Keble Geographer, Eliza, receives national award for her dissertation

Keble geographer Eliza Norris has been recognised by the Royal Geographical Society’s Political Geography Research Group and awarded their 2020 undergraduate dissertation prize. Her research in political geography offered a comparative study of underground hospitals in Israel and Syria. She was praised by the research group for her excellent use of theory and thoughtful methodological design.

Eliza presented her research to the other geographers at Keble during Hilary Term. The presentation formed part of a coordinated set of classes we organise to introduce second years to the dissertation component of their degree.

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Exam congratulations

Exam congratulations to all of our third years who graduated in 2020: Ruchi, Lucy, Emily, Eliza, Hannah, Olivia, Sophie, Jemima, Barney and Ben. Among the fabulous achievements, several of our students were awarded or nominated for prizes:

Eliza Norris – awarded the A.J. Herbertson Prize for the best human geography dissertation in FHS Geography 2020. Also nominated for the Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) undergraduate dissertation prize and the Alfred Steers Essay Prize (RGS-IBG).

Jemima Richardson-Jones – nominated for the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group (GHWRG) undergraduate dissertation prize.

Barnaby Treneer – nominated for the British Hydrological Society Student Award undergraduate dissertation prize. Barney also recorded a clean sweep of first class marks in his exams.

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The Coronavirus and Mobility Forum

I wanted to share a research forum with you, which went live today at University of Oxford: The Coronavirus and Mobility Forum

In the video available on the site ‘What can researchers do to help?’, Prof. Biao Xiang states ‘We wish we could all become doctors overnight, but we’d can’t’ and goes on to discuss what social scientific researchers can do in making their tools, concepts and understanding accessible to the public to make sense of what is going on. This is likely to be a highly dynamic and very interesting fora of communication in coming weeks, from a social scientific perspective. The two short blogs that are already available (under New and Media), by Biao Xiang and by Ou Ning, provide a lively set of concepts that will be familiar to you from your geographical studies: chains (networks) and enclosed spaces, mobilities, drones, war, digital infrastructures, migration, health and borders.

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Oxford Interviews – what to expect

One of our geographers has been involved in the creation of this podcast to enable you to learn more about coming to Oxford for an interview:

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Winner of the Summer Geographies Prize – Annabel Morgan

Is Granny’s Geography Degree Outdated?

Over summer vacation I visited my granny in Dorset, who studied Geography herself at University (centuries ago). Catching up over tea and biscuits, she was naturally curious about the course content in my first year. I walked her through the core elements; mobilities, climate, geomorphology and so on, to which she nodded along to before pausing and asking: “..and what about the study of cartography?”

Immediately ‘Space and Place’ alarms rang in my head. My mind flashbacked to reading Toffler’s 1970 concept of the ‘death of Geography’, which states how the importance of maps, physical space and location are increasingly insignificant in the contemporary age of technology and rapid transport. Granny went on explaining her frustration with the “youth these days”, lacking any ‘genuine engagement’ with maps or routes, and instead just “punch in a postcode and follow the blue line until you arrive” – referring to the ubiquitous SatNav/Smartphone map usage.

Of course, she makes a fair point in reference to the general trends of contemporary society. Paper map sales declined 25% between 2005 and 2012 (Kelly, 2014.) A-Z map books were once essential, studied rigorously before the urban dweller could go anywhere. Shoved into pockets and handbags, they were often left battered and crumpled to be renewed on a regular basis. While sympathising with her observations, I also defended “us youths”- discussing how imperative these devices are in the incredibly mobile current society, so much so UK driving tests have been updated to test the budding driver on their SatNav usage abilities (Wilson, 2017). The study of geographic location becoming less prevalent within geography coincides with Relph’s suggestion of increasing ‘placelessness’ due to heightened interconnectivity and homogenisation across space (2008). Granny was utterly shocked how seldom cartography featured on my Geography course and just how much broader and varied our syllabuses are compared to when she studied.

Later this summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Cuba with two fellow Geography peers. Stepping off the plane in Havana’s Jose Marti Airport, we were immediately greeted with a hug of humidity, and soon hopped into the windowless 1952 “fontingo” taxi that took us to our casa, noticing the immediate omnipresence of Che Guevara’s face on almost every wall along the highway, instantly knowing that Cuba would be an entirely unique. Needless to say, we were itching to start exploring the island, and it resulted in a truly unforgettable experience. However, my understandings of space and place were indeed challenged and observing Cuban life helped shed new light on my conversation with Granny back in Shaftesbury.

