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A visit to the Nantucket Whaling Museum (Part 1 of 2)

Guest post written by Rachael Utting, a PhD student in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, whose project is entitled ‘Collecting Leviathan: curiosity, exchange and the British Southern Whale Fishery (1775-1860)’.

During my month-long stay in America on a research visit looking at British whaling log books and journals in American collections, I was lucky enough to spend a week on Nantucket Island. This former whaling colony is an hour by ferry from Cape Cod and nowadays is a very exclusive holiday destination.  I was housed by the Nantucket Historical Association at Thomas Macy House, 99 Main Street, used by the NHA as accommodation for staff and visiting researchers (this offsets the astronomical price of hotel accommodation on the islands which would be prohibitive for most visiting researchers!). Dating from the 1700s, this former whaling captain’s house is complete with artefacts and paintings belonging to previous owners and functions as a ‘living museum’. This means that tours visit on weekdays and house residents have to scurry away and hide, and you can’t put anything on the furniture.

The NHA, founded in 1894, manages five historic buildings on Nantucket Island including the Whaling Museum. This was established in 1930 on the site of the Hadwen & Barney Oil & Candle Factory built in 1847, and was based on the whaling collections of local congregational minister Edward F. Sanderson. The museum opened in its current extended guise in 2005 with eleven exhibition spaces dedicated to Nantucket history, scrimshaw and whaling, with a central exhibition hall housing a 46ft sperm whale skeleton from a stranding on Nantucket in 1996, and a huge sperm whale jaw bone collected in the Pacific in 1865.

The 18ft jaw (from an enormous 80ft bull whale) was so impressive that showman BT Barnum tried to purchase it. The visit to the museum was extremely relevant for my work on the collecting activities of whalers because the museum has a permanent exhibition showcasing the many ‘curios’ that American whalers brought home during the nineteenth century. These were donated to the Nantucket Atheneum, an institution incorporating a private library, museum and philosophical society founded in 1834. Such was the diversity of the museum collection, a visitor in 1843 stated, “I can not [sic] stop to a enumerate even a specimen of the almost infamy of curiosities, natural and artificial here deposited by the whalers.”

The Atheneum museum collections were largely destroyed in a fire in 1846. When the remaining artefacts outgrew their home, they were donated to the newly formed Nantucket Historical Association in 1905. What this collection (roughly 400 artefacts; see examples below) demonstrates is that American whalers were collecting widely. As whaling ships of this era had international crews, with many Americans manning British Southern Whale Fishery vessels, there is nothing to suggest their British crewmates were not following suit. If this is true, and British South Seas whalers were collecting, donating and selling their collections and, as I believe, were a significant acquisition source of island material culture (particularly from the Pacific Islands), then this is not reflected within British museum displays. Despite having a significant whaling economy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Britain has no dedicated whaling museums and whalers have been largely ignored as a collecting phenomenon. The Nantucket Whaling Museum exhibition proves that they were perfectly placed to collect and that there was a flourishing market for their souvenirs. This included the Atheneum, private Island collectors and also mercantile ventures such as Mrs Polly Burnell’s shell shop, run from her Nantucket home from 1831-1854.

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Advert for Polly Burnell’s shell shop, The Inquirer and Mirror, 8/4/1854.

My weekdays were spent visiting the NHA Research Library attached to the Island’s Quaker church. I read five logbooks and one journal during the week, scouring them for evidence of collecting. These were all vessels belonging to the British Southern Whale Fishery and registered in Britain, several of them with Nantucket captains, which would explain how they ended up in the Island archive. Within these fascinating documents I encountered hostage situations between crew and Islanders, the gruesome massacre of 10 crewmen at the Marquesas Islands, a meeting with John Adams (Bounty mutineer) at Pitcairn, evidence of beachcombers on the Galápagos Islands and an apprentice boy who tried to kill himself twice by throwing himself overboard. Most relevant for my work was the journal of Dr Eldred Fysh, surgeon on-board the Coronet 1837-1839. Fysh documented his interactions with the Islanders across Indonesia purchasing shells, tools and live birds. The crew collected weaponry in New Ireland and also animals. What happened to Fysh’s acquisitions is a mystery; he returned to his native Norfolk and died in 1849, aged just 37.

