Category Archives: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

New in Transactions: Editor’s issue spotlights

Looking for inspiration for Easter reads? Issue two on Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is now available online.

TIBG 40(2)

The Editor’s issue spotlights include:

Climate change and the geographies of objectivity: the case of the IPCC’s burning embers diagram. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 153–167 by Martin Mahony, KCL (UK)

The ties that blind: making fee simple in the British Columbia treaty process. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 168–179. doi: 10.1111/tran.12058 by Nicholas Blomley, Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Policy mobilities in the race for talent: competitive state strategies in international student mobility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 235–248 by Kate Geddie, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (Canada)

The tactile topologies of Contagion. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 223–234. doi: 10.1111/tran.12071 by Deborah Dixon, University of Glasgow (UK), and John Paul Jones III, University of Arizona (USA). (open access)

The issue also includes an editorial introduction to a Transactions virtual issue on Financial Geography, guest edited by Manuel Aalbers,  KU Leuven/University of Leuven (Belgium) . The virtual issue is free to access on the Transactions Wiley Online Library.

Geographies of Human Rights and Responsibility

By Izabela Delabre, University of Reading

As Hillary Clinton stated in the 1995 United Nation (UN) Fourth World Conference on Women, “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Twenty years later, this message remains critical.  Commemorating International Women’s Day, on 8th March 2015, President Barack Obama stated, “in too many places, women are treated as second-class citizens. Their abilities are undervalued. And their human rights – the right to learn, to express themselves, to live free from violence, to choose whether and whom to marry – are routinely violated.”

Writing in Geography Compass (2015), Nicole Laliberté explores the contribution that Geography can make in the critical study of human rights. She describes the language of “human rights” as emerging from relative obscurity in the 1940s, to being incorporated into the humanitarian and development industries in the 1980s. Today, human rights is the contemporary common language of justice claims (Cmiel, 2004). In the article, entitled “Geographies of Human Rights: Mapping Responsibility,” Laliberté identifies a gap in the critical geographic scholarship on questions of responsibility, including the multiple and conflicting claims of responsibility tied to spatial variations in the understandings, experiences, and deployments of human rights.

Human rights has become the contemporary lingua franca of justice claims

Helsinki Pride 2013: Human rights has become the contemporary lingua franca of justice claims (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Early geographic engagements with theories of responsibility were challenged for emphasizing a “top–down” approach. This view perceived richer countries as being responsible for less affluent countries and individuals, rather than interrogating how the rich are implicated in unequal distribution of resources. Critical geographers have used geographic theories of place, space, and scale to demonstrate how responsibility is not restricted by proximity and can function as a means of tracing and shaping social relations between distant individuals.

Laliberité finds that critical geographic analysis, when applied to the politics of human rights and the relations of responsibility associated with them, can provide a means of mapping injustice, analyzing landscapes of power, and practicing emancipatory politics. A number of feminist scholars argue that human rights are a modern form of masculinist and imperialist mediation that maintains injustice. Laliberté, however, recognizes the potential value in using human rights in specific contexts to fight injustice. She challenges the assumption that promoting human rights equates to promoting social justice, and argues against a singular normative meaning of either human rights or social justice.

References

60-world2   Clinton, H.R. (2015). First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Remarks for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. Beijing, China. September 5th, 1995.

books_icon   Cmiel, K. (2004). The recent history of human rights. The American Historical Review 109 (1), pp. 117–135. doi: 10.1086/ahr/ 109.1.117.

books_icon   Laliberté, N. (2015). Geographies of Human Rights: Mapping Responsibility. Geography Compass 9 (2) pp. 57-67. doi: 10.1111/gec3.12196.

60-world2  The White House (2015). Statement of President Barack Obama Commemorating International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2015.

Slimy geographies and sticky human-animal relationships

By Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

In a further attempt to stress the variety of work in Geography, and also its relevance to everyday life, this month I’d like to highlight Franklin Ginn’s (2014) recent article on human-slug encounters. This rather common-or-garden topic may seem a little strange, but Ginn demonstrates wonderfully the spatial and ethical issues that arise when interrogating practices of slug control.

Slugs: pests, yet curiously linked to gardeners and their practices Source: Wikimedia Commons

Last month, the Royal Horticultural Society announced their “top 10 garden pests” (Stone, 2015 [online]), crowning slugs the ‘most troublesome’. As both Ginn and the RHS stress, slugs are unwelcome visitors to any garden due to their perennial appetite, ability to multiply quickly, and monstrously unpleasant appearance. They really do bug gardeners. But, as Ginn argues, ‘living with’ slugs has become unavoidable, and gardening is fast becoming a collaborative practice between gardeners and non-human actors, such as slugs.

