Geographers in abundance at Keble’s annual Feast

Each year in December the College hosts the Founders’ and Benefactors’ Feast to which the most recent graduates who gained Firsts in their subjects are invited. This year the event took place in the Bodleian Library’s Divinity School – a spectacular setting for a wonderful evening. Beth and Fiona were pleased to welcome back Alessandra, Caitlin, Natalie, Sofia and Rakan.

 

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Changes in the phenomenological experiences of landscape in rowing as a result of training

by Hannah Coles

As a large proportion of my vacation was filled by rowing training I decided to investigate the experiences through a geographical lens. Inspired by Spinney’s (2006) kinaesthetic ethnography of Mont Ventoux, I decided to explore the ways in which landscape is constituted through phenomenological experiences when rowing. This study took place over the course of a month on the River Thames as it flows through Wallingford, and I was particularly interested to see the extent to which the experiences of landscape changed temporally.

The work of R’Kiouak et al. (2018) suggests that through intensive team training there is a shift from inter-personal to extra-personal modes of regulating joint action. Essentially this means that there is a change from focusing on other participants to regulate movement, to a focus upon external factors (the environment) to regulate the same movement. In practice, this means observing the movement of the boat (symmetry, balance, velocity) and responding to this feedback to synchronise movement through the boat. Interestingly, despite the short period over which my research was carried out there was a noticeable shift in my experiences. The first two weeks were dominated by following/ copying other actors, this focus other women influenced the way in which I experienced the landscape. Whilst I was absorbed in back and shoulders of the woman in front of me, watching intensely and trying to mimic their actions exactly, I did not see the wider landscape. Similarly, during this period I was listening to the sounds and rhythms created by the movement of others in the boat (the sound of the seat rolling, the clunk of the oar in the oar lock, the splash as the blade enters the water) in order to synchronise my movement and propel the boat. This absorption in the actions of others impacted my perception of the landscape as my senses were focused somewhat narrowly.

Thus, following several weeks of intensive training there was a perceptible shift in my experience of the landscape. Driven by a reduced need to focus on those around me for synchronicity, my senses provided information from a broader range of sources. This increase in breadth was not linked to a decrease in intensity, and the sensory experience of rowing was similarly intense. However, I saw beyond the person ahead and down the line of the boat, at the often six women ahead of me. I also saw outside the boat, and could see the line of the horizon, the trees with leaves of varying shades moving away from me, the puddles left by the oars sinking into the river, and ripples in the water spreading from the boat. The sounds became of water rushing past the boat, of lurching when the boat became unstable, and sometimes of birds singing, or people talking or engines of road traffic passing overhead. I became more aware of the smells of the river, often fumes but also of farms, of cooking in restaurants, and the food of fishermen. I became less aware of the feeling of the blade in my hand, and the movements felt increasingly natural. This is an interesting example of the hybrid body-subject that Spinney (2006) refers to in his work. Whilst he refers to human and bicycle as becoming one with repeated use, a similar connection appears to occur between human and oar. The connection between human and environment is mediated by the technology of the oar, and over time this interdependence is developed through use.

Having said this, and highlighted the key shifts in phenomenological experience over the course of a month, it is important to note that these experiences are by no means entirely representative. Whilst there is a general trend that sees a shift from inter-personal to extra-personal regulation, these experiences can and do vary greatly from day to day and also within days, from session to session. Weather can influence feeling greatly, with a notable session on 29th October shaped significantly by the heavy rain and strong winds felt in Wallingford and the subsequent feelings of my body shivering, wind and rain swiping at my back, water dripping down the back of my neck, and gripping onto a wet handle. In this case, my experience of the landscape was limited almost entirely to my own body and to the boat close to me. I was aware of the sounds of the boat but of very little beyond this (perhaps only the sound of a coach’s voice through a megaphone), and I cannot recall smelling anything, despite the presence of (I am certain) significant variation in aromas. This is indicative of the varying nature of the experience of landscapes, regardless of training.

Thus, it may be tentatively concluded that the experience of landscape is constructed jointly by the actions of an individual within them and the contexts in which these actions occur. Whilst there is a general trend to a wider experience of landscape with training, there is frequent variability and each session builds upon the construction of meaning (through experience) of the landscape of the River Thames in Wallingford.

R’Kiouak, M., Saury, J., Durand, M., Bourbousson, J., 2018. Joint action in an elite rowing pair crew after intensive team training: The reinforcement of extra-personal processes. Hum. Mov. Sci. 57, 303–313.

Spinney, J., 2006. A Place of Sense: A Kinaesthetic Ethnography of Cyclists on Mont Ventoux 24, 709–732.

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The impact of student housing on rental markets in the UK

by Benedict Wiggins,

Over the Summer, I spent a week living in a sizeable 8 bedroom house in one of the UK’s major cities, Bristol, in which a room was being rented by a friend of mine who currently attends the University of Bristol. Staying here made me question the impact of such a large property being given to students who already had a home elsewhere – in my friend’s case, North London. To contextualise, by 1997, the year of the Dearing Report, the student population had reached 1.6 million following four decades of expansion in the higher education sector. Over that time, however, the housing needs of students have never been subjected of any form of national policy or strategy, and this continues to largely be the case (Rugg, 2000). This essay will examine the state of the UK housing market with consideration of both the reasons and impacts of student housing.

With regards to why student housing is impacting rental markets, it seems clear at first glance that the expansion of the higher education sector has occurred with limited attention being given to housing the ever-increasing student population (Rugg, 2000). At the time of writing, there are approximately 2.5 million students in UK higher education, with an extra 30,000 places having been created this year alone (Wiles, 2014). Bristol’s economy, for example, has blossomed in the past few years, fuelled partly by its proximity to the strong London economy and ‘overheating housing market’ (Partington, 2017). The city’s two universities have also led to 10,000 students being ushered into the local population of 450,000 people over the past decade (Partington, 2017). As a result of this economic success, plus the fact that houses in the capital are bought as investment assets and left empty, house hunters are then forced out of London, and Bristol is an obvious alternative for these London émigrés. This has therefore created a vicious cycle of ever-increasing housing demand in desirable central areas.

