Human geography

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sarah_neal_thumbnailWe are pleased to welcome Dr Sarah Neal (University of Surrey) as this week’s speaker in the Human Geography Research Cluster seminar series.  She is a Reader in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey, and has researched and published widely in the fields of race, ethnicity, multiculture, community, belonging, place and policy-making.  She will be speaking about ‘Elective conviviality and community imaginings: the social and ethnic dynamics of social leisure organizations in diverse urban places’.

In this she notes that there has been something of a ‘convivial turn’ in the research approaches to understanding contemporary urban social life and everyday social relations. In its early formulations conviviality emphasised the social processes of multicultural populations getting along in an unstable, adapted, contingent living together and recognized the contradiction of both resentment and resilience around ethnic tensions and conflicts. However, conviviality has more recently drifted towards a focus on passing civilities, light socialites and ‘low social demand’ interactions of disconnected, diverse but proximate populations. In turn this thinking has been questioned for overstating these interactions and their connective possibilities. In this critique conviviality is defined more as an urban etiquette or civility for managing and masking older hostilities and racialised anxieties.

Her paper asks how then might it be possible to go beyond these positions and argue for the revival and relevance of the concepts of community to conviviality thinking?  The paper uses qualitative data from Living Multiculture, a two year, ESRC funded research project (2012-2014) to explore how membership of, and relationships within, a variety of social leisure groups in three different English urban geographies can throw light on the dynamics of sustained encounters of cultural difference and social care over time, within localized and affective geographies, emphasizing a collaborative doing and social exchange within a variety of (semi-formal) social leisure groups.

She will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on the 4th February.

 

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Professor Danny Dorling

Professor Danny Dorling

Our first speaker is Professor Danny Dorling who is a social geographer well known for his popular social science texts on injustice, inequality and population. He is currently the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford and has previously worked in Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield and New Zealand. With a group of colleagues he helped create the website www.worldmapper.org, which shows who has most and least in the world. Much of Danny’s work, which concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education and poverty, is available open access (see www.dannydorling.org), and his recent books include “Population Ten Billion”, “The Social Atlas of Europe” (with Dimitris Ballas and Ben Hennig), and, in 2015, “Injustice: why social inequality still persists”.

His talk – “Cohesion, sustainability, equality and education… is geography the missing link?” – is about ideas inspired by pictures, graphs and world maps. Through trying to answer the question – what is it in the differing nature of the economy of cities and regions which results in different outcomes? – he explores why social cohesion and trust is higher in Japan than in the UK and questions how we can make cities more sustainable in general.
His presentation will look at some summary statistics for 25 affluent countries and thus for the largely urbanized populations within them. The UK and Japan are very different states in that household income inequality is very low in Japan and very high in the UK. An updated version of these statistics are presented and then the relationships between economic inequality and over consumption of goods, of meat, of food in general, of water, of clothes, or air flights and of gasoline is considered.

Finally, he compares the education outcomes of countries and argues that it is hard not to conclude that, at least statistically, the UK comes out of any comparison poorly when it comes to cohesion, sustainability, regional inequalities, and city planning, and general educational ability. Japan (again as a comparator) appears similar to other more efficient and more equitable countries. However, even in Japan people consume too much and do not trust each other enough. If everyone in the world behaved like an average citizen of Tokyo we would still need two planets to live on. If they behaved like an average citizen in London we would need nearer four planets.

He will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on Thursday 21 January.

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On 14th July, Human Geography PhD students convened a workshop themed “Governing the Anthropocene: actors, institutions and processes.”  As a first of its kind, the workshop brought together students from across the University of Reading whose research focuses on the environment, sustainability and development. The workshop was an excellent opportunity for discussions, sharing ideas and networking amongst PhD students who attended.  It also served as a friendly platform for constructive feedback on research works.

IMG_5646The term “anthropocene” has made its way into the diction of scientists, researchers and academics, to refer to the current geological era. An era of profoundly different futures created for the global society, and far from anything previously experienced. The workshop focused talks on changing global environmental governance considerations, needed to meet the critical challenges of climate change, poverty, land use change, water and sanitation and deforestation.

The full-day workshop, which took place at Reading International Solidarity Centre, brought together both conceptual and case study perspectives focusing on international to local scales.  Country case studies of research presented were across the board from UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Malaysia and Indonesia. The full workshop programme and presentation abstracts can be viewed here: GA workshop 2015.