Pest control of any species inevitably poses ethical questions. Chemical solutions to slug control are frowned upon by gardening manuals. A recent article in Farmers’ Weekly (Clarke, 2015 [online]) documents the current rush of potato growers to use up methiocarb slug pellets, since the EU banned products containing the substance in January 2014 on the grounds that they endangered farmland birds. There are, of course, many natural or organic ways of dealing with slugs, although these may also raise ethical issues; copper rings, coffee grounds, beer traps, and sharp edges such as egg shells all deter these slimy pests, whilst the introduction of a ‘natural’ predator, such as hedgehogs, can also reduce numbers. However, a recent BBC News article has illustrated that the grass is not always greener on the other side (BBC News, 2015 [online]). In 1974, hedgehogs were introduced to the Uists in the Western Isles to control the burgeoning slug population. Whilst the hedgehogs have fulfilled their role, Scottish Natural Heritage has announced their removal due to their taste for the eggs of ground-nesting birds, causing a marked decrease in the number of birds such as the snipe.

No matter what the method, gardeners kill slugs. Some may be reluctant or express guilt, but the fact remains that slugs are considered ‘out of place’ in the garden and, whether ethical or not, they are removed. Ginn identifies three forms of ‘detachment’ involved in slug control, in which gardeners separate themselves from their sticky foe. The first involves creating distance between themselves and slugs, deeming the slugs ‘killable’. More squeamish gardeners may also create distance between themselves and the practice of killing slugs. The second mode of detachment is to create a ‘hoped-for-absence’; precautions are taken to limit slugs’ access to gardens in an attempt to avoid encountering them in the first place. Grit, egg shells, or copper tape can be used to discourage slugs, as can altering the types of plants grown. Here, whilst gardeners create spaces that are about exclusion rather than encounter, it is clear that slugs, in their absence, still have a very powerful effect on human behaviour. The final method of detachment identified by Ginn is the recognition and acceptance that slugs inevitably affect gardeners, their practices, and the space of the garden. Sometimes you just have to accept defeat!

So, by attempting to separate themselves from slugs through methods of detachment, gardeners are, in fact, reinforcing the connection between themselves and these sticky pests. This is further evidence to support animal geographers’ claims that humans and animals are inextricably linked. As much as gardeners fight against it, it seems, they are ‘stuck’ to (and with!) their slimy neighbours.

 

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Ginn, F. (2014). “Sticky lives: slugs, detachment and more-than-human ethics in the garden”, Transactions of the IBG, 39(4): 532-44.

60-world2BBC News (2015). “Plan to remove all hedgehogs from the Uists”, BBC News Online, published 19th February 2015, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-31535502

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Clarke, A. (2015). “Test slug control options in spuds after methiocarb ban”, Farmer Weekly Online, published 27th January 2015, Available at: http://www.fwi.co.uk/arable/test-slug-control-options-in-spud-after-methiocarb-ban.htm

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Royal Horticultural Society Website: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=228

60-world2Stone, D. (2015). “RHS top 10 garden pests”, Express Online, published 19th February 2015, available at: http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/559320/RHS-top-10-garden-pests-including-ants-slugs-and-snails

 

Who lives, who dies, who cares?

By Izabela Delabre, University of Reading

Advances in healthcare technologies and pharmaceutical breakthroughs politicise and manipulate our lives.  An article in The Guardian last week describes how French doctors are challenging the patent of a new and highly expensive drug for hepatitis C in an attempt to bring down the price (the drug, Sofosbuvir, made by the pharmaceutical multinational Gilead Sciences, costs $1,000 (£650) a pill for a 10-week course).  It is a cure for the viral infection that can lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer and death.  The struggle against health inequality persists, with large numbers of people lacking access to healthcare.

A new biopolitical regime judges an individual’s ‘worth’ through their economic productivity

A new biopolitical regime judges an individual’s ‘worth’ through their economic productivity. Image credit: Elvert Xavier Barnes Photography via Wikimedia Commons.

Writing in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Emma Whyte Laurie’s article entitled, “Who lives, who dies, who cares? Valuing life through the disability-adjusted life year measurement” provides a critique of the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) measurement. The World Health Organization defines a DALY as one lost year of “healthy” life. It is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.  Emma Whyte Laurie argues that DALYs have ‘become normative because many health policy makers and their funding partners use the DALY as their only measure of disease impact in programmatic analysis’ (King and Bertino 2008, 2). DALYs have supported the emergence of an epoch in global health governance whereby resource allocation is justified on the premise of ‘cost-effectiveness’, ‘value for money’ and ‘good return for investment,’ and this is compounded with the global financial climate which has negatively impacted the available budget for health interventions.