This escalation in demand has therefore had significant economic impacts on the housing market in both Bristol and numerous other UK University cities. For instance, Bristol now has the highest private sector rental costs outside London, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank, (D’arcy, 2017), with typical house prices also being more than 10 times the average salary (Partington, 2017). From a more spatial perspective, one of the repercussions of the increasing student demand for private rented housing is that there is a propensity for students to ‘cluster’ in specific areas. For instance, in Cardiff, the expanse encompassing two of the city’s University campus’ and close to the city centre is known locally as ‘student land’. Some interviewees believed that some nine out of every ten of the properties in this area of Cardiff were rented by students (Rugg, 2000). To further heighten the impact of student demand on these areas, landlords often specifically move into areas desired by students in a process known as ‘niche letting’, as students are reliable tenants (Rugg, 2000). This is because they tend to have a comparatively high permanent income, due to either parental loans or consistent student loans (Oger, 1973).

It is clear, therefore, that student demand has an impact on the state of the housing market, but the real-term implications of this must also be considered. In desirable locations, a study has revealed that students are more likely to be willing to live in poorer quality accommodation to either save money or to be located in the classically desirable section of the city. It was also discovered that these poorer conditions were either caused or worsened by the students themselves, through littering or a lack of cleanliness, for example (d60). As a result, locals may suffer due to the student ‘ghettoisation’ of local amenities, which usually then cater more strongly to the student market. Furthermore, student housing demand may also have an effect on house-buyers in the area – a factor particularly prevalent in a city in as high demand as Bristol. Significant demand for investment properties from student landlords are increasing house prices, thus making it more difficult for house-buyers to enter the market. Savills, an estate agency, predicts “£2.5bn will be spent on student housing schemes this year, a great deal more than the Homes and Communities Agency invests in affordable housing” (Barnes, 2014). To highlight this around the UK, in Cambridge, since 2006, 4,501 student bedrooms have been built and a 2,335 more have received planning permission, compared with only 2,480 family homes over the same period (Wiles, 2014). Furthermore, almost every student has two homes – their term-time home and their holiday-time home – so student housing doesn’t actually help the UK with its housing needs (Wiles, 2014). As a result, it appears that student demand for housing has both had a negative impact on locals due to the damage to residential areas, and also resulted in house-buyers being priced out of housing in desirable locations.

It must, however, be noted that student housing does not necessarily impact all the potential residents of a city, as groups such as young professionals and/or low-income households rarely compete with the same properties as students (Rugg, 2000), thus the actual impact of student housing could be limited to a few certain specifically targeted sections of cities. In addition, the impacts may shrink in the future due to £10bn being allocated the Tories’ help-to-buy scheme, a subsidy programme for those looking to buy in these areas (Partington, 2017)

Overall, upon my visit to Bristol I was surprised at the extent to which the central area of the City (nicknamed “The Triangle) was dominated by students, particularly in terms of their domination over the local housing market. It is clear therefore that colleges and universities affect local housing markets in a unique way (Ogur, 1973), by increasing private sector rental costs, creating clusters of student-dominated areas, and reducing the availability of affordable housing for house-buyers in these areas.

References

 Barnes, Y., The UK’s student housing sector, Savills UK [online], Accessed on 4/9/2018 : [https://www.savills.co.uk/research_articles/229130/176510-0]

D’Arcy, C., 2017, A western union: living standards and devolution in the West of England, Resolution Foundation [online], Accessed on 2/9/2018 : [https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/a-western-union-living-standards-and-devolution-in-the-west-of-england/]

Ogur, J., 1973, Higher Education and Housing: The Impact of Colleges and Universities on Local Rental Housing Markets, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology Vol. 32, No. 4

Partington, R., 2017, Bristol’s housing crisis: ‘The idea you would own a home is ridiculous’, The Guardian [online], accessed on 2/9/2018 : [https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/20/bristol-housing-crisis-property-prices-rents-young-people]

Rugg, J., 2000, Students and the private rented market, Joseph Rowntree Foundation [online], accessed on 7/9/2018 : [https://www.york.ac.uk/…/Financial%20Resiliance%20and%20Security%20Report.pdf]

Wiles, C., 2014, Increased student numbers are worsening the housing crisis, The Guardian [online], accessed on 2/9/2018 : [https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2014/sep/01/student-numbers-worsening-housing-crisis]

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UK Bovine Tb and Badger Cull Zones

by Barnaby Treneer

A significant proportion of my summer holiday was spent working on my family’s farm in the Dartmoor National Park, Devon. We rear livestock, primarily cattle for beef which are sold at between nine months and twenty four months of age at market before going on to be fattened and sent to slaughter. On the 27th September we had our six-monthly bovine Tb test where we had one cow from a herd of over one hundred test positive for the disease. This means that we are unable to sell, or move off farm, any livestock until two clear tests are achieved. This has multiple effects, the first being that there is a significant interruption to the cash flow of the business as the autumn is a time at which we would tend to sell a large proportion of the young stock we were not keeping for breeding. Secondly it creates the issue of having to house and feed many more livestock through the winter months than planned. The culling of badgers is one of the main ways in which the government has aimed to stop the spread of bovine Tb and having narrowly missed out on being in a cull zone recently I was interested to look more into how cull zones are set up and how this form of tuberculosis has spread in UK livestock.

