Category Archives: Publications

10 days that changed geography

128 Piccadilly, home of the Lyceum Club. Taken from "Wonderful London", edited by St. John Adcock (1927–28).

128 Piccadilly, home of the Lyceum Club. Taken from “Wonderful London”, edited by St. John Adcock (1927–28).

For the last ten years I’ve gradually been piecing together the story of ten days in the history of British geography—between the inauguration (on 13 November 1912) of the Geographical Circle of the women-only Lyceum Club and the balloting of the fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society, on 20 November, on the question of women’s entry. The results of this work, drawing on contemporary press coverage and archival sources, have recently been published in The Professional Geographer as part of a special focus section on “Gender and the Histories of Geography”.

I first became aware of the Geographical Circle during my PhD research on the American geographer Ellen Churchill Semple, whose visit to the Lyceum Club in 1912 coincided with the Circle’s inauguration. Among Semple’s papers I encountered a menu card from the luncheon held by the Circle in her honour. It was, I subsequently discovered, one of the very few surviving material traces of the Circle’s existence. Notwithstanding the fact that the Circle was arguably the leading forum for women travellers and geographers during the Edwardian era, it has remained almost entirely invisible in histories of the disciple. The Circle hasn’t so much been written out of the history of British geography; it’s simply never been written in. My paper (the abstract of which follows) is an attempt to rectify that omission.

“A Royal Geographical Society for ladies”: the Lyceum Club and women’s geographical frontiers in Edwardian London

This article reconstructs the history, organization, and campaigning function of the Geographical Circle of the Lyceum Club—a membership group that, under the leadership of Bessie Pullen-Burry (1858–1937), sought to promote and legitimize women’s geographical work in early twentieth-century Britain. Through an examination of archival material and contemporary press coverage, I document the Geographical Circle’s efforts to establish itself as a professional body for women geographers and to lobby for their admission to the Royal Geographical Society. Although considerable scholarly attention has been paid to women geographers’ individual contributions to the discipline, their cooperative, professionalizing endeavors have been comparatively neglected. In tracing the parallel history of the Circle as an example of women’s self-organization, and of Pullen-Burry as an independent campaigner, I argue that a nuanced account of women’s professionalization in geography demands attention to both individual and collective endeavors.

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


Hot off the press

2015 sees the publication of a number of books written or edited by members of Landscape Surgery. In order of publication these include

Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities

by Gwilym Lucas Eades

(McGill-Queen’s University Press, 264 pages)

Maps and Memes: Redrawing Culture, Place, and Identity in Indigenous Communities

Maps and cartography have long been used in the lands and resources offices of Canada’s indigenous communities in support of land claims and traditional-use studies. Exploring alternative conceptualizations of maps and mapmaking, Maps and Memes theorizes the potentially creative and therapeutic uses of maps for indigenous healing from the legacies of residential schools and colonial dispossession.

Gwilym Eades proposes that maps are vehicles for what he calls “place-memes” – units of cultural knowledge that are transmitted through time and across space. Focusing on Cree, Inuit, and northwest coast communities, the book explores intergenerational aspects of mapping, landscape art practice, and identity. Through decades of living in and working with indigenous communities, Eades has constructed an ethnographically rich account of mapping and spatial practices across Canada. His extended participation in northern life also informs this theoretically grounded account of journeying on the land for commemoration and community healing.

Interweaving narrative accounts of journeys with academic applications for mapping the phenomena of indigenous suicide and suicide clusters, Maps and Memes lays the groundwork for understanding current struggles of indigenous youth to strengthen their identities and foster greater awareness of traditional territory and place.

Urban Subversion and the Creative City

by Oli Mould

(Routledge, 206 pages)

Urban Subversion and the Creative City

This book provides a comprehensive critique of the current Creative City paradigm, with a capital ‘C’, and argues for a creative city with a small ‘c’ via a theoretical exploration of urban subversion.

The book argues that the Creative City (with a capital ‘C’) is a systemic requirement of neoliberal capitalist urban development and part of the wider policy framework of ‘creativity’ that includes the creative industries and the creative class, and also has inequalities and injustices in-built. The book argues that the Creative City does stimulate creativity, but through a reaction to it, not as part of it. Creative City policies speak of having mechanisms to stimulate individual, collective or civic creativity, yet through a theoretical exploration of urban subversion, the book argues that to be ‘truly’ creative is to be radically different from those creative practices that the Creative City caters for. Moreover, the book analyses the role that urban subversion and subcultures have in the contemporary city in challenging the dominant political economic hegemony of urban creativity. Creative activities of people from cities all over the world are discussed and critically analysed to highlight how urban creativity has become co-opted for political and economic goals, but through a radical reconceptualisation of what creativity is that includes urban subversion, we can begin to realise a creative city (with a small ‘c’).