Castro’s takeover in 1959 and the subsequent development of a communist regime meant that imports into Cuba were restricted, reduced further by the permanent trade embargo with the US (Coates, 2017). Consequently, the rate of globalisation within Cuba was effectively put on hold. Being just 90 miles from Miami, Hartshorne’s idea of ‘aerial differentiation’ is abruptly challenged, as despite geographic proximity, Cuba is politically and socially much further away (1939 in Castree, 2009). Only in recent years has Cuba become more ‘porous’ (Castree et al., 2009), such as with some US food imports and some installations of internet access. Yet internet only benefits 4% of Cuban households, and in Havana (with a population of 2 million), there are just 25 Wifi hotspots, with one hour of data costing 10% of one’s average monthly salary (Chanda, 2016). With limited horizontal connections to outside places (physical and virtual), Cuba exhibits a vertical sense of place – rooted and insular, developing in alignment with it’s external limitations and internal lacking. Moreover, the average Cuban relies on (often outdated) paper maps, with the world of TomToms and Smartphones still waiting to penetrate. Taxi drivers must stick to areas and routes stored in their memory or else follow a map, just like Londoners pre the digital revolution. Their use of maps and cartography as a skill is still fundamental to their daily life.

Cuba is an incredibly interesting country. Post-Cold War and just as the world was rapidly becoming highly connected, Cuba was becoming more and more isolated. While this is gradually changing, traveling to Cuba still provided me with a first-hand example of a truly unique place, and reminded me that while many Western places resemble each other, not everywhere is affected by globalisation and therefore the concept of a mosaic-like ‘place’ can still be very applicable (Castree, 2009). The way my Granny studied Geography was likely very different to how UK students study Geography in 2019, and this is a reflection of the modern, digital age of our society. However, as evidenced in Cuba, it is important to remember that the habit of diligently reading and using maps in which my Granny’s generation developed is not entirely lost to the modern world.

Castree, N. (2009) “Place: connections and boundaries in an interdependent world.” in Clifford et al, eds. Key concepts in geography, 2nd ed (2009): 153-174

Chanda, (2016) Cuba Poised for Globalisation. Straits Times [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2019]

Coates, A (2017) Is this the end of the road for Cubas classic cars? The Independent [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2019]

Kelly, J (2014) The Lost Era of the A-Z Map? BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Sep. 2019]

Wilson, (2017) Driving Test Changes. Despatch Blog [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Sep. 2019]

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Runner-up Jamie Curtis on Climate Change Politics

To what extent might Greta Thunberg’s ‘School Strike for Climate’ movement contribute to contemporary climate change politics becoming increasingly post-political?

This summer was the summer of Greta Thunberg: I have a dream. By using the concepts presented in Greta’s speech in the United States Congress (Independent, 2019) as a proxy to the intentions and characteristics behind her movement, I will attempt to consider the impact that it may have to the ‘political’ conditions under which climate change ‘politics’ play out. I will not attempt to analyse the implications or merits of a post-political frame for the effectiveness of climate change politics in countering climate change.

The conditions which are understood to be constitutive of a post-political environment are consensual agreements and formations, technocratic management and problem-focused governance (Swyngedouw, 2009). This is seen to be post-political or post-democratic because it tacitly reduces the opportunity for contestation or social antagonism which are central to democracy and political processes (Pugh, 2007). Post-political conditions can be seen to be perpetuated by populism because populist discourses construct an external enemy, such as CO2, in place of social antagonism (Swyngedouw, 2010). Populism is also based on the assumption that people know best and that science and technology aid this, as well as fundamentally seeing ‘people’ as a universal subject and a single entity (ibid). These characteristics of populist discourses contribute to decision-making becoming increasingly about holding expert knowledge and the reduction of democratic contestation.

A clear message portrayed by Greta was that she wishes to be able for us to “safeguard the conditions for a dignified life for everybody on earth” (Independent, 2019). This message may lead to climate change politics becoming increasingly depoliticized because reducing people to a single entity, without distinction between them, diminishes the opportunity for democratic contestation over the geographical variations that would likely be present in the realisation of climate change policies.