Bovine Tuberculosis is an infectious disease which can infect many mammals. Over the last half century is has spread significantly across the UK (see Figure 1 below). This has caused significant problems and therefore mainly due to the cost to the economy (over £100 million/year (TB Free England, 2013)) that major work was needed to try and reduce the prevalence of this disease. The spread of this disease is interesting because it shows the interaction between human-driven farming and the natural environment. With wild animals including badgers and deer being blamed as the main carriers of the disease it exemplifies a key tension between farmers and nature. This is mainly due to the fact that in areas of no infection in the surrounding wildlife, bovine tuberculosis outbreaks are shown to be short and easily managed (TB Free England, 2013), however when there is a reservoir of the disease in the natural environment controlling the spread is much more difficult. Therefore due to the increasing cost of the disease it was decided that further action needed to be taken.

Figure 1: Spread of Bovine TB (Defra, 2011 in Fur Feather and Fin, 2018)

Due to the link between badgers and the disease cull zones we set up to significantly reduce the number of badgers. The cull zones are concentrated in the high risk areas (Figure 2 and Figure 3 below). In terms of geographical focus it is most interesting to try and determine how the cull zones were set up as they appear to have somewhat arbitrary borders. There are a number of criteria which must be fulfilled in order to set up a cull zone: areas must be at least 150km squared, with 70% of the proposed land accessible for culling and a large degree of the inaccessible land near to accessible land. There is also a four year financial commitment (Badger Action News, 2018). To a large degree the criteria for setting up cull zones are difficult to achieve that this may limit the effectiveness overall due to the inability to destroy the disease reservoir in the natural environments outside of the cull zones. The argument of whether and how to set up cull zones is largely affected by the need to balance political and scientific factors and often political factors take precedent in contentious situations (Nature Publishing Group, 2007).

Figure 2: Relative Risk of Tb Outbreaks Areas (TBHub, 2015).

Overall it has been relatively difficult to obtain unbiased information on the contentious issue of the use of culling badger and also on how the cull zones are set up. The latter is to a large degree down to the need for information over the cull to remain relatively secretive to protect farmers and landowners from campaigners. The south west of the country has traditionally and still is the worst affected area by this disease and this is reflected in the number of cull zones in the region. The creation of cull areas though does appear to be more based upon ease of access rather than the likelihood of helping to achieve the long term aim of eradicating BTb, a wider still approach to wildlife management may be need for this. The most interesting geographical takeaways have been to see the need to balance economy with the environment, relating to the spread of tb, and balance between political aims and science in deciding how best to move forward with eradicating the disease.

Figure 3: Badger Cull Zones in the UK 2017.

References:

Badger Action News (2018) Inside the Cull Zones. Badger Action News. Available at: http://badgeractionnews.org/the-cull/inside-the-badger-cull-zones/ [Accessed on: 30/09/2018].

Cull Zone Areas (2018) Available at: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=125MIf7RnhFOjxl4HH5wNBYghZio&ll=51.80614361665441%2C-2.8091074048800237&z=8 [Accessed on: 30/09/2018]

Nature Publishing Group (2007) In for the cull. Nature. Vol 450. Issue no. 7166 published on 1/11/2007. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/450001b.pdf [Accessed on: 30/09/2018].

NFU IT (2013) How Much Does bTb cost? TB Free England. Available at: http://www.tbfreeengland.co.uk/faqs/how-much-does-btb-cost/ [Accessed: 30/09/2018].

TBHub (2015) Risk Map for Great Britain. TBHub. Available at: http://www.tbhub.co.uk/risk-map/ [Accessed: 30/09/2018].

Fur Feather and Fin (2018) Badger Cull to Commence in June 2013…Right or Wrong? Fur Feather and Fin. Available at: https://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pixies/2012/9/29/1348947992834/Bovine-TB-spreading-002.jpg [Accessed: 30/09/2018]

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Malta: Citizenship by Investment

by Lucy Duncan

Over the summer I was visited by a family who are participating in Malta’s “Citizenship by Investment” programme that aims to provide Maltese citizenship, and therefore access to the European Union and the Schengen Area, to those who are considered financially eligible (Malta Immigration, 2018). In order to be eligible for the programme applicants must be able to contribute €65,000 upfront along with investing similar values into real estate and bonds. However, this is the lowest contribution required – if the applicant is married or has dependent family members further contributions are necessary (ibid). This report will examine the reasons that both the Maltese government and aspiring citizens were eager for this scheme to be available, as well as the negative consequences of the programme as perceived by the EU. Furthermore, it will explore how the option for high and ultra-high net worth individuals to gain EU citizenship reflects an ease of transmigration for more “elite” migrants (Beaverstock, 2005).

Malta is a small archipelago consisting of three islands off the southern coast of Europe, sustaining 400,000 people (Malta Tourism Authority, 2018). Upon joining the EU in May 2004, the significance of being a citizen of Malta increased as Maltese citizens were able to access 182 countries without a visa, making it the 7th most desirable passport in the world (Visa Restrictions Index, 2018). 10 years after joining the EU, the Citizenship by Investment programme was officially functioning and has provided approximately €162.5 million (Chetcuti, 2018) through investment alone (this is assuming each of the 1000 applicants provides only the minimum of €65,000). To an economy that is largely reliant on tourism, a shipment refuelling trade that is diminishing due to increasingly longer range ships, and industry centred around electronics and textile, the extra capital generated from the programme is vital for sustaining high quality of life and maintaining its status among 32 other countries as an “advanced economy” (IMF, 2018). Clearly providing economic advantages to the country, the programme continues to be considered successful by the Maltese government as they retain control over the acceptance of applicants, allowing the rejection of any persons considered to pose a potential threat to the economy or security of Malta; the government asks for 4 different types of data to ensure a clear criminal record as well as medical records to be certain that individuals will not be a drain on resources (Malta Immigration, 2018). The benefits to those applicants with sufficient funds to make the program feasible are obvious; EU citizenship to allow the right of establishment in any of the 28 EU countries, the opportunity to relocate business affairs to an EU country, and Visa-free access to 182 countries and states. The rights to study, live and work in the EU are also passed down to all future generations of the families which is cited as a major incentive by many of the programme’s participants (ibid). 