My investigations are ongoing!

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Drawing from the Journal of Dr Eldred Fysh on-board the Whaling ship Coronet 1837-1839.
© Nantucket Historical Association.

Written by Rachael Utting, edited by Jack Lowe.

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INTRODUCING THE MA CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY STUDENTS 2018/19

Emma Christian

After completing my undergraduate BSc degree in Geography at Royal Holloway, I decided to continue studying and specialise in cultural geography by doing the MA in Cultural Geography. I did my undergraduate dissertation on Jazz heritage in Paris as I am very interested in how art movements can shape a place in time and space. My aim is to have an academic role in order to attempt promoting the use of art in education. I also want to use form of art–such as graphic design, documentaries, and music–in order to create several atmospheres to which people can associate, and therefore become more sensible to the subjects. I believe art is the way to raise awareness about socio-political and environmental world issues in a way that touches on people’s emotions. In my opinion, action is more likely to happen is people are more emotionally impacted.

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Ellie Cooper

I completed my undergraduate BSc degree in Geography at Royal Holloway last year and I have started the MA in Cultural Geography this year. My undergraduate dissertation examined the importance of maps in contemporary society, looking specifically at the role of technological and cultural influences, including the growth of map-art and artistic interpretations of place. My main interests are concentrated around artful geographies, aerography and the importance of creative methods within activism.

Ollie Devereux

I’m studying for an MA in Cultural Geography, following the completion of my undergraduate degree in Geography at Keele. Previously I have studied: the relationship between bridges and our conception of home, the works of Peter Lanyon linked to spatial theory, aerography and the Anthropocene, and the multiplicity of Cornish nationalism. I want to combine my recent experiences of working at Tate St Ives with my geographical interests, which drew me to this MA. I am also looking to study the cultural and spatial affect of newly built bridges, likely using the Russian built Kerch Strait bridge as a primary case study.

Rhys Gazeres de Baradieux

I am a skateboarder of 11 years and (sometimes) a guitarist of 3 or 4 years. In terms of research, I am interested mostly in critical urban geographies, specifically neoliberal forms of governance in the city. My undergraduate dissertation explored the exclusion of skateboarding from St. Paul’s Cathedral Churchyard (formerly a well-recognised skate-spot within the community) that inevitably resulted from re-developments at the site during the summer of 2017. I was led to the MA in Cultural Geography due to my interest in applying for a PhD that will interrogate skateboarding’s debut inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, an event that will undoubtably (and already has!) led to the increasing structurisation of what originated as a creative, counter-cultural urban sport. During the MA course, I hope widen my interest somewhat to explore themes such as smart cities governance and development and dystopic representations of post-capitalist cities in manga and anime.

Matthew Philips

After my undergraduate degree in Human Geography at RHUL, I knew continuing with studies was something I wanted to do. So, I’m currently studying on the MA in Cultural Geography course. The dissertation from my bachelor’s-degree was focussed on identity, atmospheres, mobility, and affect in the Cyprus Buffer Zone; assessing how racism manifests in Nicosia, especially between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots. One reason for continuing my studies is to explore the usefulness of new methods in research, such as documentary filmmaking as a way of generating research and disseminating it, especially as I have a background in photography. Using these methods, I’m looking to research areas around local identities and nationalism for my MA dissertation.

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Megan Zerilli

I completed my undergraduate BSc degree in Geography at the University of St Andrews, where I partnered with Fife Women’s Aid during my dissertation to explore domestic abuse and refuge provision. In undertaking the MA in Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway, I’m continuing my focus on feminist geographies, interpersonal violence, and participatory research methods with the aim to research the perceptions of safety in the urban environment.

Racisms in Higher Education: Why is my research group so white?

