Tag Archives: place

Listening to Nature

By Paul C. Adams (University of Texas)

The current geological era has been dubbed the Anthropocene. This term is meant to signify that humans now ‘have a decisive influence on the state, dynamics and future of the Earth system’. We are affecting so many systems simultaneously—atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic—that earth scientists are at a loss to understand exactly how human actions are entangled in many of the processes of environmental disturbance they are observing. Are things changing because we’ve added something (like pollution), taken something away (like the animals we fish and hunt) or transformed something (like the rivers we have rerouted and channelized) or all three? The engineering mindset that got us into this situation may be the wrong approach to get us out. It might help to think in a radically different way, developing a respect for nature as a host of interdependent, intercommunicating organisms, and thinking of each place as what I call an ‘enviro-organism’. To see why I move in this direction, we have to take a step back and reflect for a moment on what people mean by ‘nature.’

Nature confronts us with impressions of the unbelievably large and the incredibly small. The New Horizons spacecraft departed from the earth at a whopping 58,000 kilometres an hour but it took nine years for it to reach Pluto.  The length of the voyage merely to the edge of our solar system reminds us that our planet is a mere speck in the universe. Meanwhile, the physicists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, are stretching our understanding down to the very smallest scale phenomena. The particles they study cannot really be thought of as things in a conventional sense, but they are necessary for the existence of more thing-like things such as atoms and molecules. And the scales of time taken into account by physicists and astronomers are equally alienating. Nature pushes us to our limits, extending human awareness to scales that are too large or too small to feel a sense of involvement. There is something awe-inspiring about imaginatively voyaging from the microscopic to the macroscopic, from the interior of atoms to the far edge of the universe, but these elements of nature seem to have no place for humanity as we know it.

 

adams-blogpic-Geological-time-spiral. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

Geological Time Spiral. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

There is of course another side to nature. When a dentist from Minnesota shot a lion named Cecil in 2014, there was international outrage. When sea stars (‘starfish’) began to tear themselves to pieces off the west coast of North America there was widespread concern. There is now a new concern about 12,000 square kilometres of coral that is expected to die over the next year because of climate change. It is more than a bit disturbing to many nature-lovers that hundreds of frog species are predicted to go extinct by the end of the century. In these cases, ‘nature’ appears as something fragile, something to care about, and something we should be taking care of. Nature’s middle scales are more easily embraced within human concern than the scalar extremes studied by astronomers and physicists.

Nature means radically different things and this raises questions. If the nature around us has all been humanized in some way, if it is not entirely wild like Pluto or entirely strange like subatomic particles (some of which are technically classified as ‘strange’), and furthermore if it is frequently unruly—unpredictable and occasionally dangerous, then why should we care about it? How can we make sense of our passion to save lions, frogs, corals, or starfish? Are our caring feelings misguided? Do they betray emotionalism more than our capacity for rational thought?

I would argue that a beginning of an answer lies in thinking of nature in a fundamentally different way—not as strange (like elementary particles and galaxies) or tragically compromised (like endangered species and ecosystems), but as a collection of beings that have things to say to us, beings we have only started to attend to, beings we could learn important things from if we knew how to listen. In my article ‘Placing the Anthropocene: A Day in the Life of an Enviro-Organism’, I offer a glimpse of nature as a collection of living and nonliving things that communicate with us and with each other. I propose that we should meet these fellow creatures in a spirit of dialogue, or even in a spirit of orchestral performance. By doing so, our ambivalent relation to nature becomes clearer. This attitude to nature helps us find a place for ourselves as observers filled with awe and scientific curiosity, but also as caretakers of a small corner of the universe.

About the author:

Dr. Paul C. Adams is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin.

books_icon Adams, P. C. (2015), Placing the Anthropocene: a day in the life of an enviro-organism. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi: 10.1111/tran.12103

60-world2 Capecchi C and Rogers k 2015 Killer of Cecil the Lion Finds Out That He Is a Target Now, of Internet Vigilantism The New York Times

60-world2 Dunnakey A 2015 Coral reefs endangered by bleaching in global event, researchers say CNN

60-world2 Lee J 2015 Starfish are still dying, but here’s reason for hope The National Geographic

60-world2 NASA 2015 New Horizons: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt

60-world2 Platt J 2015 Frog Mass Extinction on the Horizon Scientific American 

60-world2 Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy Working Group on the ‘Anthropocene’

Collecting as Archiving

By Will Andrews, Aberystwyth University

In a recent article published in Transactions, Didier DeLyser (2015) explains the importance of the what she refers to as ‘archival autoethnography’ (p209) as a way to approach and analyse the intimate spatialities of social memory tied up in amateur collections.  The article explores DeLyser’s own collections of souvenirs related to Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 novel Ramona, whilst contextualising this within wider enthusiasm for the novel and its impacts.  Many of these souvenir items, such as written postcards are tied to certain geographical locations in Southern California, in this way they connect people to place as well fitting into broader narratives of collection and enthusiasm the postcards in particular providing clear and intimate accounts of social memory in place.

