Author Archives: kbotterill

Young People, Immigration and Stereotypes

By Kate Botterill

A recent large-scale, attitudinal survey of young people, conducted by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) charity in over 35 countries, found that intolerance towards immigration among English teenagers is higher than the international average, particularly in relation to migrants from within Europe. A longitudinal survey was conducted among teenagers between the ages of 11 and 18 and found that attitudes to immigration ‘hardened’ with age.

Professor Kerr from the NFER declared that “they support notions of equality in gender and race in theory, but when it comes to actual immigration, they are less tolerant than young people in the other countries. It could be that we’re living in an increasingly competitive world and they are mainly worried for their own prospects.” I would argue that further research is needed to uncover the detailed reasons for this worrying growth in intolerance towards immigration with age. There is a value in complimenting the evidence gained through large scale longitudinal surveys with qualitative, in-depth research on the identities and subjectivities of young people.

The voices of young people are seldom heard in this way and much of the academic research on the identities and subjectivities of young people perform this function well. In a special issue of Area (vol. 42) this year a number of authors have offered contributions which place importance on young people as key actors in society. One such contribution comes from Caitlin Cahill (2010) who uses Participatory Action Research (PAR) to explore the emotional and economic impacts of immigrant stereotyping on young Latino immigrants living in Salt Lake City, Utah.

By exploring the everyday experiences of young people through an arts-based participatory project, Cahill seeks to ‘reframe’ immigration through the process of PAR. She discusses the geopolitical discourse of immigration in Utah – ‘one of the last white ‘frontiers’’ in the USA – and collaborates with young people to reveal counter-narratives of everyday experience and expressions of resistance that challenge dominant meta-narratives on immigration. Through the use of PAR in researching young people’s lives Cahill is unequivocally ‘acknowledging young people as transformative subjects, not passive victims or the collateral damage of the sweeping forces of globalisation’ (p.160).

Read Peter Walker’s article – ‘Teenagers harden views on immigration as they age’ in The Guardian

Read Cahill, C. (2010) ‘Why do they hate us?’ Reframing immigration through participatory action research. Area, 42(2) pp.152-161

Aesthetic, Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea

By Kate Botterill

‘The ocean is imbued with mystery’ says Jason de Caries Taylor, Artistic Director of the new Cancun National Marine Park whose new exhibition is a collection of ‘underwater sculptures’ submerged 10 metres under the sea. The sculptures explore the relationship between art and the environment and between human creation and the sea through their submerged position and interaction with the natural environment. Through the creation of artificial reefs and the use of sculpted materials that encourage the colonisation of marine life, de Caries Taylor’s work is concerned with transformative life worlds whereby ‘the figures are transformed over time by their environment, and conversely as this happens so they change the shape of their habitat’. The ecological and geographical message of interconnectedness, transformation and regeneration is central to developing understanding of our relationship with the ocean and contributes to what Lambert refers to as ‘imaginative, aesthetic and sensuous geographies of the sea’ (cited in Peters,2010).

Recent work in social and cultural geography has revived interest in the geographies of the sea. In an article for Geography Compass, Kimberley Peters reviews the current work and future prospects of this line of enquiry arguing against ‘land locked’ studies in geography that view the sea as marginal to the land. The sea, she argues is a vital space with rich social and cultural meaning and implicit to everyday life – “even though oceans and vessels may seem disconnected to everyday life, or appear as slow and irrelevant methods of moving, they remain fundamental to the flow of trade, to the reaping of resources (fish stocks, natural gas and oil) and as sites of terror and for the undercover movement of peoples. They are fundamental therefore for geographers to examine in a contemporary light”. Peters traces literatures of the sea from historical approaches, the exploration of maritime spaces and practices to ‘mobilities’ research and tourism geographies. She ends by making a case for an examination of ‘underwater’ geographies and the sea as a ‘site of recreation’, both of which are central to de Caries Taylor’s evolving exhibition.

 See pictures and a video of Jason de Caries Taylor’s underwater exhibition

 Read Peters (2010) Future Promises for Contemporary Social and Cultural Geographies of the Sea in Geography Compass

Neoliberal Urbanisation and New Labour

By Kate Botterill

In a series of reflections on the legacy of New Labour, Jonathan Glancey asks ‘what has Labour done for architecture?’ He claims that since 1997 the Labour party has championed urban regeneration projects and the re-development of many post-industrial cities of the UK into ‘World Class Cities’, with competitive edge and creative promise. The sparkle of these ‘big promises’ for architecture and an ‘Urban Renaisssance’ in British cities, Glancey claims has been marred by mistakes in development approach, favouring centralised power and public private partnerships with big business.

