Author Archives: Kelly Wakefield

New York, New York!

By Kelly Wakefield

In a recent AAG Smartbrief email, Jack Eichenbaum wrote about growing up in New York City after World War II and being  convinced he was living in the greatest city in the world.  As the AAG annual confference meeting in 2012 is going to held in New York, it would seem appropriate to write a Directions blog on an aspect of the city, so good they named it twice New York, New York.  Eichenbaum talks about how those with aspirations in the performing arts, visual arts and communications came to Manhattan to fulfill their dreams prior to the 1960s and so thinking about this led me to look for articles on New York and those that represent these dreams. 

Kruse (2003) writes about the secular pilgrimage of those that travel to Central Park to visit Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon.  Geography as a discipline has long been concerned with the character of place, among the factors that create a sense of place are the production and consumption of popular music (p155).  Strawberry Fields, like several other sites such as Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion that memorialise popular music figures, can be understood as a pilgrimage (p156).  Kruse discusses the actual site of Strawberry Fields and its context within the history of Lennon’s life in Liverpool as well as contributing to the geographical understanding of pilgrimage by employing a postmodern theoretical framework as such an approach permits the inclusion of places not associated with traditional religions, but which are the focus of spatial behaviours characteristic of pilgrimages (p161).    I am sure that for the many thousands of AAG members that are attending the annual conference in 2012, there will be many discourses offered to describe, explain and add insight to the Central Park memorial.

    Kruse, R. J. (2003), Imagining Strawberry Fields as a place of pilgrimage. Area, 35: 154–162.

   Eichenbaum, J (2011) The Fall and Rise of New York City. News Detail, AAG.

Meaning of Disaster

By Kelly Wakefield

Hurrican Irene, the tropical storm which this week hit the headlines due to its path along the USA’s east coast has to date killed 21 people.  The media has been reporting on the devastation that the ‘historic floods’ have caused as 5 million homes have lost power in the USA  and is currently moving along the north east of Canada.  However, it is the state of Vermont which was hit with the worst flooding it had witnessed in  almost 100 years.  Earlier in the year, tornado strikes were reported in Joplin, Missouri, USA and are relatively frequent according to a University of Minnesota geographer, Kenny Blumenfield.  The academic stressed the need for emergency planners to prepare for the worst as there have been 300 urban tornadoes since 1990 and twisters occuring at an unusually high rate this year.

So, with this information in mind, one always thinks about the human cost to these natural disasters, as well as the environmental and material costs associated with the damage.  Furedi (2007) discusses  how adverse events such as diasters are interpreted through a system of meaning provided by culture and that historically research into society’s response to disaster provides examples of community resilience.  However, since the 1980s, numerous researchers have challenged this account that such incidents result in long term damage to the community.  One only has to look at Hurrican Katrina in 2005 and the damage that it caused to all of the communities that it hit, with the costliest in lives in Louisiana.  The resilience of the people affected cannot be measured on any scale as news stories pop up from time to time about the effects that Katrina is still having on those that were in her path six years ago. Furedi (2007) argues that community response to a disaster is far more likely to be defined by its vulnerability than its resilience suggesting that the shift from the expectation of resilience to that of vulnerability is best understood as an outcome of a changing cultural conceptualisation of adversity.

However we explain our adversity and response to the natural disasters that can define an area’s history such as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, the need to prepare for the worst is always the case because we are vulnerable.

Furedi, F (2007) “The Changing Meaning of Disaster”. Area, vol. 39, issue 4, pp 482–489.

 BBC. “Irene: Vermont in flood as US counts storm cost“.

 Cathy Wurzer and Paul Huttner. ” Is tornado activity increasing in Minnesota?” MPR News

Violent countries for women

By Kelly Wakefield

A month ago, the UK media reported on findings from the Trust Law Danger Poll (213 gender experts from five continents were asked to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six risks. The risks were health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking) highlighting the world’s five most dangerous countries for women.  Afghanistan topped the poll, emerging worst in three of the six risk catgories, followed by Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia.  Threats to women in these countries range from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide, genital mutilation and acid attacks.  The Telegraph reported Antonella Notari, head of Women Change Makers, a group that supports women social entrepreneurs around the world as saying that “ongoing conflict, Nato airstrikes and cultural practices combined make Afghanistan a very dangerous place for women.”