DALYs are established on the conceptualisation of individuals as exclusively economic beings, but individuals may fail to live up to the economically productive ‘ideal.’  DALYs may be partly responsible for the devaluation of the lives of certain individuals, by asserting the values of individualism in relation to wider economic gain where, individuals lose humanness when they become poor, and also unproductive.  Emma Whyte Laurie states that the problem may be less associated with DALYs as a measurement in itself, but rather with the faith that has been placed in them by mainstream institutions.

The question of who benefits from health interventions is heavily value-laden. Priority-setting is essentially a political and social process (rather than a scientific one), involving deliberation and public accountability. Through the exact numbers provided by the DALY measurement, important questions of ethics and politics are omitted, potentially hindering important and difficult discussions of setting priorities in the health sector.

Emma Whyte Laurie considers the question posed by Farmer: ‘[if health is a human right, who is considered human enough to have that right?’ (2005, 206). According to Agamben (1998), throughout history, the humanity of living man has been judged by each society, which has decided whose lives have value. Today, these judgements are increasingly based on economic productivity or the pursuit of capital accumulation where certain (wealthier) lives are considered more valuable than others. DALYs reflect this, capturing the ‘disease burden’ through economic loss, but also addressing Farmer’s question as to who is valuable, or who is human enough, to be afforded the right to health.

References

books_icon   Agamben G. (1998). Homo sacer: sovereign power and bare life. Stanford University Press, Stanford CA

60-world2   Boseley S. (2015). Doctors challenge hepatitis C drug patent in price protest. The Guardian, 10 February

books_icon   Farmer P. (2005). Pathologies of power: health, human rights and the new war on the poor. University of California Press, Berkeley CA

books_icon   King C. H. and Bertino A-M. (2008). Asymmetries of poverty: why global burden of disease valuations underestimate the burden of neglected tropical diseases. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2 e209

books_icon   Laurie E.W. (2015). Who lives, who dies, who cares? Valuing life through the disability-adjusted life year measurement. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40:1 pp. 75–87.

60-world2   World Health Organization (WHO). Metrics: Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY).

Fox News ‘no-go zones’ and British Muslim negotiations of urban citizenship

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London

Over the past month, the geography of Europe’s Muslim population has been greatly exciting the pundits invited to talk on the conservative Fox News channel. Furore was sparked when ‘terrorism expert’ Steven Emerson, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, told host ‘Judge Jeanine’ about the ‘hundreds’ of ‘no-go zones’ across Europe, in which non-Muslims are supposedly not welcome.

Emerson stated, “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go… In parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to religious Muslim attire.”

UKIP’s Nigel Farage even turned up to tell Sean Hannity about the ‘blind eye’ that has supposedly been turned towards the ‘Muslim ghettos’ where ‘the police and all the normal agents of the law have withdrawn’ and where ‘Sharia law has come in’.

These segments were widely mocked across social media and the station eventually issued an apology, stating that there was “no credible information to support the assertion”.

Despite the apology and the ridicule, this idea of ‘no-go zones’ has been seized by the far-right. Nationalist group Britain First has, according to The Independent, restarted its ‘Christian patrols’ in parts of east London, with the stated aim to make “our streets safe for our people”.

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has also jumped upon the ‘no-go zones’ theme, telling a neocon think tank that, in the West, there are areas in which “non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can.”

An article by Deborah Phillips in January’s edition of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is critical of these kinds of popular and political representations of Muslim neighbourhoods, which typically portray Muslim communities as made up of “dubious citizens and unassimilable others”.

The paper seeks to “complicate understandings of British Muslim citizenship” by underscoring the “salience of the neighbourhood as a performative space implicated in citizenship formation and the sedimentation of feelings of belonging.” Philips’ work involved conducting interviews and focus groups with Muslims and newly arrived economic migrants from Eastern Europe in the UK city of Bradford.

Like the right-wing pundits, freedom of movement was foremost among the Muslim participants’ concerns; the freedom to travel into ‘white areas’ was widely perceived to be constrained, with many women stating that they feel uncomfortable about moving outside community spaces because of fear of hostility and violence. Female participants described the commercialised city centre as ‘not for the likes of us’, and ‘sort of out of bounds’.

The apparent ease with which their new Eastern European neighbours traversed the city, as seemingly ‘unmarked’ White Christian bodies, was identified as a source of tension. Muslim participants suggested that this stood in contrast to their own lack of freedom to “cross the boundaries of public space without surveillance and ‘all that hassle’… or to enter white residential spaces without fear of harassment.”