Another way in which Greta’s speech may lead to increasing the depoliticization of climate change politics is surrounding her approach to science. She stated to Congress that “you must unite behind the science” (ibid) and “It’s time to face the reality, the facts, the science” (ibid). The support for science removes the opportunity for political antagonism as the facts and principles which are presented by science start to frame the discourses. The centrality of scientific knowledge to climate change politics also changes how the we/they distinction is drawn in democracy (Pugh, 2007), it can create a simple dichotomy of acceptance or rejection rather than allowing for multiple views or stances to be taken. Greta does portray some of the potential problems of technocracy by understanding that the figures she uses from the IPCC may be too moderate as they are only the ones the “have been accepted by all nations”.  This shortfall may be linked to the increasing governance of climate change politics by post-democratic public-private transnational bodies rather than typical political institutions (Swyngedouw, 2010), as the consensus formation (such as at the Paris agreements and within the Kyoto Protocol) between different and multiple actors may require compromise of scientific accuracy. Greta’s presented dream “that governments, political parties and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences” (Independent, 2019) may accentuate the depoliticization in this way.

Another way Greta’s speech may lead to climate change politics being practiced in an increasingly post-political nature is through her construction of an external and exotic ‘enemy’, “our main enemy right now is not our political opponents. Our main enemy now is physics” (ibid). The externalisation and reduction of the ‘enemy’ is fuelled by the populist discourses which underpin post-democracy because it speaks to capitalist and neoliberal ideals of not challenging the status quo and allowing life to go on in a similar way (Swyngedouw, 2010). Rather than allowing for a multiplicity of enemies which will create contestation based of varying ontological standpoints and facilitate democratic antagonism Greta contributes to the externalisation of an enemy hoping for the unification or consensual agreement against this enemy.

It would be reductionist to think that Greta’s movement only depoliticizes politics. The distinctive we/they dichotomy between the “millions of school striking youth” (Independent, 2019) and “government, political parties and corporations” (ibid) currently failing that youth is also one drawn by Greta. The creation of this partition allows for contestation, and challenges the existing power relations and dynamics which currently govern us. Arguably, the reliance of Greta’s movement on protests also speaks to its politicisation, as these demonstrations are seen as generative events which cause a ‘slow down’ in the reasoning process and force contestation and antagonism (Whatmore, 2009).

In some ways, then, Greta’s movement has created contestation and antagonism which, given her platform, may ultimately increase the politicization of climate change politics. However, the aforementioned factors, which contribute towards a post-political framework, make the overall impact on ‘the political’ and ‘politics’ complex and dynamic in the context of climate change.

Reference list 

The Independent. 2019. Greta Thunberg: I have a dream that the powerful will take the climate crisis seriously. Available at: 

Accessed on: 10/10/2019

Pugh, J. 2007. Chantal Mouffe (2005) on the political. Area,Vol.39(1)

Swyngedouw, E. 2010. Apocalypse Forever? Post-political Populism and the Spectre of Climate Change. Theory Culture & Society, 2010 Mar, Vol.27(2-3).

Whatmore,S. 2009. Mapping knowledge controversies: science, democracy and the redistribution of expertise. Progress in Human Geography, Vol.33(5),

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Jemima’s research into music therapy

Geographers submit a piece of independent research – a dissertation – in the third year of their degree programme based on fieldwork undertaken during the summer vacation between second and third year. Current student Jemima shares some of her current work with us:

by Jemima Richardson-Jones  

Within the discipline of geography, health is increasingly being understood as a state of being or feeling as opposed to simply the absence of disease (Andrews, 2018). In this sense, health is implicated by a number of material and non-material factors that assemble as we become more or less healthy (Duff, 2014; Andrews, 2018). This raises interesting questions as to how we can expose our bodies to more positive forces in order to become healthier and improve wellbeing.

Music is frequently cited to have therapeutic qualities and improve health. It can empower, stimulate and revive us; help create a sense of belonging and most importantly help to strengthen our identity and sense of self (Connell and Gibson, 2003). This is largely due to the power of music to evoke past situations, times and places, which can generate strong emotive responses (Andrews, 2018).

Sacks (2008) highlights the negative feelings generated through the loss of memory. Those who suffer from amnesia feel they are stuck in a meaningless present since they cannot draw on their past lives and experiences. The elderly feel a similar sense of disempowerment through forgotten experiences.