Our second landscape surgery of this year was convened by Saskia Papadakis, a PhD student in the Geography department at Royal Holloway, with research interests in nationality, culture and identity; the English North-South divide; and transregional migration within England. We were delighted to be joined by three guest speakers: Dom Jackson-Cole, Chantelle Lewis and Tissot Regis. The session focused on the absence of people of colour at postgraduate level and beyond in UK higher education (HE). Given the number of students of colour at undergraduate level in the UK, why are the academic staff and PhD students our speakers work with almost all white? Our speakers discussed the ways in which universities exclude and profit from postgraduate students of colour, how it feels to be a racialised outsider in HE, and why histories and realities of racism are relevant to everyone, not just students of colour.

Recording Surviving Society Podcast

Saskia, Tissot, Chantelle and Dom recording Landscape Surgery for their ‘Surviving Society’ podcast. Photography by Alice Reynolds

Our first speaker of the session, Dom Jackson-Cole, has worked in the higher education (HE) sector for over ten years, and is an Equality and Diversity Advisor at SOAS University of London. He is currently completing his PhD at the University of East London, where he is exploring issues of racism in postgraduate education in England. Dom spoke about the endemic presence of racism within HE, in which people of colour directly and indirectly experience abhorrent systematic and institutional barriers in their postgraduate educations.

Dom introduced Gillborn’s Critical Race Theory (CRT), an approach which offers a radical lens through which to make sense of, deconstruct and challenge racial inequality in society (Rollock and Gillborn, 2011), a theory which has grown to become one of the most important perspectives on racism in education internationally. As a body of scholarship immersed in radical activism, CRT seeks to explore and challenge the pervasiveness of racial inequality in society, whilst based on the understanding that race and racism are the product of social thought and power relations (Rollock and Gillborn, 2011).

Our second speaker, Chantelle Lewis, is an activist, sociologist, podcaster and PhD researcher at Goldsmiths. Chantelle also works with the charity Leading Routes, a network of black students and academics, and is the Programme Director of Black in Academia, which aims to further the conversation about the representation and experiences of black students and staff in universities within the UK. With her research on mixed-race families in a mostly white town in the West Midlands, Chantelle wants to challenge common-sense understandings of race, class and gender. Chantelle spoke about the challenges she had faced within HE, discussing difficulties in navigating spaces as a working-class black woman, where she has “been at the hurdles of the meritocracy of whiteness”.

Our third speaker of the session, Tissot Regis, is a sociologist and PhD researcher at Goldsmiths, researching white anxieties in East London in a post-Brexit environment. Outside of academia, Tissot works with the charity ReachOut, a mentoring charity working with young people in disadvantaged communities to raise aspirations and help them grow in character and attainment, and is also a speaker for the Stephen Lawrence foundation. Echoing Chantelle, Tissot spoke about feeling uncomfortable in academic situations due to being a person of colour. Tissot discussed his irritation at the notion of separateness in society: “we need to get away from this idea of seperateness in our approach to education and the syllabus… Black history month – why is it separate? It’s your history too”.

In presenting some shocking statistics, Chantelle highlighted academia’s inability to understand the relationship between race and class, frequently resulting in universities putting their guard up and saying “it’s not my issue”. One poignant statistic recognised that in 2016-17 there were only 25 black women and 90 black men among 19,000 professors in the UK (Advance HE, in Adams, 2018). Begging the question, why is it that the number of black and minority ethic (BME) students dramatically decreases in postgraduate education? This is thought-provoking given that as a society we seem to be moving closer to equality in undergraduate education, but we still have a long way to go to ensure equality within postgraduate education and beyond. Chantelle expressed feeling optimistic about how BME students and academics are proactively talking about empowering the future. However, she feels less optimistic about the outlook of HE institutions themselves and the government’s role in enabling equality.

Saskia, Chantelle and Tissot run a political podcast from a sociological perspective called ‘Surviving Society’. Being fed-up with mainstream conversations taking place around politics and current affairs, through public sociology they aim to challenge common-sense understandings of race, class and gender and aim to show how entrenched inequalities shape both political conversations and individual experiences. Their episodes are accessible, entertaining and free to download, and are available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Spotify. This week’s Landscape Surgery was recorded for one of Surviving Society’s podcasts, and is available to listen to here.

