Dylan Trigg – The Memory of Place

I’ve recently reviewed Dylan Trigg’s ‘The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny’ for the journal ‘Emotion, Space and Society’. The review is now early online here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1755458612000710

As the review hopefully makes clear, I think this is an excellent book. I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the growing philosophy of place literature (Malpas, Casey et al), corporeally inclined phenomenology, and the emerging literature that takes a slightly weird slant on realism.

If you don’t have a subscription to the journal and would like a pre-proof version of the review, please either comment below or email me. 

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‘Apprehending Everyday Rhythms’ now early online

This caught me a little by surprise by the speed they got this up following the submission of the corrected proofs, but my paper ‘Apprehending everyday rhythms: Rhythmanalysis, time-lapse photography, and the space-times of street performance’ is now up on the ‘early online’ section of the ‘Cultural Geographies’ website here

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On academic job applications and interviews

Recently i was involved in some discussion emerging from the CRIT-GEOG forum related to early career life and the increasing challenges faced by those coming out of PhDs. This has got me thinking about the job situation etc (also see this from the Times Higher that I know started a twitter discussion). Given I’ve have heard from colleagues that some people have found the ‘early career‘ post I put up here useful and that I should do more, particularly orientated towards early career related themes, I thought i’d write something about academic job applications and interviews

While quite a bit of useful advice has been given in various places about things like getting the PhD itself (see Place Hacking), and writing practices here and here), I’ve not seen much advice about the job interview process (though, to be fair my blog reading tends to be quite narrow/I’d be interested to see anything that has).

So, below are a range of reflections on my experiences of applying to jobs and going to job interviews over the past few years and some suggestions on what I think worked and that i think didn’t. I should say though that these are by no means to be taken as authoritative statements – I’ve not been on any interview panels and so have less insight from that side of things (but comments from those who have would be very welcome!). Rather, thus far I’ve been to 6 interviews for academic jobs (5 lectureships of various term and one teaching fellowship) and have been offered 4 of those posts…

Also given I’m busy with various deadlines at the moment/there’s a lot to say on this, I will break this up into at least two posts (and may supplement them as I think of things). The second post will come when I get the chance, but with the addition of upcoming big ‘life events’, that may be a little while…

[please excuse the likely high number of typos also – this was written rather rushed on my iPad and I’ve not had time to check it through…]

So, starting with the prep. side of things:

1) getting into the interview room in the first place (a restatement of some relatively obvious points)

As I’ve written elsewhere, increasingly, to get an interview during/after your PhD you have to have a record of publishing, especially if it is a lecturing post. When I was being interviewed at the end of my PhD, I had one paper out and another forthcoming that year. I also had a 3rd in review. Most if not all of the people in those interviews had the same. While short listing panels will take career stage into consideration, they will still want evidence that you can actually publish as this is a key aspect of being an academic.

In addition to publishing, it is also important to show you’ve been ambitious in other ways. So go to, and more importantly, present at, conference. And don’t just limit yourself to postgrad sessions – full sessions will get you greater exposure and will likely help you meet the people who may well be in the department you end up being interviewed in, or even on the panel. This all rounds off your CV and shows you as actively engaging in activities the interviewing department would expect to see you doing once you are in post.

Importantly though, many departments will also want you to have experience of teaching of some kind. This might be tutorials , it might be a guest lecture or two, it might be demonstrating. Whatever it is, they will want to be sure that you can actually stand up in front of a room full of students and deliver. As such, it is really important to take up any opportunities you can during your phd to get some experience. And if this doesn’t come your way during the first year or so of the phd, chase it!! It is very likely that your supervisor will be happy to give you a lecture of too from their load!

Finally, apply to anything and everything. While you may have social ties etc to specific places, while you may not want to move, if you want an academic career, you can’t be picky at the start of your career. There are simply not enough jobs around to allow this. Also, don’t turn your nose up at a short job/expect a permanent post straight off. Some manage this, but they tend to be the exception. Going to Keele on a 9 month lectureship for me was turn out to be a really productive experience – I got lots of teaching and admin experience in a short time and it was instrumental in me getting a longer contract at Plymouth, and then ultimately that played a big part in getting the permanent post back at Keele. It will have meant 3 moves in 4 years, but that’s the way it goes/I know many people who have not been as lucky and are still have to take on year-to-year contracts several years down the line…

2) the application
Different places will have slightly different set ups here, but in all likelihood, you will have to submit: a) a form; b) a statement about your research and teaching (possibly as a covert letter, stand alone document, or as part of the form); and c) a CV.

