On Tuesday, Landscape Surgery saw the first round of Year 1 surgeons presenting on their research:
Before starting my PhD, I completed the Local Government Association’s graduate scheme, the NGDP, which consisted of four placements in a host local authority. Prior to this, I worked in Westminster as a researcher for Members of Parliament. In terms of my academic background, I hold a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from SOAS, University of London and an MPhil in International Relations and Politics from the University of Cambridge. I have also completed a Diploma in Leadership and Management. My current PhD title is “‘Wild things in wild places’: British cultures of extreme exploration, 1851–1913.” My project, funded by the TECHNE DTP, focuses on British exploration cultures in the 19th and early 20th centuries and their relationship to questions of authority, bodies, science, culture, and identity. I am interested in understanding travel as a process of re-embodiment and in the bodily experience of travel to the variously intangible, inhospitable, and inaccessible environments of ice, mountains, and deserts. I am supervised by Innes M. Keighren and Klaus Dodds. Outside of academia, my hobbies include cooking, jam making, and cycling.
Before joining the Royal Holloway family I studied at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2013 with a BA in human geography. With a brief interlude for various jobs and travel excursions it wasn’t until 2015 when I returned to academia, enrolling in the MA Cultural Geography course at Royal Holloway. It was during this time, and with great help from the Geography Department, that I managed to secure a PhD with funding by the ESRC. The PhD (supervised by Dr. Oli Mould and Prof. David Gilbert) is titled ‘Excavating the contemporary urban geographies of Robin Hood Gardens, London’. It aims to explore the social and cultural urban geographies of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London. It will specifically focus on how the present-day site, and its on-going political contestation, is continually ‘produced’ by historical and layered assemblages of materiality, culture and urban politics. In terms of my wider research foci I am particularly interested in the geographies of home, geographies of architecture and concepts of liminality. With a particular fascination with how individuals create and navigate the spaces in which they live as well as how intimate and ‘everyday’ architectural spaces are linked to a wider urban politics. Looking beyond my academic interests, I fill my time with manufacturing unhealthy baked goods and consuming large amounts of dystopian science fiction.
A paper world: the collection & investigation of plant materials for paper making.
Paper is a resource that is all around us. Used for communication, packaging, display, commerce and art, it is arguably the bedrock of civilisation. With a global and ancient history that could span a multiple volume publication, this project will look at a particular period of innovation – in the middle of the nineteenth century – when inventors, botanists and industrialists were driven to find an answer to the shortages they were facing. Limited in production due to a reliance on linen and cotton rags as the base material for paper, growing empire, bureaucracies and industry dictated that demand outstripped supply. Inventors turned to nature as inspiration, and building on the works of experiment in the eighteenth century they looked to new plant fibres to provide the mass of entwined cellulose that paper is made from. Sitting at the intersections of historical geography, history of design, and the history of science and technology, this thesis aims to unite both the cultural and economic factors that shape the history of paper in the nineteenth century. This project will take an expressly material approach, using objects as its base for exploration. The heart of the project therefore is the unrivalled paper collections of the Economic Botany Collection at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. These objects will be the engine for further discoveries raising wider questions concerning the formation of knowledge about raw materials, technologies and commodities.
Tat-In (Dennis) Tam
I am a PhD student in human geography. Prior to being a member of Royal Holloway, I worked as a high school geography teacher and served in the local geography society of Macau. I was responsible for geography education affairs and the International Geographic Olympiad for many years. I obtained my bachelor and master degree in Taiwan and Mainland China respectively. My research is focusing on the flows of migration among Macau and its neighbouring regions both on intra-national and international scale. My PhD is titled ‘The Identity, Social Space and Mobility of Ethnic Minorities in Macau’. Within my research, I attempt to uncover the social integration process, the driving factors and the possible influences of the migration which occurs within Macau from Southeast Asian ethnic minority groups within the last two decades. My research will mainly be supervised by Professor Katie Willis. As a geographer, I love visiting different places. To me, I feel the most interesting way to discover a city is by encountering the city’s social context under the connection with local community in an unintentional way such as by wandering in the city’s streets and lanes.