We would like to extend our thanks to Saskia, Chantelle, Dom and Tissot for a thoroughly thought-provoking session, and for their continued work in promoting people of all colours to continue in postgraduate education and beyond.

Bibliography

Adams, R. (2018) ‘UK universities making slow progress on equality, data shows’, The Guardian, 7 September [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/sep/07/uk-university-professors-black-minority-ethnic (Last accessed: 30 October 2018)

Bell, D. (1980) Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma. Harvard Law Review, 93(3), pp.518-533.

Rollock, N. and Gillborn, D. (2011) Critical Race Theory (CRT). Available at: https://www.bera.ac.uk/researchers-resources/publications/critical-race-theory-crt. (Last accessed: 24 October 2018)

Written by Alice Reynolds, edited by Megan Harvey and Jack Lowe.

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Meet the editors!

Hello! We are Ed, Jack, Alice and Megan, and we are the new editors of the Landscape Surgery blog. As a team, we are all very excited to be taking over this role from Nina and (the other) Ed who did such a great job of curating the site last year. For us, ‘Landscape Surgery’ (which is now 22 years old!) has always been a great opportunity to bring together all members of the Social, Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group in our bi-weekly meetings. In the fantastic company of our groups ‘surgeons’, we have timely and critical conversations on a wide variety of subjects, reflecting the huge array of academic interests displayed by the research group as a whole. As an editing team, we are eager to continue to dissect ‘Landscape Surgery’ discussions within this informative blog, as well as highlighting the exciting things that members of the research group have been getting up to; from academic conferences, new publications, interdisciplinary workshops and public events.

We actively welcome submissions from all ‘surgeons’ who wish to use this blog as a way to start a conversation, showcase an event, discuss general PhD life, give post-doc and career advice, or to talk about some stimulating research you’ve done. So, if you’ve been up to something interesting, why not write a blog about it?

If you would like to submit a post, or have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at: Ed.armston-sheret.2017@live.rhul.ac.uk, megan.harvey.2014@live.rhul.ac.uk, jack.lowe.2017@live.rhul.ac.uk, alice.reynolds.2013@rhul.ac.uk.

Ed Armston-Sheret

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What are your current research interests?

My research looks at British explorers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am particularly interested in how explorers prepared, used, and represented their bodies and the relationship between these issues and their public and scientific reputations. In looking at these issues, I explore the importance of bodies within scientific practice, geographical fieldwork, and ideas of heroism in the Victorian and Edwardian period.

What do you do outside academia?

Outside of academia, I enjoy doing things that get me away from books, screens, and writing. I particularly enjoy cooking and cycling. I’ve also got into foraging for fruit which I use to make my own jams and chutneys.

What is your favourite song to work too?

I’ve become less and less able to listen to music while I work. I used to do it a lot but often found I ended up typing the lyrics into what I was writing!

What is your favourite book?

C.L.R James’ The Black Jacobins is probably top of my list at the moment. It’s really hard to do this account of the Haitian Revolution justice; it’s well written, impassioned, and I found it almost impossible to put down.

Megan Harvey

Megan Harvey

What are your current research interests?

I’m currently really interested in better understanding the economic and cultural geographies around sleeping and dreaming. My PhD project will think quite explicitly about neoliberal capitalism and its latent desire to harness the micro-spaces and temporalities of sleep. This will include a focus on the practices of night-time businesses, the embodied geographies of commodified sleep technologies and a close examination of subconscious ‘dream space’ to assess the degree of capitalism’s impingement. I also enjoy crafting new cultural geographic research techniques for querying sleeping and dreaming, from a ‘Nocturnal Methodological Praxis’ that explored insomnia and nocturnality within the city, to a ‘Dream Tool-Kit’ that utilised dream journaling and sleep diaries to interpret slumber experiences.

What do you do outside academia?

I think that a work/life balance is really important, so I like to spend my down time doing as much as possible with my family and friends. We like to watch films, play video and board games and cook together. I also play women’s rugby twice a week for Royal Holloway’s university team, which is a great stress reliever!

