CfP RGS-IBG 2022 – Food for thought: The political potentiality of mutual aid food provision networks

August 30th – September 2nd 2022, Newcastle University

Sponsored by the Social Cultural Geography Research Group (SCGRG) and Food Geographies Research Group (FGRG).

Organisers: Oli Mould, Jenni Cole and Adam Badger (Royal Holloway, University of London)

How mutual-aid groups are supporting Brooklynites

Of the many horrific outcomes of the coronavirus disaster, the wellspring of mutual aid groups that have continued beyond short-term pandemic relief is not one of them (Firth and Preston, 2020; Spade, 2020). There has been a multitude of community groups who have grown their mutual aid practices of pandemic care, and begun to enact its anarchist roots of create networks of solidarity, anti-capitalist praxis and radical social justice (Rose-Redwood et al., 2020; Cayuela, 2021; Chavée, 2021; Lachowicz & Donaghey, 2021). While continuing to battle against structural inequalities and insecurities, there are a plethora of groups that are creating alternative means of community care and social provisioning.

One of the most ubiquitous forms of this provisioning is with food justice including food banks, community fridges, supermarket trips, and so on (Mould et al., 2022). Moreover, it has given an opportunity to bring together those who seek to provide food to alleviate, highlight and tackle food poverty, with those environmentalists who see it as a way to reduce food waste. Perhaps surprisingly, this is not always an easy political coalition, but if formulated, it has the potential to create new political horizons beyond unjust capitalist food structures.

With this spirit of mutual aid in mind, we aim to blend invited academic papers on mutual aid and/or food justice, with activists in the local area to create a dialogue across class, political and disciplinary divides. With the help of local mutual aid networks in and around Newcastle, we envision site visits for academics to help distribute food, and the opportunity for activists to listen to academic work in the conference. With the help of these activists and non-traditional contributions, we also aim to stage an RGS ‘fringe’ event that is more exploratory, creative and ‘horizontal’ in its application of academic ideas; including placard making, guerrilla gardening, open mic nights and artistic urban interventions.

With all this in mind, we welcome papers and interventions that sit on the cusp of activism and academia (as uneasy a relationship as that may be (Lacione and Popovici, 2021) to do with food justice, environmental sustainability of food provision, and activist food networks. As such, we are looking for traditional academic papers, but also artistic and food-based interventions (spoken word poems, physical or digital art works, activist cookery classes, guerrilla gardening workshops, and so on).

To submit a paper, please submit an abstract of c.250 words to oli.mould@rhul.ac.uk.

To submit a non-traditional format, please send a brief synopsis of what you intend to present or workshop, and the resources you will need to do so (limited to one page of A4 if possible please) to oli.mould@rhul.ac.uk Deadline for submissions is 16th March, 2022.

A line of flight? A Psychogeographic venture on Newcastle’s Skywalks

Newcastle was once touted as the ‘Brasilia of the North‘ by an ambitious town planner, T. Dan Smith. That was back in the 1960s when cities were seen as plastic crucibles to mould into concrete utopias, but half a century (and a corruption conviction again the Labour City Councillor that meant prison time) later, Newcastle’s concrete utopia has gone the way of many others; a neglected enclave of dereliction, crime and underuse. It is only the famous ‘skywalks’ – and derelict modernist surrounding landscape – that’s left. So when I visited the city, of course it was number 1 on my list of things to see.

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Using Google Street View Archive as Gentrification Research

Google Maps Now Lets You Time Travel Through Its Street View Archives - The Atlantic

You may or may not be aware at the archival potential of Google Street view, but ever since the search engine behemoth has been photographing and spying on as much of our cities as it can, it has created a rather useful, freely accessible public archive of outdoor space. Archival research has long been the preserve of historical geographical research, but as Keighren (2013: 577) has eloquently argued (and still does to this day in our regular corridor conflabs, and with the same level of eloquence)…

“The skills associated with historical research – critical evaluation of sources, triangulation of data, attention to the beliefs and opinions of particular cultural groups – are precisely those which are encouraged and valued elsewhere in the human geography curriculum.”

While taking a few minutes to scroll through the historical images that Google has stored in its ongoing panoptic assault on everyday urbanity does not, nor should not, replace the much longer time needed to conduct archival research in situ, it provides students a gateway into the vibrancy of archives and how they contain a real impact upon research of the contemporary condition. And in the age of the pandemic and online digital learning, it’s proved extremely useful for urban research.

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Walking Roosevelt: An autoethnographic exploration

What does it mean to do autoethnography? What even is it? To the critics, autoethnography is rather disparagingly labelled ‘mesearch‘ and a form of personal story-telling that is far too narcissistic to be considered proper research. However, such a view tends to resolutely align traditional scientific objectivity with truth, and so personal accounts become far too unscientific to be able to produce generalisable results. But it is painfully obvious by now, that the truth has a rather variegated existence these days.