While citizenship can be taken at face value and defined as simply a legal, political and social status which provides rights such as voting, freedom and welfare within a certain community (Clarke, 1993), it has previously been a concept produced by partaking in social practices and in the day to day exchange of commodities that sustains communities (Mansvelt, 2008). In today’s society the term citizenship often takes both of these definitions, implying at least some social integration into a community; in the UK applicants have to take and pass a citizenship test that includes knowledge on the country’s history and traditions (Zile, 2016, cited in Cooper, 2016). In the citizenship by investment programme, however, integration is by no means required and the Malta Immigration website even states that there are advisors on the scheme that are trained in “assisting non-English speaking clients” (Malta Immigration, 2018). In this case, it is clear that citizenship is taken to include simply the legal implications of the definition and no integration into the country and overall community is necessary. This is claimed to be potentially damaging to the transnational space that the EU has attempted to create as the immigrants are unlikely to have any real connection to the communities they live in. Critics of the programme suggest that the scheme could pose some security threats to both Malta and the EU as it can and has been used (particularly by Russians) simply to bypass sanctions imposed on certain countries. Furthermore, some argue that the scheme undermines the concept of European citizenship (Cooper, 2016). However, contrary to this, it may be argued that the EU does not provide a truly transnational space as the majority of its citizens continue to align themselves primarily with their nation-states and, while borders may be frequently crossed, social bridges are not usually created (Struver, 2005).

Furthermore, the scheme highlights an already apparent trend in transnational movement whereby elite or highly skilled workers face far fewer barriers, and often much more encouragement, when migrating globally (Beaverstock, 2002). By allowing people to essentially buy citizenship, Malta is ultimately encouraging this divide as the opportunity for citizenship is only available to those with enough money. Along with much of the increased movement of the wealthy elite, Maltese citizenship brings into question how transnational these people actually are. By defining transnationalism as living “stretched across borders” including “multi-stranded social relations” (Basch et al, 1994), it is difficult to view those who achieve citizenship through investment as truly transnational; there tend to be few links between a place of origin and settlement as scarcely any applicants actually live for any significant period of time in Malta and there tend to be no emotional ties created (Cooper, 2016).

In conclusion, the “Citizenship by Investment” scheme in Malta is mutually beneficial for the government and successful applicants as it provides the former with increased income with minimal effort, and the latter with full use of the resources of the EU and access to numerous other countries. However, the programme is criticised for its lack of integration efforts and brings into question the transnational status of the migrants and the suitability of giving them the status of an EU and Maltese citizen. However, Austria also provides a Citizenship by Investment programme (with access to 184 countries visa-free) meaning that criticism is highly unlikely to cause any cancellation of the programmes (Visa Restrictions Index, 2018).

 References

 Beaverstock, J. V. (2005) Transnational elites in the city: British highly-skilled inter-company transferees in New York city’s financial district. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31, 245-268.

 Chetcuti, J., 2018 Malta Citizenship by Investment. Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates [online] <https://www.ccmalta.com/publications/malta-citizenship-investment> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

 Clarke, p. (ed.), 1993. Citizenship: A Reader.

 Cooper, H., 2016. Malta slammed for cash-for-passport program. Politico [online] <https://www.politico.eu/article/malta-cash-for-passports-program-individual-investor-programme/> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

 Henley and Partners, 2018. Passport Index. Henley and Partners Group Holdings Limited [online] <https://www.henleyglobal.com/files/download/HPI2018/PI%202018%20INFOGRAPHS%20GLOBAL%20180518.pdf> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

 Malta Immigration, 2018. Citizenship by Investment Malta. Malta Immigration Citizenship by Investment Programme [online] Available at: <http://www.maltaimmigration.com> [Accessed 20 August 2018]

 Malta Tourism Authority, 2018. Modern Malta. VisitMalta [online] <https://www.visitmalta.com/en/home> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

 Strüver, A. (2005) Spheres of transnationalism within the European Union: on open doors, thresholds and drawbridges along the Dutch-German border. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31, 323-343.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Social and Spatial Exclusion of Indigenous Australians

by Jemima Richardson-Jones

During my vacation I was fortunate to tour Australia for a month. Many of the tourist sites I visited celebrated the 50th anniversary of the outcome of the 1967 referendum in which Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islands were finally accepted as citizens within Australia. Despite this act of social inclusion, the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is still clear. For example between 2014-2016 Indigenous children aged 0-4 were more than twice as likely to die than non-Indigenous children (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). This led me to question the extent to which Indigenous peoples have been included within Australian society today, over 50 years on from the vote. In this report I will analyse the stigma surrounding the Indigenous community and their subsequent spatial exclusion. I will finally examine how the Palm Island incident in 2004 illustrates how Indigenous Australians are perceived as “out of place”.

Figure 1: John Glover, 1838 Natives on the Ouse River, Van Diemen’sLand

Arguably the exclusion of Aboriginals is largely symbolic. This form of exclusion is closely related to the concept of stigma, the severe social disapproval of an individual or group with stigmatized groups suffering exclusion as a result (May, 2013). Sibley (1995) refers to Object Relation Theory to explain the need to differentiate between “Self” and “Other”. There is an association of the defiled “Other” with bodily residues making them “dirty” (Sibley, 1995). Aborigines have often been depicted as “dirty” in European colonialist art. I was drawn to a particular painting by John Glover, who was informed by European notions of a landscape unsullied by European contact (Art Gallery of NSW, 2018). The indigenous subjects are naked, dirty sitting by the river in the mud (Figure 1). This seems to embody notions of the “primitive” man, who doesn’t follow Western notions of “civilised” behaviour and therefore is labelled as inferior and the “Other” (Cresswell, 1996). There is a fear of the self “becoming polluted” by the deviant groups (Sibley, 1995). Therefore the imposition of Otherness alienates the labelled person from the centre of society, placing them at the margins since they don’t conform (May, 2014). Indeed Glover’s painting seems to neglect the reality, dispossession and violence at the hands of the colonists (Art Gallery of NSW, 2018), who justify their actions since they deem themselves superior and thus are able to push the original inhabitants out of their ‘civilized’ society.