Indeed, it is often the elderly who ‘fall off the map’ within policy, practice and research and therefore it is important that, within critical health geographies, we pay closer attention to these groups (Brown et al., 2018). Therefore I hoped to focus my research on how music can help the elderly through its ability to evoke rich associations and enable memory recall.

For the elderly, being able to revive aspects of their identity and past lives through reminiscent therapy and the creation of ‘musical auto-biographies’ can be very empowering and positive for wellbeing (Dassa, 2018; Ford et al. 2018; Cady, Harris and Knappenberger, 2008; Evans, Garabedian and Bray, 2017).

 My research therefore involved 12 residents living in a local care-home. I interviewed each participant twice. During the first interview, questions were designed to help create a “Musical Auto-Biography”. We explored each participant’s musical memories chronologically following a framework developed by Dassa (2018). We started initially by looking at the kinds of music the participants listened to in their youth and then progressed towards more recent musical memories.

After the initial interview, I created personalized CDs for each of the participants containing particular songs or pieces that were mentioned during the interview. They were able to listen to the CD independently and freely for a period of three weeks, after which, I returned to carry out the second round of interviews.

During the second interview, I repeated the same methodology and helped the participant to create another “Musical Auto-Biography” in order to make a direct comparison with the first interview. This meant that I was able to explore whether the CD had helped to strengthen these past memories and in turn how this had impacted their health and wellbeing. Although some of the residents had not played the CD, it was clear that many of the participants had enjoyed the experience of reliving some of those musical memories. It was particularly important for them to share and explain the contents of the CD to their friends and family.

Whilst conducting interviews I was also able to carry out participant observation during music-related group activities, such as the “Desert Island Disc” request sessions and “Move-It-To-Music”. It was really insightful to see the power of music to improve health within spaces such as these.  Even those that were less mobile suddenly became animated at the sound of a familiar song.

As a thank-you to all the residents and staff involved in my project, I put on a “Thank-You” concert. It was rewarding to see so many residents had enjoyed being involved. I look forward to analyzing my results and hope that my final dissertation write-up will demonstrate that music is well placed within wellbeing and reminiscence programmes carried out in healthcare spaces.

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A geographical consideration of the role of the modern-day medical receptionist

by Emily Harrison

The medical receptionist traverses the interface between physician and patient, bureaucratic and clinical work, and emotional and administrative roles. The complexity of their position in the workforce is something largely ignored by academic literature, but which my experience of working in a surgery over the summer enabled me to appreciate first-hand.

In the first instance, Neuwelt et al (2014) consider the medical receptionist to be a ‘gatekeeper’: the “public face of the physician” (p. 288), whose discretionary role can determine access, or lack thereof, to medical aid. As gatekeeper, the receptionist can deny patients appointments if not deemed clinically necessary, especially in the case of walk-in appointments, which are reserved for medical emergencies.  As a result, the receptionist shoulders the burden of medical responsibility in spite of not being medically trained. In my experience, this was a particular challenge when communicating with patients over the phone, where necessary information can be deceptively or only partially conveyed, as explored by Cicourel in 1999. Patients will often assume their right to access medical attention, and the receptionist’s power to deny this can frame them negatively as ‘judgemental’ or ‘cold’ (Neuwelt et al, 2016). When such access is denied, hostilities often materialise in the form of abuse directed towards the receptionist (Eisher and Britten, 1999).

Patient hostility is something which I both witnessed and experienced throughout my time at the surgery. Receptionists will often refer to abusive patients as “difficult”, however, importantly, their role necessitates that they distinguish between those who act out of unjustified anger, and those who act out of genuine vulnerability. The receptionist is in contact with some of the most mentally and physically ill members of our society, and as such has to learn to engage with compassion even in the face of abuse. They must learn to limit their judgement and convey care in a completely neutral way, despite being the “first point of attack” (Neuwelt et al, 2016. p. 127) for disgruntled or unruly patients. This is an especially difficult task to undertake where patients have issues with drug and alcohol addiction.  Heuston et al (2009) found that such patients were seen to demand attention and treatment beyond reasonable boundaries, and that receptionists often experienced heightened hostility from these patients. Difficulties arise when the patient does not correspond with the pre-determined rules and conventions which enable a system to run smoothly. For example, addicts were more likely to insist on being seen, even when appointments were not available or necessary. These patients would also breach social codes and conventions in the waiting room (the space over which a receptionist can exert authority) by reacting in an aggressive manner, or exhibiting behaviour which disrupts the experience of others (eg the consumption of alcohol around children). The waiting room embodies a figurative and literal space of division between patient and physician, over which the receptionist has power. As such, tensions between clinical structure and patient need are projected onto the space when “difficult patients” act outside of social and professional conventions (Strathmann and Hay, 2009). It falls to the receptionist to determine the patient’s real level of need, and to balance their duties of care and practice.