What is your favourite song to work too?

I love to listen to film and television scores as I work, anything by Hans Zimmer and Ramin Djawadi are usually on my playlist. I recently found the soundtrack to Black Mirrors ‘San Junipero’ by Clint Mansell, it is incredibly reminiscent of the fantastic episode and has been on repeat for a while!

What is your favourite book?

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier has long been one of my favourite books, it’s a gloomy and gothic thriller that was later turned into one of my favourite films by Alfred Hitchcock. I also love A Handmaids Tale by Margaret Attwood and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.

Jack Lowe

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What are your current research interests?

I’m a cultural geographer whose research engages with various forms of digital media art to investigate the processes through which places become meaningful. My practice-based PhD project, supervised between Geography and Media Arts, will involve making a mixed-reality game in my home city of Canterbury, as a method of understanding this medium’s potential to enable people to tell, and learn about, the stories that make places meaningful. I also have a longstanding interest in the cultural geographies of video game environments; in particular how a sense of place can be crafted in these (semi-)virtual landscapes. In this regard, I’m keen to explore further how post-phenomenology might provide theoretical frameworks through which we can apprehend the relationships between different kinds of materials, technologies, bodies and social contexts in the production of game-playing experiences.

What do you do outside academia?

I’m a big fan of video games, particularly ‘walking simulators’ and other story-based titles. I love walking in physical environments as well as virtual ones; and even though it’s becoming part of my research, I still like to go Geocaching (often with my sister and 7-year-old nephew) to explore new places. I also play piano and guitar, and very occasionally compose some classical stuff; it’s all demos at this stage though. Reading and creative writing are both activities I like to do for pleasure outside academia too.

What is your favourite song to work to?

I listen to albums rather than individual songs while working, and this tends to be classical music. I adore Jessica Curry’s soundtrack to the video game Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, which wonderfully captures the spirit of bucolic rural England. I also love working to the music of Olafur Arnalds, Zoe Keating, and most recently Evan Call’s Automemories, the moving and eclectic orchestral score to the anime Violet Evergarden.

What is your favourite book?

I’m going to go for The Orchid Trilogy by Jocelyn Brooke, an author who lived in my home area of rural Kent. It’s a set of three semi-autobiographical novels that tell stories from different parts of Brooke’s life, from his childhood growing up in east Kent during WW1 all the way up to serving in the army during WW2. It paints a melancholy but enchanting picture of a sensitive man, whose passion for the mystical rural landscapes of his childhood, and seeking rare orchids, embodies the distance he experienced from the rest of ‘normal’ society; in particular its ‘desirable’ traits of masculinity.

What made reading The Orchid Trilogy extra magical for me was having my local Ordnance Survey maps next to me. Following in his footsteps this way added another layer of significance to the familiar landscapes of my own upbringing.

Alice Reynolds

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What are your current research interests?

I am really interested in the marketisation of Higher Education, both within the UK and globally, and the Student-Consumer debate. My current research, supervised between Geography and Law, focuses upon a study of student housing in Dublin, where I am aim to advance student geographies by utilising a social harm perspective to explore the experiences of students within Dublin’s housing crisis. The research aims to advance the burgeoning field of zemiology, placing students at the heart of the research, and in doing so arguing for a social harm approach within geographical studies.

What do you do outside academia?

I have a big family and enjoy spending my free time visiting them out in the country. My guilty pleasure is watching anything to do with crime and the police and I’ve probably watched every Police Interceptors episode ever made…

What is your favourite song to work to?

I love Irish music and find it motivates me when I’m working. I love listening to Lord of the Dance whilst secretly wishing I was an Irish dancer!

What is your favourite book?

I really enjoyed reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, later adapted into a film in 2013. The book follows the story of Liesel, a nine-year-old German girl given up by her mother to live with foster parents in the small town of Molching in 1939, shortly before World War II. The strong relationships Liesel creates with characters throughout the book create a strong contrast against a backdrop of hate.

Introducing New PhD Students 2017/2018!

 Ed Armston-Sheret

Photo of Ed Armston-Sheret

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.