The symbolic exclusion of indigenous peoples leads to their spatial exclusion. Exclusion is an active process and in many cases involves the deliberate distancing of a subordinate group by and from another dominating group (May, 2014). Indeed, the dominating group carries out the ‘purification of space’ by constructing social-spatial boundaries that push the “Other” to the margins of society (Sibley, 1995). This is evident in the way in which the government responds to the problem of alcoholism within the Indigenous community. They impose “dry zones” in areas where people congregated to drink, often in the centre of cities or towns, issuing financial penalties to those caught consuming alcohol. Many of the accused are homeless or living in extreme poverty so cannot afford the fines. As a result, fines build up and some end up in prison. This strategy only serves to “drive people out into the margins or put them in jail” (Davey, 2015). In this sense legislation is actively pushing the “Other” from the centre of society purifying the space for the benefit of the dominant group, who are disturbed by the ‘drunken Aborigine’ stereotype (Saggers and Grey, 2002). In Queensland I spoke to a fellow holidaymaker Cindy from Melbourne about the perceived problem with alcohol and the Indigenous. She admitted it is a small minority that behaves that way, but they are very visible. Perhaps their exclusion to the margins make the few that come into society and drink excessively harm the reputation for all, leading to them being further excluded and stigmatized. The establishment of “dry zones” is not addressing what perhaps might be driving alcoholism in Indigenous communities, a sense of helplessness in the face of political and economic marginalisation and discrimination (Saggers and Grey, 2002). In short social exclusion drives alcoholism, which in turn leads to spatial exclusion as the government tries to manage the problem.

In Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art I watched a rather shocking video installation by Vernon Ah Kee documenting a crisis of race relations on Palm Island in 2004. It seemed to remind the audience that even today, Indigenous people are made to feel “out of place”. According to Cresswell (1996) place is ideological. What behaviours and who is acceptable and unacceptable is transmitted through place and space. Place and space therefore must be created, reproduced and defended, particularly by the dominant group (Cresswell, 1996). Indeed we can explore the significance of place and space when things appear to ‘go wrong’ (Cresswell, 1996). It was apparent things went very ‘wrong’ on Palm Island. In 2004 Islanders rioted and burnt down the police station following the public revelation of the autopsy results on Mulrunji Doomadgee, who died in police custody from internal bleeding. Tension arose when it was announced the death was an “accident”; the reality was clearly police misconduct (MCA Australia, 2016). The police responded to the riots in a brutal manner, flying in extra police and officials from the mainland to control the minority, justifying their actions by presenting the islanders as “not law-abiding citizens” and barbaric (Lex Wotton in Davidson, 2018). They are therefore “out of place” since they don’t behave in a way that is deemed acceptable by the majority group. The artist himself admitted that “as a people, the Aborigine in Australia exists in a world where our place is always prescribed for us and we are always in jeopardy” (Ah Kee, 2010 in MCA Australia, 2016).

However, processes of exclusion are never absolute (May, 2014). Ah Kee (2010) says that “[Aborigine] are continually having to build and re-build” (MCA Australia, 2016). Indeed processes of exclusion will always to some extent be resisted leading to the “transgression” of social space (Cresswell, 1996). Twelve years following the riots in Palm Cove, it was determined that the treatment of the Palm Island community by police was discriminatory and “an affront to the law” (Davidson, 2018). Therefore Queensland agreed to give islanders $30 million settlement. But it is clear the case didn’t just provide economic compensation for the Islanders, it shed light on the unjustifiable way in which the Indigenous communities were portrayed making it somehow acceptable for the police to act the way they did (Davidson, 2018). It could be argued that following this act of resistance the Palm Islanders have affirmed their right to the space and thus are no longer “out of place”.

Despite the outcome of the 1967 referendum, it is evident that Indigenous peoples are not fully included within Australian society today, pushed to the margins on lands they have been calling home for 65,000 years. It will be interesting to see if the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains in the future in light of government promises to “Close the Gap” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2018) and acts of resistance such as those in Palm Island, that affirms Aborigine “place” within the centre of society.

 References

Art Gallery of NSW (2018).  John Glover: The Collection: Art Gallery NSW. [online]. Available at: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/artists/glover-john/  [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Deaths in Deaths, Australia, 2016. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia. [online]. Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3302.0Main%20Features62016?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3302.0&issue=2016&num=&view=# [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Commonwealth of Australia (2018). Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2018. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. [online]. Available at: https://closingthegap.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/ctg-report-2018.pdf?a=1 [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Cresswell, T. (1996). In Place/ Out of Place: Geography, Ideology and Transgression. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

Davey, M. (2015). Alcohol abuse behind high rates of early death among Indigenous, study finds. The Guardian. [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/feb/20/alcohol-abuse-behind-high-rates-of-early-death-among-indigenous-study-finds [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Davidson, H. (2018). Queensland to pay Palm Islanders $30m over police response to 204 riots. The Guardian. [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/01/queensland-to-pay-palm-islanders-30m-over-police-response-to-2004-riots [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Glover, J. (1838). Natives on the Ouse River, Van Diemen’s Land. [Painting]. Available at: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/48.1985/ [Accessed 22 September 2018].

May, J. (2014). Exclusion in Cloke et al. (Eds.) Introducing Human Geographies London, Arnold, pp.655-668.

MCA Australia (2016). Artwork on Display: Vernon Ah Kee: tall man, 2010. [online]. Available at: https://www.mca.com.au/artists-works/works/2016.19/ [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Saggers, S., Gray, D. (2002). Explanation of Indigenous alcohol use in Saggers, S., Gray, D. (Eds.) Indigenous Australian alcohol and other drug issues: research from the National Drug Research Institute. Perth, National Drug Research Institute.

Sibley, D. (1995). Geographies of Exclusion: Society and difference in the West London, Routledge.