Geographical Aesthetics: Imagining Space, Staging Encounters

edited by Harriet Hawkins and Elizabeth Straughan

(Ashgate, 320 pages)

Geographical Aesthetics: Imagining Space, Staging Encounters

Geographical Aesthetics places the terms ‘aesthetics’ and ‘geography’ under critical question together, responding both to the increasing calls from within geography to develop a ‘geographical aesthetics’, and a resurgence of interdisciplinary interest in conceptual and empirical questions around geoaesthetics, environmental aesthetics, as well as the spatialities of the aesthetic.

Despite taking up an identifiable role within the geographical imagination and sensibilities for centuries, and having what is arguably a key place in the making of the modern discipline, aesthetics remains a relatively under-theorized field within geography. Across 15 chapters Geographical Aesthetics brings together timely commentaries by international, interdisciplinary scholars to rework historical relations between geography and aesthetics, and reconsider how it is we might understand aesthetics. In renewing aesthetics as a site of investigation, but also an analytic object through which we can think about worldly encounters, Geographical Aesthetics presents a reworking of our geographical imaginary of the aesthetic.

Travels into Print: Exploration, Writing, and Publishing with John Murray, 1773–1859

by Innes M. Keighren, Charles W. J. Withers, and Bill Bell

(University of Chicago Press, 392 pages)

Travels into Print: Exploration, Writing, and Publishing with John Murray, 1773–1859

In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, books of travel and exploration were much more than simply the printed experiences of intrepid authors. They were works of both artistry and industry—products of the complex, and often contested, relationships between authors and editors, publishers and printers. These books captivated the reading public and played a vital role in creating new geographical truths. In an age of global wonder and of expanding empires, there was no publisher more renowned for its travel books than the House of John Murray.

Drawing on detailed examination of the John Murray Archive of manuscripts, images, and the firm’s correspondence with its many authors—a list that included such illustrious explorers and scientists as Charles Darwin and Charles Lyell, and literary giants like Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and Sir Walter Scott—Travels into Print considers how journeys of exploration became published accounts and how travelers sought to demonstrate the faithfulness of their written testimony and to secure their personal credibility. This fascinating study in historical geography and book history takes modern readers on a journey into the nature of exploration, the production of authority in published travel narratives, and the creation of geographical authorship—a journey bound together by the unifying force of a world-leading publisher.

London County Council photographs, 1899–1908

A couple of years ago, I went for a walk through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. I don’t mean Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, that home of ‘multifarious trumpery’ which now carries London Overground trains between Wapping and Rotherhithe. The Rotherhithe Tunnel is a bit further east of that. It was built by the London County Council in the 1900s to carry road traffic and it is still a crucial transport link between north and south London.

Rotherhithe Tunnel, London, 2010 (David Rooney)

Rotherhithe Tunnel, London, 2010 (David Rooney)

I can’t easily recommend it as a place for a stroll. The pavements are narrow, the vehicles many, the air fume-laden and the noise infernal. But it’s a fascinating place for historical geographers to explore (though those with asthma should probably go through on Google Street View instead).

The point is this. Edwardian infrastructure projects in London – the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the building of Kingsway, and many more – were accompanied by mass house-building programmes. London itself, and the lives of many Londoners, were dislocated in the upheaval. One response was the making of photographs of the old streets and houses before they were lost forever, and many picture-books have been published depicting this ‘Lost London’.

But I think the photographs can tell some different stories – and I think the stories they can tell are rather important, politically as well as socially and culturally. So I have written about them.

Here’s the abstract:

“In the 1890s, the London County Council began a project to photograph old buildings in the capital. The common interpretation is that this was preservationist activity to record architectural treasures being ‘lost’. However, after 1899, many images appear not to fit neatly into a story of selective preservation. By examining metropolitan improvement schemes and the politics of housing, this article examines alternative contexts in which the images were made. It suggests the photographs acted in political dialogues about geographies of light and air, time and space, and the right place of working Londoners, as well as more mundane concerns over spending.”

If you’d like to read more, see David Rooney, ‘Visualization, decentralization and metropolitan improvement: ‘light-and-air’ and London County Council photographs, 1899–1908’, Urban History, 40, 3 (2013), 462–82. I’d love to know what you think. And if you decide to go for a walk through the Rotherhithe Tunnel, do be careful…

David Rooney (Curator of Time, Navigation and Transport, Science Museum / PhD student, Social and Cultural Geography Research Group, Royal Holloway / @rooneyvision)

Dialogues in Human Geography

Dialogues in Human Geography

Landscape Surgeons Harriet Hawkins and Innes M. Keighren have separately published forums in the current issue of Dialogues in Human Geography, the sister publication to Progress in Human Geography. Dialogues, as its name suggests, provides a forum for disciplinary debate and seeks (to quote from its website) to “stimulate open and critical debate on the philosophical, methodological and pedagogic foundations of geographic thought and praxis”.