This might sound so blindingly obvious that you think it wouldn’t need said, but DO WHAT YOU ARE ASKED here!! I was shocked once when reviewing applications to contribute to a short-listing that someone hadn’t submitted the generic application form they were asked to. In some cases departments/unis will state applications will not be considered without this. But even if not, it does suggest either an arrogance or lack of care on behalf of the applicant – not something I’d think many would want to portray in their application! Fair enough, your CV may cover the same info, but take the time to re-type it. You don’t want to put yourself out of the pool of candidates before the applications are even looked at…

As for the statement, it is important to look at the job spec and make sure you show you meet all the essential criteria and as much of the desired criteria as you can. You could do this as a list of statements related to it to make it bluntly clear, but I tend towards a more synthesised statement that covers them all together in a more narrated way. For me this is structured along: a) General research interests; b) Current research activities; c) Future research plans; d) teaching and admin experiences; e) How I would fit teaching/admin in the department. It’s up to you, but make sure you are writing a out what they want you to write about, not just what you want to tell them or think is important or think suites you better. And be concise –  job might get 50 applications with means a lot of reading for the short listing panel!!

You should also be careful with getting this to be balanced. If the role is teaching and research, talk about BOTH in relative depth, not one or the other. One way to check this is as simple as counting paragraphs – 5 on research and 1 on teaching may not be suitable for a teaching fellow post (unless you make it clear how your research will connect to the teaching/why you’ve written so much about it) – above mine normally comes out at 3/2 or 4/2). Again, at an early career stage/just post-phd you may have limited teaching experience, so you need to think about how you can best present what you have (without labouring it by listing the topic of every tutorial you’ve ever run).

Also, throughout, try to connect your application to the post/department – suggest connections to people there that you might work with, the research groups you would fit into, the people in other departments you could build links with, how you could fit into and contribute to existing teaching etc. While you can have a fair amount of generic copy-and -paste text you reuse in your application, you should have points you can tailor to a specific post. I often have a standard document with these bits highlighted in a bright colour so I see them/make sure I edit them for each application I put in (you don’t want to talk about the ‘University of X’ when applying to the ‘University of Y’, but. I’ve seen and heard of people doing it!!).

As for the CV, again there are different ways of doing this. I tend to go for the statements of facts/lists of what I’ve done (teaching history, qualifications, training courses, list of research areas, grants, publications, conference papers etc) rather than the more general listing of ‘skill sets’ and how I am ‘a highly motivated individual who works well with others’ etc. etc.. To me this tends to seem a bit like groundless fluff unless you do it really well and back it up with substantive examples of how you have done that (and this is what your personal statement/cover letter etc can do).

Another thing I’d warn against from discussions with various senior colleague is listing dozens of ‘planned’ papers from your PhD. It is more important to show you have published from it or have things you are working on/in the mix than listing a page of things you plan to write. If you list a dozen papers, this will likely mean years and years of further work (even with the kindest of teaching loads) and a department will likely be more interested in your plans for grant applications etc over that sort of time frame than how you will salami-slice your thesis into the finest of cuts. Remember, for a REF submission, you need at most 4 papers (with some back-ups to give decent set to chose from) and if you are early career, you may not even need a full load…

So, for example, I list my work that is either published or forthcoming/accepted, things I’ve been invited to do/have agreed to, anything under review, and maybe one or two things i am working on or I know are in the works (especially grant-related/co-written).

3) preparing for the day
A final point for now, it is really important that you do your homework! You will be able to find out a lot on most department websites about teaching, research, staff etc.. You can use this on the day (more later) and in your application (as suggested above).

I’ve been surprised by people who I’ve been at interviews with and don’t seem go have done this. Obviously, it is good to ask questions on the day where appropriate (and to have question for the end of the interview itself – more later), but you don’t want to ask about things you could have found out easily in advance…

Related for this, some people advise to always contact the department in advance of applying, either by phone or email, to ask questions or to generally discuss the post/check they’d be interested in having you apply. I’m not so sure of this and I (think I) have only got the jobs that I didn’t enquire about in any way prior to applying!! While I’m sure some will disagree, for me, unless you have a really good reason to (or there is someone that works there you already know) I think this is little more than a waste of both your and the other person’s time. It should be obvious if the post is worth you applying to or not (ie on the questions of if you might fit – it’s worth applying if you sense even the slightest chance of this!!) and given there may be 50 people applying, you will likely do little more than frustrate the person with yet another phone call. I’d try to make your application stand out with the quality of its content/your achievements rather than trying to find other means to get yourself into their consciousness!