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Exploring the “world’s most dangerous city” – Medellín, Colombia

by Eliza Norris

In 1988, Medellín was branded the ‘world’s most dangerous city’ (Time 1988). Merely twenty-five years later it was heralded the leading urban centre for innovation (Urban Land Institute 2013). From a reputation of mass homicides and rampant drug trafficking to one of dynamic modernisation, Medellín’s transformation is remarkable. Whilst reminders of the devastation are visible, having visited the city over the summer it seemed somewhat detached from its horrific past. One must question how this profound metamorphosis has been achieved. One of the most discernible images of innovation I witnessed arose from mobility. Whilst exploring some of the most deprived Comunas, I was struck by the juxtaposition between the “informal”, and in some places decrepit housing, and the modern transportation infrastructure. It led me to explore the role increasing mobilities has played in the cities transformation.

As part of the city’s Integrated Urban Projects, three aerial cable-car public transport systems and a series of escalators were developed to connect the underdeveloped “informal” communities to the “formal” population along the main Metro line (Brand and Dávila 2011). Whilst the principle behind transport infrastructure providing a solution to social exclusion is clear, one must question the extent to which these schemes have truly resulted in the desired economic and social outcomes. Are developments, such as the Metro Cable pioneering and effective solutions to urban inequalities? Or are they merely highly visible interventions that only superficially convey images of modernity and inclusion (Reimerink 2018)?

Metro Cable Line K from Santa Domingo Station in Comuna 1. This is one of three cable lines reaching Medellín’s Comunas that line the valley side. Source: Eliza Norris

Ample literature exists to support the view that such developments have not increased the mobility of the urban poor and thus have not produced the desired social and economic outcomes. To quantify the precise outcomes of these transportation schemes is problematic due to a lack of available data and the infrastructure’s conjunction with other improvement projects (Brand and Dávila 2011). However, it has been suggested that in the barrios where the stations are situated, under 10% of daily trips are via the cable car systems (Brand and Dávila 2011). This failure may be attributed to the importance of context; whilst mobility is a prerequisite of contemporary society, the operation and insertion of transport routes must coincide with the local users’ temporal patterns and economic situations (Kauffman et al., 2004). Thus, it has been argued that there is a “vision dissonance” between the mobility issues as perceived by the planners and the public (Kash and Hidalgo 2014). For example, the Metro Cable has arguably failed to meet the needs of the local residents due to issues surrounding luggage restrictions, safety for women and walking distance to the nearest station. Many of these problems have meant that residents opt to continue to use pre-existing transportation schemes such as the bus, despite the potential economic and temporal benefits of the Metro Cable (Brand and Dávila 2011). The dislocation between the vision of the planners and the needs of the population is clear.

 

The Metro Cable and Escalators located in Comuna 13 are undoubtedly of enormous symbolic and political significance. Arguably, the Mayors’ motivation to produce visible and media-friendly solutions to entice international recognition and praise has led to the implementation of superficially modern and effective schemes (Reimerink 2018). These publicity-centred gains may have seen Medellín receive international accolades but are arguably not providing appropriate long-term solutions to social exclusion, nor changing the lives of the local people. As our Comuna 13 walking tour guide noted, whilst the escalators may produce a bold and visible image of innovation and opportunity, there was much resistance to their development as many of the local citizens did not see their relevance; the old stairs did not produce their most significant barriers to mobility. One must therefore question whether planners have neglected the real mobility problems in order to fulfil superficial goals of internationally recognised modernity.

 

Whilst in many ways these transport schemes have not been efficacious, this is not to say they are without merit. Both local residents with whom I conversed and research surrounding the matter concur on an important result of these products of ‘social urbanism’. They have produced a “feeling of inclusion and integration into the ‘modern’ city” (Brand and Dávila 2011:647). Whilst the Metro Cable and Escalators may not have achieved their desired usage and thus economic and social effects, they have begun to redress the view of these neighbourhoods in the eyes of the Comunas residents, Medellín inhabitants and internationally. By beginning to restore the image of the once war-torn city, it has encouraged tourists, such as myself, to venture into the previously inaccessible areas. As I was repeatedly reminded, for the local residents in the most deprived Comunas, tourists signify hope, pride and their continuing integration into the innovative and modern city. This in itself may begin to redress the contrast between prosperity and poverty, opportunity and shortcomings, and mobility and immobility in Medellin.

 

References

 

Adey, P. (2010) Mobility, Abingdon: Routledge.

Borrell, J., (1988) Colombia the Most Dangerous City. Time [online] 21 March 1988. Available at: http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,967029,00.html [Accessed 28 September 2018]

 

Brand, P., Dávila, J.D., (2011) Mobility innovation at the urban margins. City. 15(6), DOI: 10.1080/13604813.2011.609007. [Accessed 28 September 2018]

 

Reimerink, L., (2018) Planners and the Pride Factor: The Case of the Electric Escalator in Medellín. Bulletin of Latin American Research. 37:2 pp. 191-205. Available at: https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:3688/doi/epdf/10.1111/blar.12665 [Accessed 25 September 2018]

Cresswell, T. (2010) Towards a politics of mobility, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(1), 17-31. Available at: http://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:7216/doi/pdf/10.1068/d11407 [Accessed 25 September 2018]

Kash, G. and Hidalgo, D. (2014) The Promise and Challenges of Integrating Public Transportation in Bogotá, Colombia. Public Transport 6: 107–135. DOI: 10.1007/s12469-013-0083-7 [Accessed 28 September 2018]

 

Kaufmann, V., Bergman, M. and Joye, D. (2004) Motility: mobility as capital, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28(4), pp. 745–756. DOI:  10.1111/j.0309-1317.2004.00549.x [Accessed 28 September 2018]

 

Ohnmacht, T., Maksim, H. and Bergman, M.M. (Eds.) (2009) Mobilities and Inequality. Farnham: Ashgate.