Harriet, together with Deborah Dixon and Elizabeth Straughan, leads a forum on the aesthetics of post-human worlds, with responses from Nigel Clark, Arun Saldanha, Lesley Instone, Jamie Lorimer, and Ionat Zurr.

Innes, together with Christian Abrahamsson and Veronica della Dora, leads a forum on canonicity in geography, with responses from Robert J. Mayhew, Charles W. J. Withers, John Agnew, Avril Maddrell, Janice Monk, Phil Hubbard, Richard H. Schein, and Richard C. Powell.

Complex context: Aboriginal participation in hosting the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games

This paper—published recently in Leisure Studies—is a collaboration between Jennifer Silver (University of Guleph), Zoe Meletis (University of Northern British Columbia), and myself. Jennifer’s work deals explicitly with Aboriginal politics, treaty-making, and access to coastal resources in British Columbia, Canada, and Zoe’s work contemplates justice issues related to tourism and coastal development in marginalized areas. My Masters research investigated how Aboriginal people in Vancouver, Whistler, and the surrounds were engaged in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games planning process. As the paper’s abstract explains:

In an effort to build understanding of diverse Indigenous experiences with the Olympics, we explore the relationship between the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the Four Host First Nations Society (FHFN). The research is grounded in theory that stresses the social influence and political nature of material–cultural landscapes. The article also connects important details from two disparate literatures: the politics and imagery of Olympic hosting, and the history and tensions surrounding Aboriginal sovereignty in British Columbia (BC). After discussing our methodological approach and reviewing this literature, we trace the formalisation of the FHFN and consider how protocol agreements guided its relationship with the Vancouver Organizing Committee. Next, we overview programmes that enlisted Aboriginal artists and entrepreneurs, highlighting how prominent additions to the material–cultural landscape were produced and overseen, and have since been discursively framed. The hosting relationship has resulted in benefits for some Aboriginal persons and businesses. However, it has also imprinted the landscape in ways that may (re)legitimise dominant political, economic and cultural objectives and perspectives over time. Thus, we question whether the relationship should be taken as a model for future Indigenous participation in the Olympics and/or as evidence of improved relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in BC.

You can view the paper at Taylor & Francis Online (requires a subscription).

Priya Vadi (Ph.D. candidate)

Musicians on the move

In a new paper, published recently in Mobilites, I reflect on the relationship between mobility and identity. In it, I look at how a group of musicians from Texas produce and reproduce their identities whilst on tour. My analysis is focused on the importance of the road in this process. To quote from the abstract:

This article examines how a group of musicians produce and reproduce their identities whilst on the move. More specifically, it shows how touring (a very specific type of mobility) affects and impacts the musicians’ processes of identity construction. What is it like to be on the road? How do musicians value this experience? What meanings do they confer to their mobility? How does it impact on their identities as musicians? The paper is divided into four parts. First it provides a portrait of what it is like to be on the road with a band in order to inquire into the musicians’ motivations to tour in the second section. Then, there is a significant shift from ethnographic accounts to historical analysis. The third part explores links between the rock culture and mobile sensibilities, from a historical point of view. It concludes with a consideration of the musician as a figure of mobility: someone who depends on mobility to construct himself as such.

You can view the paper at Taylor & Francis Online (requires a subscription).

André Nóvoa (Ph.D. candidate)

The Passage to Cosmos

Alexander von Humboldt

In June the Historical Geography Reading Group discussed Laura Dassow Walls’s 2009 The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America (University of Chicago Press). One Group member, Innes M. Keighren, has recently contributed to a roundtable discussion of the book for the H-Environment discussion network (part of the H-Net organisation). Other contributors to the discussion include Felipe Fernández-Armesto (University of Notre Dame) and Michael F. Robinson (University of Hartford). The roundtable is available for download.


Tim Cresswell discusses his forthcoming book, Geographic thought: a critical introduction.


I have not written much on this blog for a while. I have been belatedly finishing a book on Geographic Thought I have been writing for about five years. It is delivered! It has been an irritant at times but mostly a labour of love. Just to wet your appetite I attach the first few pages of the final draft…

Introduction (extract), Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction (Blackwell, 2013)

If the scientific investigation of any subject be the proper avocation of the philosopher, Geography, the science of which we propose to treat, is certainly entitled to a high place…

(Strabo 1912 [AD 7-18]: 1)

Geography is a profound discipline. To some this statement might seem oxymoronic. Profound geography seems as likely as ‘military intelligence’. Geography is often the butt of jokes in the United Kingdom. A school friend of mine who was about the start a degree in…

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