That’s enough for now. Again, this is only my perspective and happy to hear the thoughts of others on this. When I get time I will say more about…

– the presentation

– the interview

– the other bits and pieces that might happen on the day

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PhD funding in Human Geography at Keele University

A colleague of mine at Keele (Clare Holdsworth) has two PhD studentships available for the coming academic year – one related to education, other to children and youth geographies:

“Two fully-funded PhD positions available in Education Geographies and Children and Youth Geographies at Keele University.

The position in education geographies is funded by the Higher Education Academy and is for a project ‘Articulating learning and employability through work experience’.
The position in children and youth geographies is open to any project in this field.”

More details available here: http://www.keele.ac.uk/pgresearch/choosingaresearchdegree/studentships/ (scroll down for the full details).

Feel free to pass this on to potentially interested students currently on Masters courses (or even high-achieving undergrads who’ve just finished).

Any questions should be addressed to Clare.

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New paper forthcoming: Ecologies of Experience

I’ve just received news that my paper ‘Ecologies of Experience: Materiality, sociality, and the embodied experience of (street) performing’ has been fully accepted for publication in Environment and Planning A.

This paper has had quite a long gestation, having its seeds in my PhD thesis/comments made by John Wylie in my viva. I actually presented a very early version of it at the AAG in 2009 in Washington, but then forgot about it for a while amid job moves and new teaching commitments. I then rediscovered it on my hard drive, mulled it over for a while, read more and reworked it, sent it to colleagues for comment, and finally presented significantly revised versions at seminars in Geography at Oxford and Exeter at the end of last year, before submitting it to E&PA.

If anyone would like a ‘pre-proof’ version of the paper, let me know and I can send one on.

The abstract for the paper is:

Recently a range of relational approaches have established themselves in many arenas of geographical thought. Insights have been drawn in from post-structural philosophy and social theory to decentre the human subject and consider agency in a more distributed way. Within such work, amongst references to networks, rhizomes, assemblages, and the like, the term ‘ecology’ has at times been employed to refer to such relationally. However, the implications of its use and the specific value of the term in thinking about relationality have not yet been fully considered. Therefore, this paper articulates an ‘ecological approach’ to the study of the embodied practices. The significance of such an approach is expressed in terms of its ability to pay attention to the co-constitutive relatedness of practices and the social-cultural-material environments in which they take place. This is articulated in the paper in three main ways: 1) by drawing attention to the sheer complexity and singularity of relatedness; 2) by reflecting on connections with, and the status of, human and non-human entities in the playing out of practices; and 3) by considering the structuring of affective relations and the context in which practices take place. This is illustrated in the paper in relation to the practice of street performance and the intertwining of both the more concrete ‘material’ aspects of the street space (architecture, benches, people), and its less concrete, but still materially significant, aspects (meteorological-atmospheres, felt-ambiences, not physically present regulative formations), with the performer in the playing out of this practice.

 Key words: Ecology, Experience, Relational geographies, Materiality, Affect, Performance, Practice.

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New Book Coming Soon – Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction

New book from Tim Cresswell – will be adding this to my Amazon wish list…


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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Call for Papers : Foucault and Mobilities Research

Progressive Geographies

A Two-Day Symposium, 6th and 7th of January 2013, Lucerne, Switzerland

The publication in English and in German of Michel Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France in the years 1970-1984 has been a key driver of the recent renaissance of research inspired by his work across the social sciences. As part of this, sociologists, geographers and others in the academic world have begun to draw on and work with a wider range of Foucauldian concepts than in earlier studies. Foucault’s thinking on power/knowledge, panopticism, discourse, the role of the sciences, and so on still resonates strongly across the social sciences but it is the topics that he lectured on at the Collège that arguably attract the bulk of attention: a surge of interest has occurred among social scientists in his writings on apparatuses/dispositifs, governmentality, self-government and ethics to name but a few concepts. The translation of the lectures into…

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