PhD researchers (RHUL) Saskia Papadakis and Gemma Holgate, whose doctoral research projects are titled  ‘Northerners in London: Englishness, place and mobility’ and ‘Writing Socialist Feminism: Women Activists and the Novel, 1887-1908,’ respectively.

Katrina positions herself firmly as a regionalist, and promotes the study of particular regions in English history.  Today, she is presenting her research on legal geographies of the commons and village greens in England.  The 1965 Commons Registration act was legislation which aimed to survey all common land in England and Wales, however it was flawed and revealed the widespread difficulties of defining a common, its rights and ownership — many of which still exist today. The resulting registers are inaccurate and conflicting. 

Image of a booklet entitled "Common Land: Read this booklet to find out how to preserve your rights and interests."
1965 Commons Registration Act

But, how is common land defined? We were challenged to define these three terms as a group– with varying degrees of success!

  • Common: Private land which is subject to rights of common–  including pasture, turbary (taking peat or turf), estovers (taking wood), piscary (taking fish)..etc. The land could be fenced or open and was usually attached to private property.
  • Waste: Land which belongs to the manor, is uncultivated and while is not subject to rights of common can be used for pasture. 
  • Village Green: Land ‘owned’ by the village parish, which has been allotted for recreation and leisure for the inhabitants of the village.
A slate sign listing byelaws of fees. From 1954 - still erected today it the common today.
A sign listing Coulsdon Common’s byelaws, and list of fees. From 1954 – still erected today it the common today. 

Katrina reminds us of the importance of commons, to working people particularly, throughout history as meeting places; their integrity to political movements; the commons preservation movement; and points to the new shift to ecological concerns. 

Today many are fighting for their commons to prevent housing developments and retaining commons as nature reserves. Katrina also points to the landmark case in November 2019 in the which the Supreme Court ruled the banning  of Extinction Rebellion’s Autumn protest between 14-19 October was unlawful, which reminds us of how important laws on customary rights can be in the present: the right to liberty and protest still need to be protected. 

We would like to thank Katrina Navicka for her engaging presentation, and imagery; Ruth Livesey and Sasha Engelmann for organising this session; Saskia Papadakis and Gemma Holgate for presenting their research; and the other Landscape Surgery participants for their contributions to the discussion.

Written by Rachel Tyler.

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MAKING DIARIES, MAKING ARCHIVES, MAKING BLOGS: ACCOUNTING FOR EVERYDAY LIFE ONLINE AND EXPLORING THE SPACES AND PRACTICES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

On Friday 31st May, the Centre for the GeoHumanities (Royal Holloway, University of London), in collaboration with the Department of Geography at the University of Portsmouth and the Department of Geography at Stockholm University, welcomed a network of scholars from the UK and overseas with a shared interest in methodologies for exploring social media, specifically blogs, vlogs and blog/vlogospheres. The purpose of this interdisciplinary workshop was to bring together scholars in discussions around understanding social media activities and spaces, and the associated opportunities and challenges involved in both their production and their examination.

Jenny Sjöholm (Centre for the GeoHumanities, RHUL) opened the workshop by highlighting a series of questions and debates: Why do women create such spaces of memory? In what ways do these creative spaces matter? How can we understand and approach these spaces? How do women’s pre-digital-era detailed accounts of everyday life – such as travel diaries, pocket diaries and photo albums – compare and contrast with their online equivalents? Are we in need of new tools and perspectives? How can we balance our understanding of the personal elements of such constructions with their professional and commercial aspects?

Following this activity, we were invited to explore the outdoor space of Bedford Square. Under the shade of the trees, scholars were invited to be involved in a ‘speed networking’ event. Here, we had a chance to network with other members of the workshop to find out what everyone else was working on. This networking continued back in Bedford Square over a working lunch. It was really exciting to find parallels and cross-overs between work on emotional ‘care’ work, the fashion industry, travel bloggers, food cultures and Eurovision, all in the context of social media and blogs, which will hopefully open the way for some potential collaborations and cross-overs in the near future!

LS Picture
Image courtesy of Jamie Halliwell, Manchester Metropolitan University

After some much-deserved refreshments, Dr Sally Bayley (University of Oxford) led an interactive mini-workshop based on her recent study of the diary and journal as a form of literary and social self-construction. Her book The Private Life of the Diary from Pepys to Tweets: A history of the diary as an artform (2016) explores diary-making as a form of private and public identity as it is constructed across history. Sally opened the mini-workshop by introducing the group to the diary of Sylvia Plath. The group were invited to attempt to decipher both the words and the meanings of the images on the page. Sally also discussed the ideas of micro-space and the associated geographies of the page in relation to practices and processes of self-recording.

LSpic 2
Image courtesy of Jamie Halliwell, Manchester Metropolitan University

Keeping with this idea of geographies of the page, participants were then invited to think about their own acts of self-recording in relation to the micro-geographies of the page space. Using individual raffle tickets (which together comprised one page of a raffle ticket book or one distinct spatiality), we were asked to think about and draw out a private space we had inhabited that day. Each raffle ticket, therefore, represented both a micro-space of the geographies of the page and of the personal space. Together, in a roundtable discussion, we then discussed our spatial maps. This exercise prompted discussions around both the intimacies and subtle differences of each participant’s account of self-recording.

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Image courtesy of Nina Willment Royal Holloway University of London

Reflecting on these self-recordings, for the final exercise of the day, we were then asked to write a short ‘diary’ entry about these images. Participants were asked to make a conscious choice about the distinctive materiality they used to make this recording (from the phone notes app to the invoice book to the humble notepad itself). In doing so, participants were invited to think about and discuss the constraints and affordances which their distinctive choice of ‘page’ afforded them. This activity led on to some lively discussion around ideas of aesthetisation of the blog as diary online and the blog/diary as public versus private space.

LS pic 4
Image courtesy of Jamie Halliwell, Manchester Metropolitan University

We hope this workshop provided an opportunity to serve as the foundation for establishing a network of scholars working on such issues around social media data, blogs and blogospheres in the GeoHumanities and beyond. With huge thanks to my co-organisers, Jenny Sjöholm (Centre for the GeoHumanities RHUL), Taylor Brydges (Department of Geography, Stockholm University), Carol Ekinsmyth (Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth) and also to the Centre for the GeoHumanities (RHUL) for all of their help and support in making this event a success.

Written by Nina Willment, edited by Alice Reynolds and Jack Lowe

Radical Cities, Radical Narratives

Radical Cities.pngImage Courtesy of Emily Hopkins

Radical Cities, Radical Narratives was an inter-disciplinary conference held by English and the Centre for the GeoHumanities on October 20th 2017.  I was really lucky to be invited onto the Radical Cities, Radical Narratives conference committee alongside Laurie, Serge, Ahmed and Gareth from the RHUL Department of English. The conference wanted to attract academic work that dealt with the themes of both narrative form and practice in relation to the social, material and aesthetic contemporary city.

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The Second Annual Denis Cosgrove Lecture: Dee Heddon

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Photo: Ed Brookes

Walking Aesthetics and Performing Landscape

by Ed Brookes

The second annual Dennis Cosgrove lecture was presented by artist and researcher Dee Heddon. Dee is professor of contemporary performance at the university of Glasgow, and author of several publications including ‘Autobiography and Performance’ (2008) and co-editor of a new book series for Palgrave on ‘performing landscapes’. Her talk entitled ‘Walking Aesthetics and Performing Landscape’ invited us to explore Continue reading

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