The project is entitled ‘Collecting Leviathan: curiosity, exchange and the Southern Whale Fleet (1775-1860)’ and is supervised by Professor Felix Driver and is funded by AHRC TECHNE. The project will investigate the collecting of Pacific material culture on whaling voyages associated with the Southern Whale Fishery during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It also considers the circulation of artefacts through networks emanating from the docksides of British ports, through auction houses, curiosity shops, gentlemen’s clubs, private collections and ultimately into the ethnographic collections of major museums. The Pacific fleet was active between 1775-1860 and for part of this period was the largest whaling fleet in the world outstripping even that of the North-East Coast of America. Whaling logs, private journals, correspondence and museum collections indicate that during these island layovers, whalers interacted in various ways with local inhabitants, acquiring indigenous artefacts and other objects retained for personal interest or later sale as ‘curiosities’.On returning home, the sailors sold their curios to interested buyers. The docksides of London and other major ports became cultural contact zones due not only to the mixing of ethnically diverse ship’s crews, but also because of this trade in exotic material culture. These artefacts then moved in myriad ways – for example through informal exchange, commercial networks, family inheritance or formal donation – into personal and public museum collections. By analyzing these moments of exchange and encounter through whaling logs, journals, auction house records and public and private correspondence I propose to build an understanding of the networks of exchange spreading out from the London dockside and thereby to enhance our knowledge and understanding of early British collecting practices and the making of ethnographic collections.
I previously studied BSc & MSc (Research) in herbal medicine at the University of Westminster. I have been writing & editing popular books on herbal remedies and teaching workshops on plant identification, folklore and remedy making. I love being outside and see the hedgerows as libraries of knowledge, there is so much to know, see, taste and do with plants and I love to share that with people. I currently live on and off a narrowboat where I take foraging trips and workshops throughout the summer.My interest in plants and plant history led me to work with the Economic Botany Collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew where my previous research (for MSc dissertation) looked into the development of Eucalyptus as a medicine in the 19th Century. I am now be undertaking my PhD project on another medicinal part of the collection. The Title of my PHD is ‘Biocultural collections and networks of knowledge exchange in the 19th century: the quest for quinine’. Based on the large cinchona collections within the Economic Botany Collection at Kew, this collections based research will trace the networks of exchange, circulation of specimens and key players in this story, shedding light upon the development of this important anti-malarial. A collaboration with Royal Holloway,. I am supervised by Felix Driver (RHUL) and Mark Nesbitt (RBG, Kew).
Shared Sacred Space in the Byzantine Mediterranean. Byzantium and the Latin West.
Hi I’m Nina. Before completing my PhD, I completed the BA Geography and MA Cultural Geography courses at Royal Holloway. The current title of my PhD is ‘Geographies of the creative workplace: the case of British travel bloggers’ and I am supervised by Philip Crang and David Gilbert. My research seeks to advance understanding of contemporary work cultures within the creative economy through an empirical case study of British travel bloggers. My project’s primary interest is in the working lives and workplaces of these travel bloggers but it will also aim to contribute to research literature on the wider politics and economics of creative labour and the geographies of travel writing. As a result, my research will pay particular attention to: travel blogger’s constructions of their creative careers; the aesthetic, affective, curatorial and aspirational components of their work; and their varied workspaces. It also aims investigate how travel bloggers’ navigate the insecure political economy of their industry. I’m the events manager for the Royal Geographical Society Postgraduate Forum and venues manager for Passengerfilms. Outside of my PhD, my favourite thing to do is to travel the world. I also enjoy upcycling furniture, drinking wine and anything to do with dachshunds.
On Tuesday 6th Feb, Bedford Square was transformed into a space of lively discussion for the first in the series of the Work/Now workshops, entitled WORK/NOW: a workshop on labour and life. Organised by Katy Lawn and I, this first workshop focused on key debates and issues on studies of work and the workplace. Open to scholars of all disciplines, the event sought to encourage creative ideas, discussions and interventions around questions of: How does work use elements of life itself in its logics? How do we work now? Where do we work now? And, what does it mean to work, now?
This week’s Landscape Surgery was convened by Saskia Papadakis (RHUL) and Jeremy Brown (RHUL in conjunction with the British Library) and was entitled Englishness, Nationalism, Brexit. The session focused on historical and contemporary understandings of ‘Englishness’ and how nationalism continues to influence British politics.