Schwanen, T. (2017) Mobilities and Networks. School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford [unpublished] 8th January 2017

Sheller, M., Urry, J. (2006) The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A38(2), 207-226. DOI: 10.1068/a37268. [Accessed 27 September 2018]

 

Starkey, M., (2013) Medellín Voted City of the Year. Urban Land Institute [online] 1 March 2013. Available at: https://americas.uli.org/urban-land-magazine/medellin-named-most-innovative-city/ [Accessed 27 Sepetember 2018]

 

Following a project of ‘social urbanism’, Mayors Sergio Fajardo (2004-2007) and Alonson Salazar (2008-2011) have injected vast financial investments into the poorer, or “informal” communities, that line the hillsides of the Aburrá Valley (Reimerink 2018). One of the most recognised outcomes of these investments are the Metro Cable and the Escalators of Comuna 13. The primary aim is to diminish the socio-spatial exclusion between prosperity and poverty. Such strategies fall in line with increasing literature in the social sciences proclaiming a ‘mobilities turn’ (Schwanen 2017). As it is increasingly acknowledged that mobilities must be treated as ubiquitous, the inherent hierarchy to mobility must also be recognised (Adey 2010; Cresswell 2010; Ohnmacht et al., 2009). Mobility is socially and spatially uneven and is producing and produced by social relations and power (Cresswell 2010). Those people and places in the fast lanes have a clear advantage (Sheller and Urry 2006). Therefore, one could argue that by expanding the mobilities of the urban poor in Medellín, one increases their motility; that is their ability to relocate both socially and geographically and thus diminish social and economic exclusion (Ohnmacht et al., 2009).

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Summer Geographies winning assignment

For second year geographers returning to College in October, we ran a competition. Their brief was to submit a short piece of work in a style of their choice which presented something they did over the summer through a geographical lens. Over the next few weeks all entries will be uploaded here and to begin, here is the winning entry to listen to from Olivia Leigh about a trip to Scotland:

Well done Olivia!

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Welcome new geographers

Some useful links to other sites as you settle in:

Keble College Library:

Oxford University Health and Welfare Services

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Exam successes

Some of the Finalists during our last meal together in June

Congratulations to all our geographers who sat exams in May and June. They secured an excellent set of results across Prelims and Final Honours with a number of Firsts, Distinctions and a 2nd prize in the national Undergraduate Dissertation prize awarded to Caitlin Brown by the Food Geographies Working Group for her excellent research project entitled ‘Wonky Veg and Liquid Politics: a contestatory commerce?’

 

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It’s that time of year again…. BMW MINI Plant tour

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Geography 2nd Yr Human Geography Fieldvisit…

With rows and rows of mortar boards on the wall behind Amy, Aisling, Hannah and Emma, this location was not quite the homogeneous place that some hyper-globalists would have us believe…

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Unnatural Nature Up Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia National Park

Thank you to Emma Carter for her insights on Mount Snowdon:

For a significant period of time, I have been wanting to summit Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. After proposing this to my mother at the beginning of this summer, we decided to book a hostel room and attempt the walk, which is hardly challenging for experienced walkers and takes around 5 hours to ascend and descend. My family enthusiastically seeks naturally beautiful landscapes, which exist in abundance in rural Wales; I also sought the sense of achievement which reaching the top of a mountain brings, and ideally the stunning views which were sure to accompany this. However, thinking deeper into geographical understandings of how nature and landscapes are interpreted, I have come to realise that perhaps my experience of Snowdon cannot simply be boiled down to one of beauty.

Source: http://gwynant.com/activities/walks/

My walking party chose the manageable Snowdon Ranger path, which coincides with the popular Llanberis path shortly prior to reaching the summit at 1,085m. Despite a reasonably quiet walk up, in which our encounters with other walkers were only occasional, on joining the Llanberis path this changed drastically. The summit of Snowdon was very busy, a fact that was only augmented by a horde of runners competing in an international hill running race that day. My search for undisturbed and beautiful nature had been interrupted by excessive human presence, which begs the question: is nature really natural?

In common conceptions of nature, a false dichotomy can be observed between nature and society, such that nature is pristine, God-given and unmarred, the raw material exploited by ‘society’ for the purposes of production (Smith, 2010 in Apostolopoulou, 2016). Nature is therefore defined by a dualism which is inapplicable to reality, as my visit to Snowdon suggests: seeking ‘nature’ as a wild, untouched entity is impossible. We expect that nature is grounded in a divided geography, islands of ‘natural’ space surrounded by less ‘natural’ urban or inhabited areas, but inevitably nature and society are inextricably intertwined. Nature has been defined by its distance from humans, and humans therefore seek wilderness – yet this presents a paradox, because any space in which humans are present fails to conform to what we would label ‘natural’. This was evident in the extreme up Snowdon, where the presence of other walkers rendered the scenery ‘unnatural’.

Source: Emma Carter

This is a notion much discussed among Marxist geographers, who have investigated and developed Marx’s ideas about the concept of nature writing from the middle of the 19th century. According to Smith (2010 in Apostolopoulou, 2016), Marx suggested that virtually no nature existed any longer which predated human history; simply put, we almost can’t find any piece of nature that hasn’t been influenced by humans. This could be labelled the ‘Anthropocene’, yet this in itself is a problematic term – ‘anthropos’ implies that humans are against the great forces of nature, reinforcing the Cartesian dualism characterising human relations with nature (Moore, 2014 in Apostolopoulou, 2016). Even the way we address discussions of nature with humans as a central role, for example within debate around contemporary environmental issues or designating Sites of Special Scientific Interest, suggests that nature cannot coexist with society and retain its ‘naturalness’.

Furthermore, our conceptions of nature and landscape tend to be limited to outside spaces – yet time spent playing board games in the hostel and looking down the spectacular Pen-y-pass was an equal part of the experience of nature in Snowdonia, as this created a locale in which the mountain was experienced. The ways in which humans experience the landscape are varied: it can even be through representations of the landscape, for example through the maps and pictures lining the walls of the youth hostel. The debate arises as to which provides the most complete picture of the landscape – these maps, including the one pictured, exclude certain aspects of the landscape such as the people who may be encountered on the paths, and how busy they are.