One idea mooted by Phillips is that the desire to appropriate city space may be, at least in part, motivated by feelings of restriction. The sense of empowerment gained when moving through a ‘Muslim neighbourhood’ goes a little way towards compensating for immobilities elsewhere.

These debates, involving issues of citizenship, identity and appropriation of space, are inherently geographical and have so far been largely dominated by actors seeking to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment. Phillips’ paper is a timely contribution that works to inject some desperately needed nuance into these debates that show few signs of dissipating.

 Deborah Phillips, 2015, Claiming spaces: British Muslim negotiations of urban citizenship in an era of new migrationTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40(1) 62-74.

New Virtual Issue on Financial Geography in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers – free online

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers,  a Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), invites you to enjoy a new Virtual Issue on Financial Geography, guest edited by Manuel B Aalbers. This virtual issue is free to access online for 2015.

The guest editor, Manuel B Aalbers says:

This Virtual Issue traces the development of financial geography through 15 papers published in Transactions between 1976 and 2014. Although Transactions published a few earlier papers dealing with building societies and international lending, the birth of a distinctive literature on the geographies of money and finance can be traced back to the mid-1990s.  While British geographers originally dominated the debate, financial geography is increasingly internationalised, rescaled and decentred. Financial geography has established itself within geography and increasingly also within interdisciplinary and pluralistic political and cultural economy debates.

books_icon This Virtual Issue on Financial Geography is available free to access for 2015 online via the Transactions (of the IBG) website

books_icon Please visit the Transactions (of the IBG) Virtual Issue page to access other VIs: including Adrian J Bailey and Brenda S A Yeoh’s guest edited VI on “Migration, society and Globalisation”.

 

 

‘Cabin Pressure’: Making Atmospheres?

Weiqiang Lin, University of Toronto

2014 was a year of reputational setback for aviation in Southeast Asia, seeing no less than three high-profile fatal crashes attributed to the region. In view of these events, commentators have been swift to question the ability of Southeast Asia’s airlines to safely sustain the kind of breakneck growth that they have been pursuing for years. In an industry where confidence can quickly dissipate, it would seem that the mood has soured for a market once thought to be a bright spot in aviation.

This is not a place to defend or impugn Southeast Asia’s aviation credentials. But suffice to say, public sentiments have turned their back on an (entire) region’s industry, now subtly coded with Orientalist undertones of incompetency, corner-cutting tendencies and technological ineptitude. An improved image needs to be tangibly sculpted by regional airlines to render their business trustworthy and viable again. In fact, this work has already begun with Malaysia Airlines, which has lately attempted to enshroud itself with an (abruptly different) atmosphere of resilience and conviviality.

Such image-boosting tactics are not new, and have in fact been enacted with great sophistry since the advent of aviation. This is exemplified by my recent contribution to Transactions, in which I examine the stresses—or ‘cabin pressures’—of providing the ‘correct’ atmospheres to instil confidence and a favourable impression among passengers by another Southeast Asian airline—Singapore Airlines (SIA). In attending to the ambiences SIA and its flight attendants sought to produce onboard its aircraft in its early years, I invite scholars and the public to be more circumspective of the kinds of pre-fabricated experiences and spaces that service providers often have us immerse in and buy into. More critically, I leave some food for thought concerning how the notion of ‘Orientalism’ can as much be harnessed as a resource and selling point by companies (if at the expense of some service workers), as it is denigrated by its detractors.

Making atmospheres. Image credit: the author

Making atmospheres. Image credit: the author

Such calculated use of mood-shifting atmospheres to persuade, entice and incite enthusiasm can actually be found in a whole gamut of other, non-aviation contexts, displays and social movements. Like their counterpart in the air, these spaces, too, should not be taken for granted as dwelling places where events simply take place. Rather, they should be exposed for the coded messages, emotional influences and political/commercial aims already inscribed into the ambiences they exude. Neglecting these subtleties in atmospheric design not only risks relegating daily encounters of the affective to the realm of the emergent and organic. Worse still, it can also allow the methods that corporations, governments and organisers use to move us all—including for a quick turnaround (justifiably or not)—to escape accountability.

About the author: Dr Weiqiang Lin is a postdoctoral researcher in geography at the University of Toronto, under National University of Singapore sponsorship. Weiqiang joined the University of Toronto after obtaining his PhD from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research is primarily focused on aviation, mobilities and infrastructures.

books_icon Lin, W. (2015), ‘Cabin pressure’: designing affective atmospheres in airline travel. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi: 10.1111/tran.12079

60-world2 Kurlantzick, J. (2014). Why Air Disasters Keep Happening in Southeast Asia Bloomberg Businessweek