Prior to the session, surgeons were invited to read Michèle Cohen’s paper (2001) ‘The Grand Tour. Language, National Identity and Masculinity’. Jeremy began by explaining how the paper explores changing attitudes to concepts of ‘Englishness’ and masculinity in relation to the notions of the Grand Tour in the 18th Century. Surgeons were then also invited to consider Satnam Virdee and Brendan McGeever’s paper (2017), ‘Racism, Crisis, Brexit’. Summarised by Saskia who highlights how the paper positions racism within England at the centre of debates around what may have led Brexit in the UK. Surgeons were then asking to note down three key words which we felt highlighted the relationship between the texts. A selection of these words are present within the word-cloud below:
Following this, we broke off into smaller groups and were asked to consider the following pairs of questions and to feedback our thoughts and ideas to the wider group as a whole:
Firstly, Group 1 were asked to consider the idea of ‘is the nation-state a useful category of analysis/unit of space?’. Group 1 began with the provocation of can you afford to vacate the nation state? If you do vacate the nation-state, then do you leave it as a political weapon? This led to a consideration of questions around issues of strategic nationalism and the idea of the potential of the nation-state as a bottom up power. Group 1 also raised the idea of the limitations of the nation state as a unit of analysis being linked to the idea of the nation state being a bounded space that we want to imagine as sealed. This lead to subsequent discussion of the idea of the EU as trying to complicate the unitary nature of the nation state. Following this, the group introduced the idea of the known territory and ideas of the city state juxtaposed against the imagined community of the nation state to examine how the nation state may be limited as a category of analysis by the fact that is constantly either too big or too small. The discussion concluded on the evocative nature of the nation-state and the conclusion that the state-of-feeling surrounding the nation-state contributes to the problems of using the nation state as a useful category of analysis or unit of space.
Group 1 were then asked the question ‘what does ‘Britishness’ mean to them?‘. Discussion was ignited by dialogue describing how when this question has been asked previously, answers had usually involved stereotypes and consumption based activities. This raised additional questions surrounding the idea of ‘Britishness’ as a shared cultural way of life or ‘Britishness’ as an aesthetic. It was also noted how many responses to this question are intertwined with personal biographies such as personal migration histories.
Group 2 explored the question ‘can a national identity be constructed without an imagined outsider’. Group 2 deconstructed this question by asking what is truly meant by an outsider. They also considered what would happen if the question asked of an imagined other instead of outsider. The group then moved on to discuss issues such as if national identity is constructed or performed and if this performance of national identity can ultimately be disentangled from geographical imaginations.
Group 2 were then to asked ‘Does the UK still serve a purpose‘. Following this, Group 2 noted how they felt that the answer to this question was dependant on what the group took the word ‘purpose’ to mean. Discussion then turned to potential imaginative future of the UK in a world of degrowth and ideas around the concept of the UK and territorial containers. Group 2 concluded on dialogue surrounding imaginary alternative futures such as giant bureaucracy and how these may effect embedded in ways of thinking about the world.
Finally, Group 3 had to explore ‘when did Englishness/Britishness first begin’. In response to this question, discussion was ignited surrounding when the Act of Union was officially enacted, the historical background of the concept and the different incursions of the term throughout history. Group 3 then highlighted how this question is usually addressed by historians or politicians retrospectively.
Discussion from this session ended with Group 3 contemplating the question of ‘is it possible to imagine a positive future post-Brexit’. Deliberation on the idea of a positive future post-Brexit was hard-pressed but amounted to ideas of damage limitation and the potential of the UK nation-state to move away from some of the EU’s neoliberal, bureaucratic problems. However, discussion ended on the point that the UK would be hard-pressed to change any of these problems following Brexit.
This commentary spurred a whole group conversation around how the lived experience of Europe, evidenced within Grand Tour narratives, has been enacted within contemporary Europe and how this may change in light of Brexit. Practices that cultivate Europe as a space such as the expat community and cross-European exchange schemes were used as evidence for this.
The session concluded on us all personally reflecting on how the issues discussed within the session may directly impact our research. We were challenged to summarise this in just 7 words! The 7 word sentences generated were extremely varied but highlighted the potential impact and influence the session had on surgeon’s research. We would like to thank Saskia and Jeremy for such a wonderful session.
On 5 February, the MA Cultural Geography (Research) students were introduced to the holdings of the RGS-IBG. Following a series of talks from current (and recent) CDA researchers, the students spent time investigating the journals and logbooks of Foley Vereker. In what follows, the students offer their reflections on their experience.
On Tuesday this week, Landscape Surgery were fortunate enough to host Tania Rossetto (University of Padua, Itlay), Luciana Martins (Birbeck University) and Emily Hayes (Oxford Brookes). The three led a panel session on the materialities of geographical representations, with a specific focus on their ongoing research on maps, films, photography, drawing, and lantern slides, and broader methodological issues.
The session began with Luciana discussing her work on Guido Boggiani and the Caduveo body painting. Luciana described how she works through the visual archive of expeditionary travel and the distinct forms of visual culture implicit within European travels in South America (1850-1950). She aims to bring exploration photography and film into dialogue with expeditionary drawing. She also describes how she seeks to explore the embodied experience of image making in expedition and the ‘dialogical aspect’ of image making which occurs through cross-cultural interaction in the field and the editing and re-editing of these images through new contexts of storage and display. Luciana began by describing her first encounter with the Caduveo images in an exhibition of images, drawings and postcards of the Caduveo at the Museu Historico de Pantanal Corumba.