Spinney (2006) argues for a phenomenological approach to landscape, where it is experienced pre-cognitively through the senses – the body and the landscape are intertwined through movements, urges, emotions, or routines. Motility is of utmost importance here due to the body’s capabilities to access a new layer of meaning from the landscape through the senses such as temperature monitoring, vision, and kinaesthesia (Spinney, 2006). Kinaesthesia was particularly important when ascending Snowdon, due to the thick cloud clinging to the mountainside – like Ingold (2000, in Spinney, 2006), I felt rather than saw the contours of the landscape due to the muscle burn of ascending and the shifting of scree beneath by boots.

Overall, looking at my experience of Snowdon through a geographical lens demonstrates how concepts within the discipline of human geography are endlessly applicable even in a setting which many would initially not associate with humans – the wilderness of Snowdon is not, in fact, wild at all, but permeated with human relations.

References

Apostolopoulou, E., (2016) Nature. [Lecture to BA Geography Year 1]. Oxford University, 30th November 2016.

 Llyn Gwynant Campsite (2017). Walking. [online] Available at: http://gwynant.com/activities/walks/ (Accessed: 1st October 2017).

Spinney, J. (2006) A place of sense: a kinaesthetic ethnography of cyclists on Mont Ventoux. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24, 709-732.

 

 

 

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Stoke Potters

Summer Geographies: Stoke Potters by Mason Gain

One day over the summer vacation I visited the Emma Bridgewater ceramics factory for a tour, which was originally intended to please my grandmother, a lover of the brand. However, upon arrival in Stoke-on-Trent it was striking how the pottery industry was so overwhelming, so much so that the nickname of the local football club has become “The Potters”. This began to make me think about how this could have occurred, which drove me to want to better understand how one single city has developed such growth in one industry that has led to the city itself being represented by such a nickname. After founding the company in Oxfordshire in 1985 Emma was later told that if her wish was to scale the business to a greater proportion and mass produce, then the only way this would be achievable was if she were to move to Stoke-on-Trent and set up production there. So, what is it about the city of Stoke-on-Trent that has made it such an ideal place to set up and succeed with ceramics production, and does this look set to continue into the future?

Located in the North of the county of Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent has historically had an ideal geographical location for the expansion of the pottery industry. Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent dates back to the 17th Century (Birks, 2008), due to the abundance of clay, salt (used for glazing) and coal (used in the kilns). Therefore, at first glance the city seems a perfect geographical location for the production of pottery. Not only was the geographical location ideal, but the socio-economic conditions were a great fit with the low wages and living costs of the local population meaning that it was very cheap to produce here for the industry owners (Visit Stoke, 2017).

In the mid-18th Century the red-burning clays that originate from nearby Stoke-on-Trent in fact became out of fashion against the preferred white-burning clays meaning that in the mid-18th Century ‘The Potters’ had to seek an alternative solution so that they were not destroyed by competitors. With cheap production costs and a city population of which half were skilled craftspeople in the industry, it was not a viable solution to move the industry to a location where geographical conditions were more suitable to sourcing white-burning clay. Instead, transporting raw materials from Devon and Dorset to Stoke-on-Trent seemed to be the best response to this problem (Visit Stoke, 2017). After a period of around 30 years of transporting the clay, the construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal in 1777 meant that transportation was made cheaper and easier than ever before (Wikipedia, 2017; Visit Stoke, 2017). This led to the industry thriving more than ever before, with raw materials and finished products being able to be transported easier and more cost-efficiently, whilst fuel was still sourced locally.

However, this does not exactly hold true today. With the closure of many mines and factories in the recent decades due to foreign competition, ‘The Potters’ are not as strong as they used to be in the industry. Since 1970 there has been approximately 170 factories closing, leaving only 30 left today along with approximately 20,000 jobs being lost between 1998 and 2008 (Nicholls, 2011). Nicholls (2011) highlights that the foreign competition has been very harsh to many manufacturers, as manufacturing processes remain the same as they always have, which means that it is difficult for the industry in Stoke-on-Trent to compete with the relaxed regulations and lower production costs of their foreign competitors. This has meant that the industry in Stoke-on-Trent is now made up of only high-end producers who thrive more upon the quality of their produce and the reputation of their brand as it is impossible for them to compete on price. Therefore, Emma Bridgewater, who entered the industry in 1985 fought against all odds in what was a declining industry at the time of their founding. They have built a reputable brand that has been able to stand out against cheaper foreign goods.

In conclusion, the city of Stoke-on-Trent has historically been an ideal geographical location for the manufacturing of ceramics due to the raw materials present in the local surroundings as well as efficient transport mechanisms with the canal system, which has made for success in the city. However, in more modern times as the industry has faced difficult competition, the geographical location no longer benefits the industry but instead success in the city has depended on reputable brands and top-quality produce.

Birks, S. 2008. Stoke-on-Trent the world’s largest and most famous pottery producing city… [online] Available at: http://www.thepotteries.org/sot/five.htm [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Nicholls, D. 2011. All fired up: the future of pottery. [online] Available at: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/interiors/8281433/All-fired-up-the-future-of-pottery.html> [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Visit Stoke, 2017. 18th Century Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent. [online] Available at: http://www.visitstoke.co.uk/ceramics-trail/history-18century.aspx [Accessed 3 October 2017]

Wikipedia, 2017. Stoke-on-Trent. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoke-on-Trent. [Accessed 3 October 2017]

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Mountain Gorillas at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

For her Summer Geographies project, Aisling Taylor produced an excellent report on mountain gorillas in Uganda. Watch her short documentary here.

Well done Aisling – we loved the creativity of your submission.

Displaying thumbnail of video Aisling Taylor Summer Work.mov

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