The importance of medical receptionists engaging empathetically with patients is therefore clear, but their role also demands of them the ability to manage emotions (both of themselves and patients). Hoschild (1979) coins this responsibility a form of “emotional labor”. Strathmann and Hay (2009) argue that receptionists have to manage their emotions (eg by limiting frustration, and acting empathetically even in challenging or frightening conditions) in order to diffuse situations and, importantly, counteract the negative preconception held by the patient that the receptionist represents an obstacle between themselves and the physician. Emotional labor is not often recognised as a duty of the receptionist; not being an official task or responsibility. It is, however, a crucial aspect of their job and of the patient-care process in general, which Williams (2003) contests is underappreciated by both clinical staff and the medical system in general. Receptionists are offered no training or support in dealing with a ‘demanding public’ (Williams, 2003) (a people who expect more emotional labor than they should, such as patients), and as such, are expected to use their own initiative to develop interpersonal skills on the job.

An important consideration here is the role of gender divisions within the workplace. I worked in an all-female team of 8 receptionists- a gender bias mirrored across most practices. Neweult et al (2014) note that “the waiting room is…a gendered space…most GPRs being women and part time, poorly paid workers” (p294). Women are perceived to be more suited to the demands of the job because of their supposedly greater emotional capacity, and even their ability to multitask under pressure- a requirement of the job which Neuwelt et al (2016) found to be routinely undervalued by other members of staff. As a result, receptionists often feel disempowered in their role. More broadly, their limited agency in the system they operate within means that they are criticised for situations over which they have no control (such as waiting time), and must learn to engage in emotional labor in order to manage such interactions. The receptionists become the “personal representations of bureaucratic power, although they do not have much of their own” (Strathmann and Hay, 2009. p. 214).

To conclude, the role of the medical receptionist is complex and undervalued, both in the workplace and by academic interest. A progressive insight into the consideration of the role of the modern-day medical receptionist must recognise that “patient health care begins in the waiting room through interactions with those who are not trained as health care providers at all” (Strathmann and Hay, 2009. p. 230).


Cicourel, A. (1999) The Interaction of Cognitive and Cultural Models in Healthcare Delivery. In Talk, Work, and Institutional Order. Srikant Sarangi and Celia Roberts, eds. Pp. 183–224. Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.

Eisner, M. and N. Britten (1999) What Do General Practice Receptionists Think and Feel about Their Work? British Journal of General Practice 49(439):103–106.

Heuston, J., Groves, P., Nawad, J., Albery, I., Gossop, M. and Strang, J. (2001). Caught in the middle: receptionists and their dealings with substance misusing patients. Journal of Substance Use, 6(3), pp.151-157.

Hochschild, A. R. (1979) Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure. The American Journal of Sociology 8(3):551–575.

Neuwelt, P., Kearns, R. and Browne, A. (2015). The place of receptionists in access to primary care: Challenges in the space between community and consultation. Social Science & Medicine, 133, pp.287-295.

Neuwelt, P., Kearns, R. and Cairns, I. (2016). The care work of general practice receptionists. Journal of Primary Health Care, 8(2), p.122.

Strathmann, C & Hay, M (2009) Working the Waiting Room: Managing Fear, Hope, and Rage at the Clinic Gate, MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, 28:3, 212-234, DOI: 10.1080/01459740903070840

Williams, C. (2003) Sky Service: The Demands of Emotional Labour in the Airline Industry. Gender, Work, and Organization 10(5):513–550.