Luciana then traced the process of transformation of Caduveo body painting into the ethnographic and material work of Guido Boggiani. Boggiani drew many sketches of the Caduveo and their body paint. Following Boggiani’s death, German ethnologist Robert Lehmann-Nitsche published Boggiani’s photographs in a postcard series. Lehmann-Nitche however believed he needed to adjust and calibrate these images in order for these postcards to fufil their role in the circuit of the visual economy of ethnographic types. Luciana used these postcards to begin her discussion into how the body painting of the Caduveo has been re-embodied and re-materialised as it moved from skin to paper to tiles, ceramics and fashion.
Next, Emily began her presentation by distributing a variety of lantern slides, asking us to engage with them and ask questions of our interactions with the medium; how they looked, how they felt, what we thought of them. This opened up her discussion of the role of lantern slides in the history and development of the RGS and the geographies of geography. Through a focus on the lantern slide, Emily discussed the implication of material objects in shaping both the RGS and the wider body of geography. Emily discussed how during the 19th century, lantern slides were used to both educate and entertain. As a result, Emily explained that the medium transformed who the geographer was and could be, through the presence of the lantern slide in scientific, mixed audience and children’s lantern slide lecture series at the RGS. These lectures shaped and diversified the demographic studying geography and lantern slides were often the centrepiece of these discussions.
Emily then went on to highlight how lantern slides afforded experiences of wonder and virtual travel to increasingly wide audiences within the RGS and beyond and therefore the implication of lantern slides in the reconfiguring of time and space. Emily concluded with a discussion of her work in re-mediating the lantern slide within the digital world through her cataloguing, photographing and image editing of 1000 lantern slides from the RGS-IBG collections to LUCERNA ((https://www.slides.uni-trier.de).
Finally, Tania introduced us to her research which applies the ‘pragmatic speculative realism’ proposed by Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology to the realm of cartography. She explained how her work is inspired by an object-orientated philosophy to propose an ontography of maps. Tania highlighted how this object-orientated approach can contribute to map studies but also how an object-orientated cartographic theorization can contribute to ideas of speculative realism. In passing around map-like objects, Tania asked us to consider how the explosion of geovisual devices and practices is profoundly changing the profile of cartography within society and has meant that cartography has somehow receded into the background. Tania therefore proposed that a more explicit object-orientated approach to maps should be adopted as emergent cartography remains concentrated on human knowledge, action and use. Map theory has therefore not yet attempted to put cartographic objects in the foreground and therefore Tania described how her object orientated approach can allow the anonymous lives and various spatialities of cartographic objects to be made visible. Tania also discussed her use of photographic and visual methods, which she feels allow the map to give back its experience of being touched.
The subsequent discussion session ranged from questions of the ‘cragginess’ of material culture vs the ‘repulsiveness’ of digital culture, the uses and limitations of digital methods, the role of geographers as peddlers of illusion, the responsibility of digital restoration and the role of the interface in object materialities. We would like to thank Luciana, Tania and Emily for leading such a lively and well received session. We wish them all the best with their ongoing research and hope to welcome them back to a Landscape Surgery session in the near future!
edit: We would very much like to thank Emily Hayes for clarifying her work with the cataloguing and image editing of lantern slides. The blog had previously incorrectly stated that Emily’s work involved the ‘uploading of
some of the 20,000 lantern slides owned by the RGS to LUCERNA: the
Magic Lantern Web resource platform.’ In fact, Emily work involves the ‘cataloguing, photographing and image editing of 1000 lantern slides from the RGS-IBG collections to LUCERNA
(https://www.slides.uni-trier.de)’. The society estimates that there are approximately 20,000 slides in the society’s holdings overall and other individuals were involved in the actual uploading of the images. We would like to thank Emily for clarifying this and for bringing this mistake to our attention. We would also like to apologise for any inconvenience this error caused.
Geography: “a discipline that may not be ready to, or even capable of, responding to the challenge of decolonisation,” (Esson et al., 2017: 384).
Huw Rowlands (AHRC PhD, RHUL Geography) and Joy Slappnig (CDA PhD, RHUL Geography in collaboration with the RGS-IBG) expertly led Landscape Surgery this week, in a “Contemporary Debates in Human Geography” session concerning “decolonizing geographical knowledges” – a topic that not only formed the locus of important discussions at the recent RGS-IBG conference, but also inspired a forum in Transactions. Together we sought to ultimately explore and unpack the question: decolonising geographical knowledge or reproducing coloniality? To begin exploration of this challenging but salient topic, Huw and Joy posed three key reflective questions:
-What is geographical knowledge? How is it perpetuated? Why should we address it?
