Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

Doreen Massey – & Rowan Williams’ after-party

Heard Doreen Massey, Professor of Geography at the Open Univeristy, at Tate Britain last week.  Her academic work on space and place interests me.

For SpaceI tussle with local/global and my work on London South Central a few years ago touched on London as a world city – what that means not just for the individual coping strategies of Londoners and the communities they belong to, but for people who live in the places London is linked to (through remittances, trade, the City, colonial history and so on).  Being a map-fiend, I’d like to find the one she mentioned depicting the Niger Delta, the oil companies, the human rights groups and all the international links which go to make up what is happening there – ie it’s not possible to have an adequate map of the Niger Delta which confines itself to a small part of Nigeria.  This echoes what I was doing in Calcutta and Delhi in the 80’s – trying to make visible the links between western pharmaceutical companies and the (often adverse) effects their marketing strategies were having on the poorest communities in India.

Boundaries: I haven’t followed the academic conversation on flow and essentialism, but it sounds similar to those around literary theory.  Do we need boundaries at all? Massey asked.  Living in south London where grafitti tags mark territory, my children have a strong grasp on where it’s safe to go and where it isn’t.  Removing the boundaries of identity – I hadn’t realised that geographers were interested in this at all!  Inherited identity, voluntary identity, or something in between?

Massey also mentioned contested space in relation to London and that this was always the case, not something new – there was no golden age.  This could have something to do with how we talk about the oft-contested part of the world which Bosnia is a part of, or at least acknowledging that the various histories are contested and finding a framework within which to talk about it.

Rowan WilliamsLast night, after Rowan Williams’ talk at the RSA, I got talking to a remarkable educationalist about Bosnia and school textbooks.  She told me that in Northern Ireland, after the troubles, there was some difficulty agreeing on history textbooks, but that it was eventually resolved.  Some parallels here – long, contested, history with much violence, pain and loss within living memory; stable indigenous population; divisions along religious identity.  Bosnia is also struggling with RE – I’ll be seeing Kati Whitaker next week and will follow up on her post here on a possible radio programme about this.


This entry was posted on 13 November 2009 by in London and tagged , , , , , , .
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