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Hothouse earth: Fantasy or Reality?

by Sophie Hughes

According to planetary scientists, ‘hothouse earth’ is an encroaching and deadly concept – even if the reductions in carbon emissions called for in the Paris Agreement are reached, the earth’s climate may keel on to an irreversible pathway of increasing temperatures and rising sea levels in as soon as 50 years (McGrath, 2018; Steffen et al., 2018). It is the notion of a ‘hothouse earth’ I wish to explore in this essay, based upon observations and subsequent research of places I visited whilst on vacation in the West coast of Canada and the US. I travelled down through the Rocky Mountains and ended up in Yellowstone park, an ecosystem not only saturated with geothermal activity but indicative of how nature is coping with changing patterns of anthropogenic activity and climatic variables. The aforementioned landscapes offer an insight into the likelihood of a ‘hothouse earth’ scenario unfolding in the future, which this report seeks to explore.

Figure 1: Athabasca Glacier in July
2018. Source: Sophie Hughes

The above image (Figure 1) is one that I took of the Athabasca glacier, which perhaps does not seem to fulfil expectations of a vast, white, iridescent volume of ice that is typically synonymous with the word ‘glacier’. An information board by the glacier notified tourists that in the past 125 years, the Athabasca glacier has lost half of its volume and receded by more than 1.5km, with about 0.3km of the snout’s retreat occurring in the last 20 years. In addition to these startling figures, a subsequent board highlighted the dangers of straying from the marked path via the story of a 9 year old boy who had been hiking on the toe of the Columbia Icefield in 2001 when a snow bridge which he stepped on gave way, sending him falling into the crevasse below. By the time the rescue crew managed to pull him out 4 hours later, his body had already succumbed to hypothermia. An incident like this tends to happen at least once a year, demonstrating the fragile nature of a glacier that appears to be receding exponentially in an irreversible fashion – thus corroborating the notion of a ‘hothouse earth’.


Figure 2: Bow Lake in 1902.
Source: Calgary Herald

The next stop on our road-trip, Lake Louise and its proximal glaciers, alluded to similar observations; that glaciers in the Rockies are undoubtedly receding. It appears that this recession is natural, but “augmented by the man-made effects” (Osborn cited in Walton, 2009), leading to such glaciers declining at an increasingly rapid rate. This poses an alarming problem for regions of Western Canada that depend upon glacial water for their homes, businesses and agricultural sector (ibid). Indeed, Bow Glacier, approximately 37km northwest of  Lake Louise, is a prime example of glacial retreat, as documented by the Vaux family in black and white photographs over many decades.

Figure 3: Bow Lake in 2002.
Source: Calgary Herald

Henry Vaux Jr travelled to the Canadian Rockies every August from 1997 to 2013 to replicate images taken by his ancestors a century earlier, providing astounding visual evidence of Bow Glacier’s recession (Derworiz, 2015). Figure 2 was taken by the Vaux family in 1902, picturing Bow Lake and its glacier in the background. Taken exactly 100 years later, Figure 3 shows Bow Lake from the same vantage point, depicting the vast extent to which the glacier has retreated. This is substantiated by the photograph I took this summer (Figure 4), showing that the trend in retreat of Bow Glacier shows no signs of decelerating – perhaps suggesting that a ‘hothouse earth’ scenario is imminent.

Figure 4: Bow Lake in 2018.
Source: Sophie Hughes

The effects of changing environmental variables on Yellowstone National Park, our last stop, were also evident. According to scientists who have been monitoring Yellowstone’s climate for decades, average temperatures are higher than they were 50 years go whilst spring precipitation levels are decreasing, which will likely affect the constitution of plants and animals in the park as well as increasing the frequency and length of fires (Whitlock et al., 2007; Balling et al., 1992). An example of both factors at play regards white bark pine trees and mountain pine beetles. In recent years, a higher incidence of forest fires has diminished the abundance of white bark  pines, a foundation species due to its role in enhancing soil formation alongside “providing the major biomass and primary productivity” (Logan et al., 2010 p896) of high mountain and alpine ecosystems. Simultaneously, higher seasonal temperatures have allowed the mountain pine beetle to invade new niche space including white bark pine forests, thus disrupting the wider ecosystem and providing evidence that the effects of climate change work across a range of scales – from global sea level change to regional community composition change.