From the workshop, it was evident that the University of Reading is engaged in very cross-disciplinary, intriguing and insightful research in the area of natural resources and environmental governance. Cross-cutting themes presented include:

  • The increasing significance given markets in pursuing development and sustainability, which seems to reinforce existing power structures though in some cases is faced with local resistance in practice;
  • How the state manifests itself and its changing role, or its absence in addressing current resource-use problems;
  • The importance of NGOs in the implementation of development projects, and in scrutinizing non-state actors in private regulation and;
  • The nature and forms of participation, and it’s varied conceptualization as a means to an end or as an end in itself.

The workshop culminated with a highly valuable and interesting discussion on ways forward.  It was obvious that progressive and transparent policies are required at multiple levels to bring about meaningful change, and that the public has a role in requesting change from policy makers.  This can only be achieved when the public is motivated and politically engaged on issues such as climate change that otherwise would be viewed by individuals of the public as huge and external to do anything about. In addition, it was noted that PhD students should strive to capitalize on avenues that bridge the gap between their academic research and policy/practice.

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The work was led by Dr Ruth Evans, Department of Geography and Environmental Science in collaboration with Dr. Simon Mariwah and Dr. Barima Antwi, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, University of Cape Coast, Ghana (funded by IIF and SHES, University of Reading).

For more information, check out the summary or full report and take a look at the video produced about the project.

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Elaeis guineensis

Elaeis guineensis

Ahead of the launch of a report by Geoff Griffiths and Ruth Evans on the environmental and social impacts of a proposed Palm Oil plantation in Liberia, Geoff featured in two interviews for the BBC World Service.

The Newsday interview was broadcast at 6am on Monday 24 June (55 minutes into the programme). Listen to the Newsday programme (available until 29 June.)

The World Business Report with Mike Johnson, a ‘head-to-head’ between Geoff and a representative from Sime Darby (Malaysia Palm Oil Company) was broadcast at 22:32 on Monday 24 June (15.35 minutes into the programme).   Listen to the World Business Report programme.

“Our work suggests that buffer zones of 1 to 4 km around local settlements would help local people retain farmland and some access to forest resources. Our innovative environmental assessment also identifies key areas for biodiversity, carbon storage, water supply and livelihoods. Protecting such areas would help to reduce negative impacts.” says Geoff. Read more on Phys.org

Read the full report: Palm oil, land rights and ecosystem services in Gbarpolu County, Liberia

Read about Geoff

Read about Ruth

Photo credit: Marco Schmidt / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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Sally lecturingDr Sally Lloyd-Evans, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography has been awarded the ‘Gold Star Award for Best Lecturer in the Faculty of Science’ by Reading University Student’s Union.

Students nominate staff who they feel have had positive impact on their studies by supporting and inspiring them: “The winner of the Science Gold Star Award always gives enjoyable and interesting lectures, is incredibly enthusiastic and is always on hand to help students, whether that is via email or one to one meetings. Sally is praised by students for being supportive, patient and understanding, always being on hand to offer guidance and words of encouragement. When students were faced with a new style of working she takes time out to allow students to hand in drafts of their reports and offer hand written comments giving not only fantastic feedback, but motivational words of encouragement.”

Dr Steve Gurney, Senior Lecturer in Geomorphology, was short-listed for the award for the second year running which demonstrates how well-deserved Geography’s excellent reputation for teaching quality is.

Read about Sally

Read about Steve

More about the award

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International benchmarking review of UK human geography

International benchmarking review of UK human geography

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) launched the results of a benchmarking review of human geography this month.

The key conclusions from the report were:

  • UK human geography ranks first in the world. Findings also showed it as an empirically and conceptually innovative, diverse, vibrant discipline that in many areas sets the intellectual agenda
  • The UK publishes more than its share of major disciplinary journals; bibliometric indicators reveal international primacy both in volume and citation impact; and a large number of the seminal publications (books as well as articles) continue to have a UK origin
  • UK human geography is radically interdisciplinary and with the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences has become an exporter of ideas and faculty to other disciplines
  • There was confidence that research in human geography had substantial impact on policy and practice and would successfully meet the challenges of the current impact agenda

Read the press release

Study Human Geography at Reading

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SteveMusson_0680-wDr Steve Musson appeared on the BBC News Channel on Wednesday 16 January 2013, commenting on the recent wave of high street retailers entering administration. His analysis was also reported on BBC News Online, the Daily Mail, This is Money and other online technology sites.

Steve said: “The retail businesses that we have seen going into administration since Christmas have a lot in common – they have large numbers of stores, and have struggled to adapt to changing retail habits. Rents for retail businesses are usually payable quarterly, with many landlords most recently asking for payment on Christmas Day, which is why we often see retail failures coming in clusters.”

Link to BBC News Online story

Read about Steve Musson

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