After a few moments of personal reflection, we were asked to document our initial reactions to these questions on post-it-notes, which we then used to populate flip-charts posting these questions around the room.
LS meets on Tuesdays in BSQ, room 1-03, 2-4pm
10 Oct Catch-up session
24 Oct Caves: Flora Parrot and Rachel Squire
7 Nov Contemporary debates in human geography
21 Nov Author-meets-critics without author
5 Dec Spiritual Flavours: Screening of Laura Cuch’s documentary
Due to space constraints, participation is restricted to SCHG members and invited guests only
For our final meeting of the academic year, the Surgeons were treated to a snapshot of what our first year PhDs have been up to. Below are the abstracts for the sessions presented.
Adam Badger, Space, Freedom and Control in the Digital workplace
This interdisciplinary PhD works across the schools of Geography and Management to understand the ways in which the use (and implementation) of digital technologies at work are transforming the identities and lives of those engaging with them. By utilising the relational ontology of ‘digital sociomateriality’ in conjunction with growing discourses of ‘workplace geographies’ this study seeks to explore how labour is continuously emergent through the interrelations of workplace and practice in contemporary employment. Primary analytical focus is (at present) geared toward developing understandings of how new digital work geographies are impacting; workplace surveillance, display, and (de-)territorialisation and will do so utilising research gathered from at least three linked case-studies. In this talk I will look to introduce the relevant debates currently present in the field and frame their relationship to possible case-studies.
Katy Lawn, Working through Boredom: Creatively Approaching Questions of Workplace Emotion
This paper will set out a proposed approach to a study of boredom as it relates to questions around the experience of work. As a key register of lived experience in contemporary society (Mann, forthcoming), boredom is often said to have arisen in tandem with modernity and the industrial process (Moran 2003). But, if boredom is so closely intertwined with the production process historically, what of boredom in our ‘post-bureaucratic’ era?
In considering questions around work (which are more usually framed in economic terms) the aim is to take a cultural-geographical approach to look at how work is experienced. I will set out the proposed structure of the research project, which is composed of two halves. The first half will deal with a set of case studies which demonstrate the ways in which artists and cultural practitioners have tackled the theme of workplace boredom through fine art, socially engaged art, poetry and photography. The second half will involve using creative methods such as photo elicitation and epiphany object interviews to produce a set of richly textured case studies which address participants’ working lifeworlds. This two-part structure fits in tandem with a wider concern with firstly: cultural approaches to studies of work and the workplace, and secondly: workplaces and work practices as emotional or “affective soups” (Thrift 2008:244).
Huw Rowlands, The Unbearable Rightness of Seeing
My working title is “Historical and contemporary performance of cross-cultural encounters: temporal and spatial dynamics”. My main interest is in ‘first-contact encounters’, what they are, why they are chosen for particular attention, and how performance analysis might help us understand their repetitions. So the key phrase in my first few months’ reading and thinking has been ‘first-contact encounters’. I have problems with each of these words; and I’m not even sure about the hyphen. I was drawn to this during research for my MA dissertation, through learning about how one story has been told over the years. Marine Lieutenant William Dawes sailed with the First Fleet, sent to establish a convict colony in New South Wales. The tellings in which he appears usually focus on his relationship with Indigenous Australian Patyegarang, from whom he learned most about the local language spoken at the time. Subsequently, I have chosen to focus on Cook’s first Pacific voyage in my search for PhD case studies. I will draw on these two contexts to explore some of the problems with ‘first-contact encounters’, as I work towards my first annual review over the next few weeks.
Joy Slappnig, The Indigenous Map: Native Information, Ethnographic Object, Artefact of Encounter
Assessing Indigenous contribution to colonial collections, such as the map collection at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), poses challenges of approach and methodology. Western collecting and cataloguing conventions have traditionally obscured Indigenous presence in the archive, and the small number of maps that have been categorised as ‘native’ often show more hybridity than might be assumed (having been co-produced by Europeans and Indigenous people during the process of colonial expansion, for example). Relational approaches to material culture, especially the study of ethnographic museum collections over the last decade, suggests new ways of conceptualising these maps. Rather than approaching them as images (as they have traditionally been analysed), studying these maps as objects can help to disentangle colonial relationships between Indigenous peoples and the British, and it can provide new insights into the role colonial collections such as the RGS play in defining the ‘Indigenous’.
Many thanks to our four speakers; and the Landscape Surgery cohort for their invaluable feedback, comments and enthusiasm. Wishing everybody a happy and productive summer 2017!