Author Archives: Alanna

Gender Divisions of Labour

By Alanna Linn

The division of labour is often a topic of debate. For example, two recent commentary pieces in the Guardian discussing men, housework and the ability of women to ‘have it all’ have resulted in extensive comments and heated debate.

The recently released Family and Work Report from the Second European Quality of Life Survey finds that whilst there is significant diversity of household and family arrangements, there is a clear gender dimension. People aged 35-49, especially women, have the greatest share of unpaid work in the home, which does not differ greatly across countries, unlike for men.

The need to develop policies that support the democratic sharing of labour is discussed in the new book by Walter Von Dongen, reviewed by Jan Windebank in the March 2010 edition of The Geographical Journal.  Von Dongen argues that the ‘male breads winner’ model is being gradually replaced, albeit at different rates across Europe, by a new ‘Combination’ model, which results in greater symmetry between men and women’s participation in labour – both in the home and in the workforce. In looking forward, Von Dongen promotes the development of policy which will allow men and women to both have a high level of participation in professional work and a largely equal division of labour, whilst retaining the freedom for individuals to choose less equal divisions of labour if so desired – a right Von Dongen considers essential in any democratic society.

Read recent commentaries in The Guardian here and here

Read the Eurofound Second European Quality of Life Survey: Family life and work Report

Read the review of Walter Von Dongen’s book in The Geographical Journal

Defining ‘local’ food

By Alanna Linn

The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland interrupted not only holidays but also the international transport of food. Media reports from around the globe discussed the potential disruption of supplies to supermarket shelves, as well as the financial impact on exporters, especially in Africa.

The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull has highlighted both the distance that food travels to reach UK shores, and the UK’s reliance on imported food supplies – currently around 40%. This in turn has led to some commentators questioning whether the fall out of the Icelandic volcano signals a need for the UK to obtain a greater degree of its food from ‘local’ sources, or at least for more people to question and understand the sources of our food.

Central to these discussions is the question of whether ‘local’ is better. A new paper in Geography Compass by Edmund Harris explores the importance of ‘local’ to alternative food networks.  Harris observes that defining ‘local’ within research around alternative food networks can be both complex and problematic, and suggests that there is scope for tgreater interaction with human geography theory around place and space. Such an approach could facilitate more nuanced understandings of ‘local’, without losing its power in food activism.

Read media reports on the impact of the volcano eruption on food transport in The Guardian, London Evening Standard and ABC news

Read Edmund Harris’ paper in Geography Compass

Harmony and the City

By Alanna Linn

In late March 2010, UN-Habitat released its biannual report on the state of world cities. The Report finds that over half the world’s population now lives in cities, and that the world’s mega-cities are merging to form vast “mega-regions” which can stretch across hundreds of kilometres.

With cities likely to continue to grow significantly over the next 20 years, the report highlights the need for planners to find ways of harmonising the spatial, social and environmental aspects of a city and its inhabitants. In particular, “harmony” hinges on the implementation of urban planning and management that is based on the principles of equity and sustainability.

The emphasis in the UN-Habitat Report on harmony and equity reflects a trend in world city analysis identified in a 2009 Geography Compass by Karen Lai; she observed that research into world cities has moved beyond analysis based on size and city hierarchies to more complex and varied analyses. This includes the development of place-based studies that examine the flows and networks between world cities, that re-scale analysis to look at city-regions and global city states, and that emphasise the political and social inequality challenges that face the world’s cities now and in the future.

Read the UN-Habitat Report – State of the World’s Cities 2008/2009

Read a Guardian news article on the UN-Habitat Report

Read Karen Lai’s article in Geography Compass