Down Our Way

Date/Time: 14/10/2014 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

The ‘local’ has attained ever greater political resonance as a site of registration and resistance to globalisation. In this session we look at two different projects of ‘thick’ mapping in which an attempt is being made to capture the peculiarities of place at a time of accelerated structural change:

Phil Cohen ‘Finding  Common Ground?’ Critical cartography and locally situated knowledge
Nicola Samson Stories of Belonging from an East London Street


Due to recent and unforseen circumstances Barbara Brayshay will not be ale to present at this seminar. We apologise for the inconvenience and short notice.

Phil Cohen ‘Finding Common Ground?’ Critical cartography and locally situated knowledge

In much contemporary political discourse, both on the Old Left and the New Right, the local tends to be reified – and valorised- as an immovable object pitted against globalisation, seen as an irresistible homogenising force. This binary is also present within the culture of counter-mapping which privileges the indigenous and locally situated knowledge against the rational imperialism of Cartesian cartography. In contrast cultural geographers and urban sociologists have insisted on the importance of the translocal and on the fact of place to place connectedness, the seductions of NIMBYism and the production of new spatial inequalities in global cities.

Against this background the emergence of new forms of democratic politics centred on the defence – and redefinition- of ‘the commons’ has opened up new spaces of representation for groups marginalised in and by the neo-liberal urban polity. But this development also poses a challenge to traditional ways of representing the map/territory relation. In this talk I will look at some recent attempts to map the space of flows, whether of people, information, commodities or capital and also at attempts to revalorise the local, in particular the maps produced by ‘Common Ground’ in their Millenium Parish Maps series.

Phil Cohen is co-founder of Living Maps and co-author of Graphologies (Mica Press 2014).

Nicola Samson
Stories of Belonging from an East London Street

What significance does place have in people’s lives and how can it be mapped in the changing context of 21st century East London? Belonging is commonly used as an expression of home, and is generally assumed to be determined by place. This paper will illustrate that complex and shifting notions of home, community and place can be mapped through the life course by exploring subjective belonging. Drawing on my recent PhD research, the notion of belonging will be shown as central to understanding the subjective experience of place. My empirical research entailed semi-structured interviews with 14 migrant and British women of diverse background, ethnicity, class and generation, all of whom live in one East London street, the one in which I also live. In a framework of childhood, citizenship, ethnicity, class, place and community, narrative interviews were used to elicit the multiple ways in which the experience of belonging is configured in these women’s life stories. Situated in its specific social and historical context, the research explored the women’s relationship with the locality and within the changing ethnic and class demographics of the area.

Nicola Samson has lived, worked, studied and brought up two children in Tower Hamlets and Newham for the past 36 years. She gained her doctorate, Narratives of Women’s Belonging: Life Stories from an East London Street, at the Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London, at the end of 2013 (AHRC funded). Nicola manages the Raphael Samuel/UEL History Centre Bethnal Green Memorial Project, an oral history project recording the little known 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster when 173 local people died trying to gain shelter in the underground. She has taught Qualitative Research Methods, Researching East London and London as a Global City at UEL and Notre Dame University, and is currently lecturing in Memory and History at UEL.

Venue: The Young Foundation

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