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: (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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Paris days 23-28: Election, Video-editing, and (even) more Left Bank…

So, this is my last night in Paris…

Has been an interesting time to be here with the election going on and the day-to-day switching at Marx Dormoy Metro station (my nearest) between student-aged people handing out leaflets of Hollande and Sarkozy. It was also quite entertaining to see a small girl (maybe 7 or 8) take a Sarkozy leaflet from one of them only to have her mother violently rip it out of her hand and throw it to the ground in disgust. Might be a sign of things to come in a few days…[fingers crossed…].

Last week ended with some video editing of the video we collected in Gare du Nord with Damien and Laure (safe to say their Premier Pro skills significantly outstrip mine). Was quite a challenge as we were trying to synchronise 4 different video clips taken around the same time in Gare du Nord, but from different angles so turned into a game of ‘spot the man in the high-viz vest’. Effectively, it’s producing something that approximates, but does something deliberately different from, a bank of CCTV monitors. Once I’ve got the final version I might post a couple of still on here. We’ll also be doing the same with some of the video we took in St Pancras, and this will all feed into a book chapter I’ll be taking the lead on writing (hopefully) for a book on video methods (particularly focusing on how the multiple angles used allow us to see spaces differently/some points around perception and orientation)…

Oh, and that was all fuelled by some pastries from the best bakery I’ve encountered while here…


[How all working breakfasts should be fuelled…]

The weekend was largely touristy with (more) time spend in Jardin du Luxembourg (by far my favourite Parisian park), a brief visit to Jardin des Plantes, a trip to Marais, and a visit to the Louvre. For the latter, I think I was more impressed with the building/setting itself than the artwork to be honest. The Mona Lisa crowd was also probably more striking for me than the painting itself, and that was even going during the Friday evening late-night opening…


The past couple of days have been quiet, with more progress on my ‘Spaces of Affect’ chapter for the media geography book. Have gotten through affect and film and now reading/writing about affect and computer games. The final section I’ll need to write is on sound should come together pretty quickly as is all stuff I’ve written about before/have a clearer starting point in my head for it.

 [Hard at work in the apartment]

And speaking of sound, given tomorrow I head back to Plymouth/will fly into Exeter, it seems fitting that this has been written while listening to ‘Show of Hands‘ [see this for a couple of Plymouth geographers’ take on it]…

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Paris days 14-22: Project discussions, Versailles and other attractions, and reading/writing

So, I’ve been even more slack at posting on here, partly due to a combination of things being eventful (so not having time) and then things being quiet (so taking time to read and write).

The last couple of days with all the people from the project involved a lot of really interesting discussion following the frustrations at Gare du Nord. In fact, they turned out to provide the basis for a paper we’ve started writing with the provisional title: ‘Pour votre tranquillite’: ambience, atmosphere, and the practise of surveillance…Is going to be an interesting process of writing with all 6 of us contributing, though started with an entertaining ‘6 person simultaneous writing on googledoc’ flurry. You can see it being pieced together with colour coded post its here:

[Damien, Nicolas, and Laure arranging]

After Pete and Patrick left, Lou arrived so Saturday was spent largely around the Left Bank and Sunday we went to Versailles, St Germain, and Montparnasse with Damien and his daughter. A running theme of the  weekend was celebrity grave spotting…

Since then it’s been a mix of reading and writing for the Media Geographies ‘Space of Affect’ chapter which has been more of a struggle than I’d anticipated (a whole load of work on cinema and affect that I’d not read previously and so have had to be catching up on), but it’s starting to take shape now. Fingers cross, with another few good days, I’ll be taking a complete draft back to Plymouth with me next week…

Tomorrow is going to be a mix of video editing with Damien and Laure in the morning, reading/writing in the afternoon, and late-night opening at the Louvre in the evening…

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Geography and Post-phenomenology

Interesting post from James Ash here on what a ‘post-phenomenology’ might refer to (in the context of discussing the background of our upcoming RGS-IBG session). James and I will be co-writing a paper to set up the sessions and so this will be expanding on these sorts of points in that…

Bouncing off these points, I would also mentioned:

a) the implications a de-centred/emergent subject has for how we can understand intersubjectivity – is there is no preexistent, given subject to enter into a relation, how can we be present to and for other subjects?

b) echoing critiques of humanistic geography’s phenomenological leanings, where does something like ‘the social’ (however problematic that might be as a term) sit when it comes to the appearing of the work/phenomenality.