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Ed Brookes

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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.

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Emily Hopkins
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Before my PhD, I undertook a BSc in Geography and a MA in Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway. Looking at urban and creative geographies, my PhD is titled Creating the Ordinary City: Creative Policy and the Making of Place and Community in Small Cities. My main interest is in creative and cultural economies, how these are being adapted and applied to smaller-scale cities, and the impacts this has on city space both materially and socially. I also have interests in creative methodologies. Oli Mould supervises me and Harriet Hawkins is my advisor. Alongside my PhD, I like to draw, cook and explore new places. This year, I’m really looking forward to my role as Project Manager for RHUL’s cultural geography cinema, Passengerfilms. I would also love to do more filmmaking, and to work on ways to support student mental health!

cityascanvas blog

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Prior to starting my PhD, I worked for several third sector organisations. I completed my undergraduate in English with Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, and veered closer to geography in my MSc in Urban Studies at UCL. My project is called Granular Geographies of Endless Growth: Singapore and the Spatial-Cognitive Fix. I am exploring land reclamation in Singapore and sand extraction in Southeast Asia, investigating how Singapore is inscribing its hinterland into itself through its nation-building project. My research is concerned with the integration of political geography and literary theory through employing critical creative writing methods. I am supervised by Phil Crang and co-supervised by Katherine Brickell. Outside of the PhD, I have had my fiction published in Ambit and Myths of the Near Future, and have a pamphlet of fiction forthcoming with Goldsmiths Press.

Frankie Kubicki 

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.

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Saskia Papadakis
Saskia Papadakis
I am a PhD student at Royal Holloway’s Human Geography Department, where I am funded by the SeNSS ESRC consortium. My doctoral research project, ‘Northerners in London: Englishness, place and mobility’, is being supervised by Professor Phil Crang at RHUL and Professor Ben Rogaly at the University of Sussex. My research interests include nationality, culture and identity; the English North-South divide; and transregional migration within England. Through researching the identities and experiences of Northerners who have migrated to London, I aim to contribute to understandings of issues of migration and locality and how they play into the formation of national identities and cultural distinctions. I completed my MA in Social Research at Goldsmiths College in 2017, and I graduated from the University of York in 2014, where I read Sociology. I maintain my links with Goldsmiths through the podcast Surviving Society which I run with Goldsmiths PhD students Chantelle Lewis and Tissot Regis. We aim to contribute to public sociology by discussing current affairs, society and our everyday experiences from a sociological perspective. When I’m not thinking about society, I play the viola, and I’ve recently taken up yoga in an attempt to clear my mind.
Yunting (Tina) Qi
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I am a human geographer with specific interests around (un)skilled transnational migration, emotions and social integration. My PhD  is titled  “Homeland Re-integration: Professional Chinese Returnees to Shanghai, China”, which is supervised by Prof. Katie Willis. This research aims to interrogate how professional returnees (re)integrate into their homeland using the analytical lens of everyday emotional geographies. Based on the primary aim, there are three research question: 1) What kinds of emotions have been highlighted in everyday encounters of professional Chinese returnees? 2) How do professional Chinese returnees perceive “homeland” based on their emotional journeys in transnational and translocal migration? 3) How integrated are professional Chinese returnees to wider Chinese society? Also, this research will consider how governance and the talent policy of China influence returnees’ everyday life and emotions. Before RHUL, I received a Master of Social Sciences from National University of Singapore and a Bachelor of Science from East China Normal University.

Tat-In (Dennis) Tam

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.

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Rachael Utting

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.

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Rachael.Utting.2017@live.rhul.ac.uk

Kim Walker kim_walker_

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).

 

 

David Williams

David Williams

Shared Sacred Space in the Byzantine Mediterranean. Byzantium and the Latin West.

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David.Williams.2014@live.rhul.ac.uk

Nina Willment

Nina Willment.jpg

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.

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Nina.Willment.2013@live.rhul.ac.uk 

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Work/Now: A Workshop on Labour and Life

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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?

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Englishness, Nationalism, Brexit.

Saskia and Jeremy

Image courtesy of Ed Brookes.