Many urban cultural geographers (and indeed, those beyond the discipline) will utilise autoethnography in their own research: some of the most compelling (albeit not entirely unproblematic) research monographs of late have been autoethnographical; Alice Goffman’s ‘On the Run’ and Bradley Garrett’s Explore Everything come to mind. But we also teach it. Students are extremely receptive to it as a method, and not just because it can avoid anxiety-producing encounters with strangers in the field. I find that those students willing to embrace it properly will wield it as a potent critical weapon against the stifling striation of the contemporary city. Yet despite our best efforts in the classroom beforehand, there is always some confusion as to what constitutes autoethnography as a methodological perspective in the field. Read More

Glass War: The New Materials of Gentrification

London’s Glass War © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons

Stand on London Bridge on a sunny day and look East, you’ll see the towers of Canary Wharf glistening in the distance, the Shard looming to your right slicing into the sky, and the bloated curves of the Walkie Talkie shimmering like a newly blown glass vase. Walk further west along the South bank, and you’ll come across the ‘South Bank tower cluster’, with its centrepiece One Blackfriars jutting it’s chest out ostentatiously over the river. Further still, and you’ll reach Nine Elms, the biggest building site in the city. Scores of towers are flashing into the sky and construction has begun on the remarkably opulent ‘sky pool’, a 25m long, glass-bottomed swimming pool that hangs 10 storeys up.

These towers represent the most visible beacons of London’s continued development. They contain the moneymaking corporate machines that swell the city’s coffers but fuel the city’s rampant housing crisis, and the unaffordable luxury flats that are the symptom of the city’s hyper-gentrification. Yet there is another aspect to their representation that often goes under-recorded in the hyperbole around London’s gentrification problem – namely their most visible constituent material, glass. Read More

The loss of an icon? The Crescent Pub in Salford

The Crescent Pub, Salford (image taken from their website, http://www.thecrescentpub.com)

On Sunday after a weekend visiting the old haunts in Manchester for the weekend (and spending a day watching Jimmy Anderson skittle out South Africa’s batting line up), I took a slow drive along Chapel Street as I made my way back to the motorway. I wanted to see my old employer, the University of Salford as well as the changes to the area that I’d heard about from ex-colleagues. I was taken aback by the raft of identikit housing, the beautified (and frankly much better) ‘shared space’ of the new road layout, and the new cladding on the previously tired looking Salford Crescent Station. But the main draw for me was my old watering hole, the Salford Crescent pub. However, after noticing a small white notice on the window of the pub, I stopped the car to take a closer look. “Closed until further notice”. It was a troubling sign, not least as it meant I couldn’t pop in to have another look around. Read More

Scrolling Beat ’em ups, urban blight and the neoliberal city

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The best scrolling beat ’em up: The ultimate neoliberal fight against urban decay?

The first computer game I can recall playing was Target Renegade on the Amstrad. Essentially, you would scroll through various urban landscapes, kicking and punching other men (and some women) along the way. You had to walk  through car parks, urban streets and snooker clubs(?!) using nothing but your fists and feet (and the occasional appropriated weapon; a baseball bat, chain, mallet and yes, a snooker cue) to fight your way to the end-of-game boss. A tried and tested format which became one of the most important computer game genres of the 80s and 90s.

Of the many scrolling beat ’em ups that adorned our consoles over those years – Final Fight, Streets of Rage (1 and 2, 3 not so much) and even Two Crude Dudes – there was a similar trope being played out. A violent crime syndicate had taken over the city, and a group of dedicated, tough and very talented mercenaries took it upon themselves to clean up the streets, and perhaps rescue a loved one along the way. Like other cultural artefacts, do these games (and the genre more widely) reflect their contemporaneous social trends and anxieties, in this case, US inner-city decline of the 70s and 80s and the rise of neoliberalism and ‘enterprising self’ as the mode of social progression?  Read More

Why you should do Cultural Geography

Flowers planted in used tear gas grenades form a memorial garden on the spot where, in a 2009 demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil'in, Bassem Abu Rahme was shot and killed with a high-velocity tear gas grenade fired by Israeli soldiers, Bil'in, West Bank, October 4, 2013. The grenades are left over from clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians during the weekly protest in Bil'in.

Flowers planted in used tear gas grenades form a memorial garden in the West Bank village of Bil’in, source here

Given the state of the social, political and environmental turbulence in the world at the moment, many of us are keen to roll up our sleeves and get to work protesting the perceived injustices of more intense neoliberalism, creeping fascism, growing wealth and income inequalities, and further environmental degradation. Resistance to these large-scale ideological movements is in many, many forms; for example taking to the streets post-Trump’s election, the massive demonstrations in Seoul, industrial action from a host of public sector workers, organised campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, and a multitude of anti-gentrification campaigns; and these are just the few that have held my attention over the last few years – there are many, many more. Read More

CfP Boston #AAG2017: Rage Against the Machine: An exploration of the multiple geographies of rage, anger and hatred

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Organiser: Oli Mould (Royal Holloway, University of London)

The twenty-first century has been dominated by increasing ideological conflict. This has often manifested in ever-increasing political contestations, urban conflicts, religious fundamentalism, social polarisation and cultural marginalisation. The rise of far right and left political parties, the Arab Spring and the global Occupy movement, unfettered expansion of neoliberal philosophies, religious extremism, increasing wealth inequalities, homelessness; the symptoms of a multiplication in differing philosophical and ideological tendencies, all rubbing against each other within the every day.

Many of these phenomena are characterised by an articulation of rage.

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Activist Geographies Reading Group

For the first term of 2016/7, I will be convening an Activist Geographies Reading Group (AGRG) for undergraduates studying at Royal Holloway’s Geography Department – information re dates on the poster below.

Numbers are strictly limited, so if you want to come, I will be giving preference to students who can make ALL 4 sessions and who can demonstrate that they are invested in activism and activist scholarship more broadly. Do email me (or tweet me @olimould) if you want to know more.
agrg