My research considers the role of geographical ways of thinking in the constitution of social and cultural life> By 'geographical thinking' I mean modes of thought and imagination that utilise notions of place, space, and mobility to give the world ideological value. I am interested in how these modes of thought inform various kinds of practice from the practice of ordering and domination to the practice of disorder and resistance. I call my overall project and practice, "critical geosophy". Concrete instances of critical geosophy include the way in which notions of place and notions of mobility are enacted and represented in fields ranging including medicine, planning, social justice movements, poetry, photography and music. The sites of geosophy are potentially endless. This makes a geography a dynamic and consistently critical exercise in the world we inhabit.
Geographies of Mobility
My recent research focuses on mobility. I have investigated the ways in which mobility is given meaning and how those meanings are mobilised in relations of power. This investigation has two forms. 1) A book on The Tramp in America (Reaktion Books, 2001) which involves a sustained look at how the mobility of tramps in the United States between 1870 and 1940 was constructed by a number of forms of knowledge ranging from formal sociology, through social reform to comedy and photography. The book explores five ways in which the tramp was made up as a threatening and marginal character through a focus on the tramp's mobility. 2) The second strand of research into mobility is a more general attempt to theorise mobility as social motion (as motion+meaning+power). This has been published in the book On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (Routledge, 2006). The development of a theoretical approach to mobility in the book is based around a series of case studies ranging from the scale of the body (in the workplace or the dancehall for instance), through various forms of migration to the international airport. In each, case I argue, mobility is seen as being both central to what it is to be a modern human being and, simultaneously, a potential source of threat and disorder. Research on mobility is an on-going project. I recently co-edited the volume Geographies of Mobiltiies: Practices, Spaces, Subjects (Ashgate, 2011).
Geographies of Place
I have been writing about place as long as I have been a geographer. I am interested in the ways in which place plays an active role in the constitution of culture and society. Early work focused on the notion of people, things and actions having appropriate places. Logically other people, things and actions are labeled out of place and perceived as a transgression of “normality”. Since then I have continued to think about and write about place. Some of my ideas are summarized in the book Place: A Short Introduction (Blackwell, 2004). Most recently I have explored in more detail a particular place, Maxwell Street Market in Chicago, in an effort to find new ways of writing about and exploring a place as it has changed over 130 years. Currently I am exploring the role of excess and waste in this space. I am particularly fascinated by the role of non human objects in the constitution of this place as a space of excess. This will lead to a monograph which will include a meso-level theorization of place intended to take our understanding of place forward in helpful ways. This research is on-going.
I teach on the following courses:
Second Year: GG2061 - Cultural Geographies of the Modern World
The course is concerned with the character of place and culture in the modern world. It explores both the material cultural transformations wrought by processes of modernisation, and how people understand and imagine the places, spaces, times and environments they inhabit. More specifically, the course addresses issues of: global geographies of cultural change, especially the relationship between the local and the global; questions of place, identity and landscape, especially at the local scale;.the significance of place and space in the invention of modern traditions, including places of memory (memorials, musuems), symbolic national landscapes, and postmodern urban design; and nature-society relations.
Third Year: GG3078 - Geographies of Mobility
In this course we will examine the geographical basis of social power - its creation, maintenance and transformation through an examination of mobility at various scales. Examples will range from the movement of the human body through various technologies of everyday mobility such as the car and the train to the contemporary concern with transnational movement (including refugees and asylum seekers). The dialectic relationship between society and space expressed in the idea of "spatiality" will be central to the course. We will see how spaces and mobilities of one kind or another are created in order to produce power and particular kinds of relations between social groups. Examples include the politics of walking, the role of the railroad in the creation of American mythology, the threat of the tramp and vagabond and the significance of airport terminals to postmodern theory. In addition to an examination of power we will also look at the way space and mobility comes into play in the transformation of power through innovative forms of resistance such as dancing, joyriding, train-jumping.
Masters Cultural Geography - I teach advanced level seminars on place, landscape, the history of cultural geography and the use of film in geography on this course.
I am Director of the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group