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:

LS Word Cloud

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.

Reflection

Image courtesy of Ed Brookes

Nina Willment

MA students visit the RGS-IBG

MA students in the archive

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.

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Roundtable: the materialities of geographical representation

 

Roundtable

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

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.

Picture3Image Courtesy of Pavel Fric/ Yvonne Fricova

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.

Picture4Image Courtesy of Pavel Fric/ Yvonne Fricova

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.

Lantern Slides 2

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

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. 

Lantern Slide

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

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).

Map Tracing

Image Courtesy of Ed Brookes

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.

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Image Courtesy of Tania Rossetto

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.

 

 

Nina Willment

‘Spiritual Flavours’: A Screening of Laura Cuch’s Documentary Film

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Photography by Ed Brookes.

For the last Landscape Surgery of Term 1, Surgeons were invited to a screening of the film ‘Spiritual Flavours’. As detailed on the film’s website (http://www.spiritualflavours.com/page.php?series=film) ‘The film Spiritual Flavours interweaves biographical narratives and spiritual accounts from Betty, Aziz and Ossie (who belong to a Catholic church, a mosque and a liberal synagogue, respectively) with the experiences of cooking in their homes. The chosen recipes weave together the narratives of past, present and future aspirations, spirituality and the everyday. The commonalities and differences between them are expressed through visual and sonic synchronies and asynchronies; and a variety of visual materials and formats make visible the nature of the film as a research process. At the end, Betty, Aziz and Ossie meet, cook and eat together’.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Spiritual Flavours is a collaborative arts project with members of different faith communities in the area of Ealing and Hanwell, who contribute recipes that they relate to their spirituality and religious practices. Through interviews and cooking sessions, the project pays attention to affective relationships with food, as a vehicle to explore ideas about inheritance, tradition and belief.

LCuch_SpiritualFlavours_Still_01

Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

The project is part of the wider Making Suburban Faith research project funded by the AHRC as a part of its Connected Communities programme and is a collaboration between the Geography Departments of UCL and Royal Holloway. The project explores the ways in which suburban faith communities create space focusing on architectures, material cultures, rituals, music and performance. The project is based in Ealing in West London and focuses on diverse faith community case studies selected to represent different faith and migration traditions. These include a synagogue, a Sri Lankan Hindu Temple, a mosque, a Sikh Gurdwara, an Anglican church, a multicultural Roman Catholic church and an ethnically diverse Pentecostal church.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

The film is directed by documentary and fine art photographer Laura Cuch (Geography, UCL) as part of her practice-led PhD which uses photography and film to explore the domestic material cultures of faith in suburbia, with a particular focus on food and foodways. After the screening of her film, Laura led surgeons in a discussion of the film itself and the themes it explored.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Discussion began with Laura explaining the theoretical lens of the film which sought to investigate the relationship between material culture, religion and domestic space. Laura described how she used food as the foci to explore this focus on material culture as she felt there was a fundamental relationship between food and faith which crossed boundaries of religion/secularism and community/private/public space in interesting ways. Surgeons then discussed with Laura, ideas of participant recruitment and choice of food featured within the film. Laura described how she chose participants in order to best display both gender and generational differences and similarities between food and faith within the film. Discussion then turned to ideas of visual culture and questions surrounding whether Laura felt an obligation to present a positive narrative within the film.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Laura rounded off the discussion by highlighting the potential contributions of the film and the wider Suburban Faith project. These potential contributions were many and varied but included the idea of food as a research medium, food as material culture, the journeys of material cultures within and between community faiths and spaces, ideas of practice as research and the creation of new spaces of public engagement through research.

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

Surgeons credited Laura on the affective capacity of her film, the film’s evocative stills and soundscape and how the film eloquently captured and explored both the sensory surfaces and soundscapes of food and cooking. On behalf of Landscape Surgery as a whole, we would like to thank Laura for sharing her wonderful and thought-provoking film with us and wish her all the best with the project!

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Image courtesy of Laura Cuch

A trailer to ‘Spiritual Flavours’ can be found here:

 

 

 

 

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