There’s more to add here, but I think that will have to wait until we actually start writing!

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Paris Days 7-13: Quiet days in Cergy, Left bank tourism, and Gare du Nord fieldwork begins

So, I’ve been a bit slack in posting on here over the last week…

The end of last week went quite smoothly and quietly – I worked in Cergy/wrote some more, met with some of Damien’s colleagues and discussed the differences in the UK and French University systems (some really interesting contrasts given current UK government moves with academics here in France being seen very much as civil servants, but with encroaching contract work etc.), and had a tour of Cergy with Damien and his colleague when he returned from Sweden.

Cergy was nothing like I had pictured from the small amount I had seen around the RER station, shopping area, and University campus. Apparently, when it was initially planned (in the 1960s) the aim was to build somewhere with the same area of Paris but with a 10th of the population. Also, there was a funny statistic that in Paris there is one tree for every 10 people whereas in Cergy there are 10 trees for every one person. It does seem very green and suburban. It’s structured as a conurbation with a number of small centers with mainly housing surrounding. There’s also a really diverse mix of architecture with about every style of modern housing you could think of but also with slightly Disneyland-like new-old houses that have only been built in the last few years…

One thing we did go to see was the city’s Axe Majeur. This leads from Cergy to Paris and (nearly) lines us with the business district to the west of the center (the La Defense) which you get quite a good view of from the hill side it is on. This originates at a pillar in the middle of a very grand housing development and runs down a hillside and onto a bridge that goes out into a lake. There was also a laser beam when first built, but don’t think that is there now. The housing area is quite strange because although it looks very grand, it is actually social housing.

Hopefully I’ll be getting more of a tour when we return their next week…

Over the weekend I had a couple of relatively uneventful days doing typical tourist things… Saturday I went to Hotel des Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, and walked down the Left bank looking at the stalls there. I bought a couple of posters for my office in Keele – a map of Paris from the mid 1600s and another map of Paris from 1889. Sunday I went to Jardin du Luxembourg and sat in a cafe in the Latin Quarter and read. I did feel slightly ironic doing this though – I was reading about affect and film on Rue Descartes…

This week marks the start of our fieldwork for the big ANR network project (how I know Damien), so most of the ‘team’ arrived on Monday and we had a look around Gare du Nord and made some plans, had Sri Lankan curry for lunch, discussed more, and had Cambodian curry for dinner. Yesterday we tried to put these plans into action but had a rather eventful start…

Much of the ‘data collection’ we are doing is involving taking various video clips, time-lapse photography, still photos, and more general observations. This tends to mean recording spaces rather than specific events, and so standing out quite a bit from the usual tourists etc who take photos of something actually happening. As such, I had a security guard first hover by me, and then later, when I hadn’t moved, ask me what I was doing. At first I pretended not to understand (well, he asked in French and I was guessing he was asking what I was doing) and eventually I just played him the time-lapse clip I’d recorded over the preceding 15 minutes. He seemed unsure about this and, after some humming and hawing, said was OK, but seemed a little unsure.

While this was happening Damien had been taking a photo transect across the station (to be stitched together later) and had a man in a suit from SNCF (who run that part of the station) tell him he did not have permission to take photographs. Damien questioned this, but the man insisted and then went and spoke to some armed security people who followed Damien for a while.

We decided this was perhaps time to do a re-group and check what was actually allowed in the station! While we had made a number of efforts to get formal permission in advance, all our attempts to contact were just ignored. And on their website is says tourist filming is ok, but commercial filming needs permission/to pay. We were then in a grey middle ground. However, it did also say that such permission could be revoked depending on the situation in the station at the time.

With this webpage ready on mobile phones we went back to do more filming. However, shortly after Damien was being shadowed by two guys with earpieces who were lingering by him pretending to use their phones (we say the screens were in fact blank/they were miming using the phone, so likely plain-clothed security/police). So, we decided to call it a day. Today it will be strictly still cameras (and iPhones) only…

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Paris Days 4-6: More moves and finally some work

So, the last (nearly) three days have continued to be eventful…

On Sunday I had the great pleasure to move out of the hotel I started off in into my colleague Damien’s apartment while he is in Sweden for the week. Safe to say I was near overwhelmed by the luxury and didn’t actually venture out all that much as a result…