Figure 5: Morning Glory in 1940. Source: Smithsonian

Figure 6: Morning Glory in 2018. Source: Sophie Hughes

I would like to conclude by utilising one last example – that of the Morning Glory pool in Yellowstone. Figure 5 is an image of the pool taken in 1940, the tropical blue hues of which seem non-existent amongst the warm yellow/oranges tones in Figure 6, the photo I took during our visit. The change in the colour of the water can, sadly, be solely attributed to visitors throwing pennies, rocks and other objects into Morning Glory. Researchers have discovered that these objects have occluded parts of the heat source and caused the pool’s temperature to lower, enabling microorganisms that thrive in lower temperatures to inhabit the pool (Clark, 2015). Such microorganisms produce pigments that have turned the pool yellow, green and orange over time. Could this example be labelled a micro-scale metaphor for human-induced global warming? It demonstrates how the actions of humans can alter ecological compositions through temperature change and therefore change the appearance of a landform itself. This process, on a macro scale, exemplifies how a ‘hothouse earth’ scenario seems unavoidable on our current trajectory. Beyond the threat of millennials and Gen X having to pay the ‘climate change bill’, a ‘hothouse earth’ sequence of events is becoming more realistic with each day that we fail to address the gravity of the situation, accentuating the need to alter our lifestyles if there is to be any hope of minimising or evading this potentially devastating future.

Balling, R., Meyer, G. and Wells, S. (1992). Climate change in Yellowstone National Park: Is the drought-related risk of wildfires increasing?. Climatic Change, [online] 22(1), pp.35-45. Available at: [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

Clark, L. (2015). Tourist Trash Has Changed the Color of Yellowstone’s Morning Glory Pool. [online] Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

Derworiz, C. (2015). Decline of glaciers in Western Canada chronicled in family photographs. [online] Calgary Herald. Available at: [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

Logan, J., Mcfarlane, W. and Willcox, L. (2010). Whitebark pine vulnerability to climate change induced mountain pine beetle disturbance in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Ecological Applications, [online] 20(4). Available at: 10.1890/09-0655.1 [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

McGrath, M. (2018). Climate change: ‘Hothouse Earth’ risks even if CO2 emissions slashed. [online] BBC. Available at: [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D., Summerhayes, C.P., Barnosky, A.D, Cornell, S.E., Crucifix, M., Donges, J.F., Fetzer, I., Lade, S.J., Scheffer, M., Winkelmann, R., and Schellnhuber, H.J. (2018) Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). Available at: http:// [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

Walton, D. (2009). The mystery of Lake Louise’s missing water. [online] The Globe and Mail. Available at: [Accessed 26 Aug. 2018].

Whitlock, C. et al,. (2007). A 2650-year-long record of environmental change from northern Yellowstone National Park based on a comparison of multiple proxy data. University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Available at article=1001&context=geosciencefacpub.

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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.


 Barnes, Y., The UK’s student housing sector, Savills UK [online], Accessed on 4/9/2018 : []

D’Arcy, C., 2017, A western union: living standards and devolution in the West of England, Resolution Foundation [online], Accessed on 2/9/2018 : []

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 : []

Rugg, J., 2000, Students and the private rented market, Joseph Rowntree Foundation [online], accessed on 7/9/2018 : […/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 : []

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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.


Badger Action News (2018) Inside the Cull Zones. Badger Action News. Available at: [Accessed on: 30/09/2018].

Cull Zone Areas (2018) Available at: [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: [Accessed on: 30/09/2018].

NFU IT (2013) How Much Does bTb cost? TB Free England. Available at: [Accessed: 30/09/2018].

TBHub (2015) Risk Map for Great Britain. TBHub. Available at: [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: [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).


 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] <> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

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

 Cooper, H., 2016. Malta slammed for cash-for-passport program. Politico [online] <> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

 Henley and Partners, 2018. Passport Index. Henley and Partners Group Holdings Limited [online] <> [Accessed 10 September 2018]

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

 Malta Tourism Authority, 2018. Modern Malta. VisitMalta [online] <> [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.


Art Gallery of NSW (2018).  John Glover: The Collection: Art Gallery NSW. [online]. Available at:  [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: [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: [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: [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Davidson, H. (2018). Queensland to pay Palm Islanders $30m over police response to 204 riots. The Guardian. [online]. Available at: [Accessed 22 September 2018].

Glover, J. (1838). Natives on the Ouse River, Van Diemen’s Land. [Painting]. Available at: [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: [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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