Chatterjee (2011) discusses how local conflict may be influenced by processes of globalisation and argues that in order to understand how globalisation may be implicated in local violent events, it is essential to develop a nuanced understanding of the complexities of global–local interaction in places.  The case study used was of a Hindu-Muslim conflict which happened in 2002 in Ahmedabad city, India.  Although Chatterjee’s article does not directly discuss gender explicitly, it is a useful article to read to grasp a better understanding of how dangers to women can manifest within particular countries and cultures.

The Telegraph highlighted how ‘the poll showed that subtle dangers such as discrimination that don’t grab headlines are sometimes just as significant risks for women as bombs, bullets, stonings and systematic rape in conflict zones’. These subtle dangers are seemingly less headline grabbing than violent outbursts but very much underpin the everyday lives of women in these countries.  For example 87% of Aghan women are illiterate, in Congo 57% of pregnant women are anaemic, in Pakistan women earn 82% less than men,  in India 44.5% of women are married before they are 18 years of age and in Somalia only 9% of women give birth in a health facility.  These statistics truly make the countries in the Danger Poll dangerous to women because of their ingrained nature.

Chatterjee, I (2011) How are they othered?  Globalisation, identity and violence in an Indian city. The Geographical Journal, Online.

Trust Law, The World’s Most Five Dangerous Countries for Women

The Telegraph, 15th June 2011, Afghanistan named most dangerous country for women

What a scorcher!

By Kelly Wakefield

Phew!  What a lovely summer we are predicted here in the UK, of course it always seems to be a little more breezy in coastal areas but in the East Midlands a very warm and rain free spring has begun to feel alot like summer.  However, as a geographer, the weather is never far from one’s mind and as stories about the very dry spring continue to spring up in the media, my interest was piqued.  Stories such as ‘Northern Europe’s farmers fear drought as bad as 1976’, ‘Drought takes toll on barley crop’ and ‘Cuba battles against worsening drought’ appear in all media outlets.  Stories from North America have also covered issues relating to drought such as this headline ‘Severe drought in Texas worst in map’s history’. 

One of the major effects of drought is of course the lack of production of food as crops refuse to grow and the use of irrigation has to be considered, if not already done so.  Conway (2008, p272) discusses drought as well as the price of food rising in his ‘Food crisis’ presidential address, ‘although climate change is a response to global warming, most of the serious consequences involve the availability of water: in some regions greater and more intense rainfall, in others increasing droughts’.

There is no doubt that the issue of water globally will become more and more mediated as a lack of rain effects places from Norfolk to Texas, Northern Europe to Cuba.

Conway, G (2008) ‘Presidential Address, The Food Crisis‘, The  Geographical Journal, Volume 174, Issue 3, p269-273.

Peter Jackson, BBC, 11th May 2011, ‘Northern Europe’s farmers fear drought as bad as 1976

Betsey Blaney, Bloomsberg Businessweek, 5th May 2011, ‘Severe drought in Texas worst in map’s history‘.

BBC, 1st June 2011, ‘Drought takes toll on barley crop‘.

BBC, 31st May 2011 ‘Cuba battles against worsening draught‘.

Military geographies

By Kelly Wakefield

Anyone who hasn’t been living on a deserted island this week would have not avoided the news that Osama Bin Laden had been shot dead by US special forces near Abbottabad,  Northern Pakistan on Monday.  Since the story first broke, various versions of the events that happened have been released and the controversy over the release of the photo to prove Bin Laden’s death has stirred up more contention.