I did however push forward in my attempts to vaguely speak french in cafes/restaurants (and got everything I ordered, at least!), and also went for a walk down to Boulevard St Denis, Boulevard Poissonniere, Boulevard Montmartre, and Boulevard Haussman, before turning back up Boulevard La Fayette. Along the way I came across a couple of traditional Parisian Arcades: Passages Panoramas and Passage Jouffroy. Funny thing was, that night I was reading Umberto Eco’s ‘The Prague Cemetery’ and these very Arcades were mentioned, but being written about in the context of 100+ years ago… It was funny that the comments in the book reflected, in part, my impressions of them:

“I adored passage Jouffroy, perhaps because it held three of Paris’s best restaurants – the Diner de Paris, the Diner du Rocher and the Diner Jouffroy. It seems, even today, that the whole of Paris gathers there, especially on Saturdays, in the glass-covered arcade where you are continually jostled by world-weary gentlemen and ladies who are too heavily scented for my taste”.

“Perhaps I was more intrigued by passage des Panoramas. The crowd you saw there was more working class, bourgeois and provincial, people who looked longingly at antiques they could never afford…”

It was interesting in that while Passage Jouffroy seemed to have been spruced up a bit/definitely of a higher class, and didn’t necessarily entirely reflect the stereotypes of the arcades I had in mind (as selling curious specialist items and second-hand collectables), Passages Panoramas absolutely had the feel I had imagined from reading Benjamin’s ‘Arcades Project’/Aragon’s ‘Paris Peasant’ (though, that was around 6-7 years ago so my memory is a bit sketchy on it/I may be overemphasizing this a little).

Those coincidences aside, on Monday I got the train out to Cergy to move into the apartment here. This again proved eventful, with my train ticket not letting me out of the station at Cergy for no apparent reason (I ended up effectively jumping the barrier when a friendly/helpful woman offered for me to sneak through on her ticket!), and then when I got to the Uni it was all closed for the bank holiday (although we had been told someone would be here). After some random banging on doors I did manage to get hold of a security guard and into the apartment.

Today has been entirely uneventful in the best possible way – I went to Damien’s office and wrote, made some lunch, and now I’m back at the apartment doing more writing (and will be on into the evening).

Tomorrow I’ll be writing again though taking a trip back into Paris in the afternoon to collect the keys for my next (and should be final!!) apartment. Fingers crossed the train goes more smoothly…

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Paris Days 2 & 3: Cergy and the Left Bank

So, the last couple of days have been quite eventful.

What I thought was just my less than nice hotel room turned out to be a very smelly, dusty, mouldy room which meant I couldn’t sleep from coughing/wheezing and in which, based on certain things that went ‘bump in the night’, I think I am right in thinking that people were also taking advantages of certain services being sold nearby the hotel – see my previous post on what a nearby street has to offer… I later noticed that there is a stipulation in the hotel rules that ‘people without luggage must pay in advance’. Ahem…

Anyway, and much more positively, Damien managed to find out about some accommodation on the University campus so I’ll be moving out there for a few nights on Monday until I get the apartment for the rest of the stay. It does mean that I won’t be in the centre of Paris for much of next week, but I will get the chance to meet and discuss with some of Damien’s colleagues at Cergy which I’m looking forward to, and also to concentrate on some writing I need to be doing for my Geographies of Media chapter…And I’ll have nearly three weeks in Paris still to come, so is fine.

We did go out to Cergy yesterday (Friday) and it seems like a really interesting place. It was built not that long ago (I think Damien said 1960s) as entirely new city on the outskirts of Paris and with some quirky architecture. Basically, in the city centre all the roads and transport network is underground so the centre is completely pedestrian. There was also a funny building on the campus which apparently had been nicknamed something like ‘the greenhouse’ because its architecture meant is was very warm inside (it’s a big glass box). So, rather than fix the issue, the University remained it ‘Jardin Tropical’ and put a bunch of tropical plants in the open plan central area of the building! I already like the University simply for it having this sense of humour! I took a photo so will post when I have a better internet connection (the hotel one is flakey at best).

Today was more tourist based – I walked to the Pantheon, met a friend from school and his girlfriend who happen to be here for the weekend, went to Jardin du Luxembourg, had lunch at Cafe de Flore on Boulevard Saint-Germain, went past the Muse D’orsay (which had a massive queue) so went on to Musee de l’Orangerie and looked at Monet’s waterlilies. I then walked back to my hotel (along the Seine and up Boulevard de Sebastopol), which means my legs are now nicely heavy.

Tomorrow should be another quite quiet day and then it will be a writing week from Monday…

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