Glancey argues that none of the parties have a handle on architecture and planning in this election and the current process is overwhelmed with too many interests –  ‘on the one hand there are private developers and party-funding big businesses; on the other, a tangled web of quangos, rival government departments, snake-oil design consultants and local councils’, while the interests of local communities and grassroots groups are struggling to be heard.

In an article written during Labour’s first term of office, Swyngedouw, Moulaert and Rodriguez theorise the nature of urban development in the European Union. The piece is a summary of findings of a Europe-wide study of thirteen large-scale urban development projects (UDPs) that were started in 1997 across the EU. They examine whether UDPs are ‘emblematic examples of neoliberal forms of urban governance’ and what effects they have on social inclusion/exclusion and integration.

They argue that UDPs reflect the New Urban Policies that were a feature of governance in the EU, based on principles of ‘exceptionality’, place-specific design, local forms of intervention and flexibility. In practice, they claim that projects using this framework were increasingly fragmented with a multitude of agencies and interests characterised for the most part by diminished responsibility, lack of accountability and selective participation. Eight years later and the efficacy of pluralist approaches to urban policy remain a point of debate and despite the multitude of interests some voices still remain unheard.

View pictures of the architecture of New Labour here

Read Glancey’s article in the Guardian here

Spaces of Quiet Radicalism

By Kate Botterill

In the current climate of election fervour where mainstream political candidates are claiming to offer a new set of ‘progressive’ politics for social change, there is growing interest for the alternative opinions on offer in a number of grassroots radical bookshops. There is optimism among booksellers about the resilience of grassroots activism for radical political alternatives and the re- energising of social movements in the context of economic crises.

Natalie Hanman reflects on the radical bookshop as a place of resistance to contemporary politics in an article in the Guardian. The heyday of radical bookselling was during the Thatcher era in the 1980s and while the number of stores has declined, Hanman claims there is a ‘fightback in the radical bookselling sector, and a mounting backlash among the public against mainstream chain book stores – and mainstream politics’.

Celebrating the birthday of Antipode this year, Michael J Watts writes about the development of the radical journal of geography, reflecting on what it means to be a radical geographer today. Watts traces the roots of Antipode, and it’s emergence into the ‘firmament of the 1970s’. He draws parallels between now and then reflecting that ‘this time around one might say that the firmament is defined by the catastrophic consequences of the capitalist project launched in the 1970s. First time tragedy, second time farce’.

Watts sets out a case for geographers to re-engage with the radical project. He draws on the ideas of David Harvey, Edward Thompson and Roberto Ungen in arguing the need to develop an alternative to a neoliberal hegemony. The ideas and activities taking shape in radical bookshops demonstrate that spaces of radicalism continue to resist what Ungen refers to as a ‘dictatorship of no alternatives’.

Read Watts, M.J. (2010) Now and Then. Antipode, 41:s1

Read Natalie Hanman’s article, ‘the return of radical bookshops’ in the Guardian

The Pressure for a Certain Science

By Kate Botterill

A columnist for The Times this week raised the matter of uncertainty in science and called for the Government and the public to rebuild confidence in scientific findings that acknowledge limitations.

In his article, David Spiegelhalter discusses statistical probability, reasonable uncertainty and trust in numbers in his article, reflecting that ‘it would be nice to think that scientists could be upfront about uncertainty and not feel they have to put everything into precise numbers’.

He gives examples of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which stated a ‘very high confidence’ in the anthropogenic causes of global warming but warns that such judgements have been ignored in the ‘increasingly polarised arguments’ on climate change.

In a critique of US media representations of climate science Maxwell Boykoff (2007) writes for ‘Transactions’ about the need for ‘reframing’ the debate about climate change. Using analyses of US media sources and interviews with climate scientists and environmental journalists between 1995 and 2006, Boykoff argues that the media portrayal of the climate change debate at this time was one of contention rather than consensus.

He suggests that such media framing was due to a mix of socio-political and economic power relations and micro-processes of journalistic professionalism. While dissenters of climate change effectively captured media attention to question scientific findings and discredit the evidence through its ‘uncertainty’, scientists responded ineffectively to media demands on accuracy . Boykoff suggests that ‘for journalists and policy actors, these issues of caution, probability and uncertainty are all difficult to translate smoothly into crisp, unequivocal commentary’, with each actor observing different norms of knowledge production. These interactions between the ‘scientific community’ and the public, through policy and media, is the subject for discussion at the Royal Society today in a debate on ‘Handling Uncertainty in Science’.