Geographies of militarism and militarisation have become more prominent in recent years  as fresh perspectives on armed conflict, war and peace have increasingly been researched.  2011 as already seen conflict in heavily media covered stories in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria prior to Pakistan this week.  Bernazzoli and Flint (2009) review the major contributions by geographers to studies of war and peace, interconnections between these bodies of literature and analyse the interacting process of militarisation and construction of place.  These contributions  ‘demonstrate that engagement with war, peace, and militarisation is certainly on the rise in geography’s manifold subfields, particularly political geography and critical and feminist geopolitics’ (Bernazzoli and Flint, 2009, p394).

The death of Bin Laden, after 10 years of being at the top of the US most wanted list, will no doubt have repurcussions for many years to come.  Bernazzoli and Flint’s (2009) engagement with militarisation and the construction of place is important in this instance.  Bin Laden’s body has been buried at sea and was done so as to not create a shrine in any one place, however, the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan may well become this space.

Bernazzoli, R and Flint, C (2009) ‘Power, Place, and Militarism: Toward a Comparative Geographic Analysis of Militarization‘, Geography Compass, Volume 3, Issue 1, p393-411.

BBC, 6th May 2011, ‘Osama Bin Laden ‘planned 9/11 anniversary train attack

Maps on the Internet

By Kelly Wakefield

The Internet holds the door open to millions of maps that have been created through professional organisations, such as Multimap and by amateurs.  The topic of my post this week has been inspired by James Cheshire’s research blog and his blog post ‘2010: Mapped’.  The blog was a summary of interesting maps from each month in 2010 which included a map of winter olympic medals and the London Elephant Parade. 

Haklay et al (2008) critically discuss the landscape of Internet mapping techniques and the change it has seen since 2005 with new techniques emerging.  Internet mapping started after the emergence of the WWW in the early 1990s and the rapid increase of the development of delivery mechanisms carried on into the 1990s. The term ‘neogeography’, attributed to Eisnor (2006) is “a socially networked mapping platform which makes it easy to find, create, share and publish maps and places”.  Neogeography is essentially Haklay et al (2008) suggest about people using and creating their own maps, on their own terms. 

The maps displayed in the blog cover many different topics and highly covered media stories from different sources and so challenges more traditional ideas of geography and geographical mapping.  As Haklay et al (2008) suggest ‘when all can potentially capture and distribute data through access to GPS, the Internet and mobile devices, what information can users trust?”

Haklay, M, Singleton, A and Parker, C (2008) ‘Web Mapping 2.0: The Neogeography of the GeoWeb’. Area, Vol. 2, Issue 6, p2011-2039

        James Cheshire’s Research Blog based in the Department of Geography and Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London.

New states in the new decade

By Kelly Wakefield

A group of southern Sudanese men wave local flags and dance outside a polling station in Juba

As we move into 2011, the media have reported at least two of the newest made states around the world.  The largest media coverage has been afforded to Sudan with almost 99% of southern Sudanese voters choosing sucession in January’s independence referendum reported The Guardian.  This will creat a southern independent state from the north on the 9th of July 2011.  Sudan has witnessed decades of marginilisation and conflict with a north-south war from 1983 to 2005 causing around 2 million deaths. 

The second new states were created in October 2010 as the five Caribbean islands comprising the Netherlands Antilles resulted in dissolution.  The islands of Curacao and St Maarten have become autonomous within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  Christopher (1999) questioned more than a decade earlier whether the process of new state making would carry on into the millennium, after the remarkable number post WWII. 

Christopher looks at decolonisation and secession amongst others and concludes that ‘in practice, potential for placing new states on the world political map in the early years of the new millennium is strictly limited to no more than 10-20 countries’.  How many more new states will be created before the end of the decade is an interesting question as well as the reasons why.

Christopher, A. J. (1999) ‘New States in a New Millennium’ Area, 31, 4, p327-334.

Xan Rice, 30 January 2011, ‘Nearly all southern Sudanese voted for sucessionThe Guardian

Matt Rosenberg, ‘Top 5 geographic news events of 2010‘ About.com