Power, Space and Cultural Change

Power, Space & Cultural Change

Research Themes

Our research expertise covers four key areas of geographical and interdisciplinary inquiry which both overlap and reflect the diverse yet connected range of interests which shape our cluster.

Material Mobilities

Materiality, even in the so-called information age, remains key to our understandings of the world. Clothes, mobile phones, solar panels, iPads, housing and shelter (or their absence), our bodies, and the earthly elements that constitute our planet help to define who we are and shape our experiences of the world.  Within the cluster we are interested in how objects connect us to different places, how embodied experiences change as we move and travel, how the fabric of places is transformed through mobility, and how different physical infrastructures enable oceans, land and borders to be navigated and negotiated. Recent research which contributes to this theme includes:

  • Migrant mobilities and journeys, the objects which international migrants send 'back', and the infrastructures that help or hinder them (Burrell);
  • The impact of population turnover and mobility on the materiality of home, street and neighbourhood, and migrants' relationships with aesthetics and public space (Burrell);
  • The geo-physical materiality of seas and oceans, and the governance of shipping logistics (Peters);
  • The materiality of our bodies in mobile spaces in relation to embodied experiences of flying whilst fat (Evans);
  • Personal belongings, place-making and identity (Riley);
  • The materiality and mobility of political activity, from the circulation of campaigning literature, to ‘assemblages’ of protest movements (Davies);
  • How gender and identity impact our everyday spatial experiences, and the materiality of belonging (Jackson);
  • How attention to material objects or ‘curiosities’ may be important in wellbeing (Evans);
  • The materiality of prison architecture and the (im)mobilities of carceral space (Turner)
  • Informal mobilities of asylum seekers in the European Union (Isakjee)
  • The spatial identities of young British Muslims (Isakjee)

Activism and Alternatives

The ability to imagine and bring into being social, cultural and political alternatives to the present is one of the most powerful driving forces for change in the world. Research expertise in the cluster in relation to this theme focusses on how people – either as individuals or as wider collectives/movements – attempt to envision alternative futures and alter the world around them. This may include small or prefigurative moments or activisms, being present in and challenging spaces of exclusion, working together in smaller groups to envisage and enact alternatives, developing critiques of what is and new knowledges about what could be, and new practices to bring future worlds into being.  Research which contributes to geographical debates on activism and alternatives include:

  • Historical and political narratives of reproductive rights: the UK, Northern Ireland and Poland (Jackson);
  • Alternative economic practices such as alternative currencies, co-operatives, worker-run businesses and more solidaristic and emancipatory conceptions of entrepreneurialism (North);
  • Transnational, anti- and post-colonial (Davies) and climate activisms (North);
  • Fat activism and the embodied politics of health (Evans);
  • Low carbon futures for the Anthropocene (North);
  • Narratives of resistance and alternative networks in socialist Poland (Burrell);
  • Offshore ‘pirate’ broadcasting stations and the free radio movements of the 20th Century (Peters).
  • Contesting control in carceral spaces (Turner)
  • Governing migrant bodies and health in Europe (Isakjee)

Histories, Pasts, Memories

Our geographical understanding of the current world is shaped by the histories and memories of the past. Our research draws on a number of methodological techniques (from oral history to the use of archives) to understand how space and place shapes pasts and presents within the context of both individual lifecourses and larger scale political change. Research projects and publications which contribute to this theme include:

  • Research on the histories and continued effects of colonialism upon societies in the global north and south (Davies);
  • The importance of lifecourse and memories to individuals’ actions and identities (Riley), and which shape their activisms (North);
  • Geographies of age, ageing and the lifecourse (Evans, Riley); 
  • Convict ship histories/and their representation in museum spaces (Peters, Turner);
  • Geographies of post-prison and the (re)use of sites of former incarceration (Turner)
  • The relationships between migrations, histories and memories in a UK context (Burrell);
  • The importance of memory to understanding post-Socialist Central and Eastern Europe (Burrell).

Knowledges, identities and Everyday Practices

No knowledge is objective. The ways in which we come to know and write the world are products of and reproduce particular power relations, and this in turn shapes understandings of different identities and everyday practices. In this context, we are interested in questioning the ways in which we, as geographers, come to know the world in relation to the methodologies we use and the theories we draw on to interpret the world. We explore the ways in which people create knowledge about the world they live in, and the practices that stem from this knowledge. Our research intersects with ideas about governance, citizenship, identity and agency, and the ways in which particular spaces and places are implicated in knowledge production.

Research projects and publications in the cluster which contribute to this theme include:

  • Environmental knowledges and sustainable practices (Riley);
  • Conceptions of the ‘economic’, including rethinking conceptions of entrepreneurship, and solidarity-based economics (North);
  • Rethinking our understandings of money, and the relations between money, society and economics (North);
  • Citizenship, civility and democratic rights; connecting East Africa and South Asia (Jackson);
  • The role of the state, and the impact of sovereignty and territoriality in everyday (political) life (Jackson);
  • The biopolitics of health policy in relation to obesity/fatness (Evans);
  • Challenging the colonial legacies of academic knowledge production (Davies);
  • National identities in everyday life (Burrell);
  • Re-thinking our knowledge of time, space and motion through the development of ‘fluid ontologies’ (Peters).
  • Conceptualisation of the ‘carceral’, including rethinking carceral spaces, prisoner identities and the production of the boundaries between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ (Turner)
  • Halal Food Cultures in the UK - Blood, Body and Belonging (Isakjee)