Read David Spiegelhalter’s article in The Times here

Read Boykoff, M.T.  (2007) From convergence to contention: Unites States mass media representations of anthropogenic climate change science.        Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32: 477-489 here

Listen to Lord Krebs, keynote speaker at the Royal Society, talking on the Today Programme on Radio 4 here

Watch Brian Hoskins interview on climate change and uncertainty on The Economist website here

Mainstreaming media landscapes – the space where quantity defines quality

By Kate Botterill

‘Does the BBC want to be the fattest tiger in the jungle, or a national resource; anxious to help rather than desperate to imitate, blazing trails, chasing quality not quantity?’ Asks the BBC Radio 4 presenter, Libby Purves.

The recent debate around the closure of two BBC digital radio stations – 6Music and the Asian Network – has provoked media circles to define what ‘counts’ as quality programming for the BBC. The BBCs director of audio and music, Tim Davie, maintains that the suggested closure is a move to ‘do fewer things better’ by ‘looking at other ways to find it a bigger audience’. While others see smaller, ‘niche’ stations being swallowed up by their bigger counterparts, and are campaigning to save the stations to defend alternative platforms of creative expression.

In an article for Transactions, Brett Christophers (2007) argues that the process of mapping and quantifying media landscapes is bound to relations of power over knowledge production. Reflecting on the New Labour government’s attempts to define creative industries in the late 1990s, he argues that the predisposition to quantification, in particular the exercise in ‘mapping’ creative industries, has forged representations of what is valued as ‘creative’ that sits in a space deemed to be calculable and ordered.

Christophers suggests that “mapping these industries creates them – as a discrete sector to be endorsed, managed and exploited – in the sense that it gives them form, boundaries and equivalences, and endows them with quantities and performances that can be measured and regulated” (p.240). Thus, he argues, the state is ‘enframing’ the creative industries through policy mapping, measurement and quantification and producing a sense of certainty and uncritical acceptance of what is measured as an economically viable creative industry or project. Questions remain over whether this framing of creativity as an economic variable provides more opportunities for creative expression or simply stifles creative output through order.

Read Christophers, B. (2007) Enframing Creativity: Power, geographical knowledges and the media economy

Read comments from the BBCs Tim Davie

Read the thoughts of the campaigners on 6Music and Asian Network

Read Libby Purves comments on the future of the BBC

A Change to US Hegemony?

By Kate Botterill

Is it the ‘beginning of the end’ for Barack Obama or ‘the end of the beginning’? In an article for The Times Anatole Kaletsky proclaims anxiously that today’s political summit on healthcare reform in the United States is Obama’s ‘last chance to find a way forward’, out of political deadlock and into the promised brand of consensual politics. Kaletsky claims that if Obama fails to secure consensus on the reforms there will be dire consequences politically and economically for the US and its place on the world stage, potentially altering the ‘balance of power between Western democracy and benign dictatorship along Chinese lines’.

Speculation over the decline of US hegemony and its impact on geopolitics are a feature of the media coverage of Obama’s Presidency, demonstrating at times a cynical fall out from the historic election of America’s first Black President last year. In a more measured assessment, Allan Watson (2010) reviews the geopolitical implications of the Obama Presidency in Antipode. Watson traces the decline in US hegemony from the Bush administration to its present state suggesting that changing deep-rooted US policies through the model of open, collaborative and multilateral politics is no easy feat. Military supremacy continues to be on the agenda, which arguably strengthens US hegemony, but this has been tempered by the financial crisis of 2008 which increased American reliance on foreign investment and compelled diplomacy.

Watson remains uncertain about the future of US hegemony in shaping the geopolitical landscape but optimistic about the multilaterlism of the Obama presidency, seeing it as a chance for America “to re-invent itself as a more open and tolerant nation and practice what may be termed as a “moral hegemony” (see Kobayashi and Peake, 2000), without the need to exercise the hard coercive unilateral military or economic power upon the rest of the world” (p245).

Read If Barack Obama fails today, we’ll all be swept away by Anatole Kaletsky

Read Watson, A. (2010) US Hegemony and the Obama Administration – A New World Order? Antipode, 42(2)