800px-Collection-of-cameras                                        A Collection of Old Soviet Cameras (Dzhepko, 2007)

April 7th saw the second series of BBC 2’s Collectaholics (BBC, 2015a), a popular culture lens on the personal collections and archives compiled by various individuals who have interests in subjects which do not always attract more mainstream archival attention. The programme details, “the weird and wonderful collections of some of Britain’s passionate and avid…collectors” (ibid). As DeLyser (2015) explains such collections transcend cultural capital or monetary value (p209) and have more to do with the personal experiences and memories of the collectors. Collections on the BBC series range from an archived collection of natural history items in the first episode to more performative archives as in the sixth episode when Mark Hill explores a home transformed by its owner into a recreated early twentieth century cottage (BBC, 2015a). Both collections can be seen as pertinent examples of DeLyser’s observations, that people collect items which connect them to certain places and broader narratives, preserving their own, ‘intimate spatialities of social memory” (p210).

p02nbbzz                                                 Episode 1. Collectaholics (BBC, 2015b)

Beyond the importance of collecting as a creative process or practice DeLyser (p209) argues the methodological importance of collecting as archiving. That by gathering texts and artefacts ourselves we can contribute to important alternative archives which through the scholarly realm may ultimately bring more attention and inquiry to their circumstances, as is true of Ramona as a result of DeLyser’s work. Furthermore by collecting souvenirs we can better understand the work these do in the lives of those who purchase them. Through my own autoethnographic research within modified car culture I have begun to see the building of the modified car as a sort of collection of parts and indeed many people collect parts in order to maintain a sort of archive. In this way I would argue that DeLyser and Greenstein’s (2014) account of rebuilding a classic Tatra car is itself another example of creating an alternative archive. Traditionally historical geographers have approached the archive as something separate from the domestic or professional spaces of their homes and offices instead we can and should turn to the collections which “reside with us in our homes and offices” (DeLyser, 2015: 209).

Cake_drums_-_Belgium                                               Cake Drums- Belgium (Spotter2, 2009)
To conclude, the current BBC series Collectaholics shows that there is a popular fascination with collecting and the subsequent informal and personal archives created, by watching these episodes through a lens informed by DeLyser’s (2015) article we can begin to see the geographical and intimate spatialities woven into the tales of these weird and wonderful collections.
References

globe4 BBC (2015a) ‘Collectaholics‘, BBC Two website

60-world2 BBC (2015b) ‘Episode 1. Collectaholics‘, BBC Two website

books_icon DeLyser, D. (2015) ‘Collecting, kitsch and the intimate geographies of social memory: a story of archival autoethnography‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40(2), 209-222

books_icon DeLyser, D. & Greenstein, P. (2015) ‘ “Follow that car!” Mobilities of Enthusiasm in a Rare Car’s Restoration’, The Professional Geographers, 67(2), 255-268

60-world2 Dzhepko, L. (2007) ‘A collection of old Soviet cameras on sale in the Vernisazh in Izmailovky Park, Moscow, Russia‘, Wikimedia Commons

60-world2 Spotter2 (2009) ‘Cake Drums- Belgium‘, Wikimedia Commons

The Story of Stilton Cheese: Place-based Production and the Protected Food Names System

By Matthew J Rippon

“Morrisons Mature Blue Stilton with PDO Logo.jpg” Blue Stilton from Morrisons supermarket which displays the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo (in red). Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

Blue Stilton from Morrisons supermarket which displays the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo (in red). Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

In the last year, eleven British foods have been awarded Protected Food Name (PFN) status. These are Stornoway Black Pudding (Isle of Lewis), Lakeland Herdwick (Cumbrian lamb), East Kent Goldings (hops), Fenland Celery (Cambridgeshire), Fal Oysters (Cornwall), Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, Pembrokeshire Earlies (potatoes), Yorkshire Wensleydale, West Country Beef, West Country Lamb and Anglesey Sea Salt. These join a host of British PFNs which include Cornish Clotted Cream, Jersey Royal Potatoes, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Stilton Cheese and Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb. The UK currently has 62 PFNs.

PFNs are the EU arm of the international Geographical Indications (GI) structure. GIs are awarded to foods, drinks and agricultural products that originate from defined locations and are made in supposedly traditional ways. The quintessential GI is Champagne. Only alcoholic beverages that derive from the Champagne region of north-eastern France and are made in accordance with la méthode traditionnelle can legally be entitled ‘Champagne’. GIs are a form of Intellectual Property (IP) which possess two unique features. First, they allow firms to, in effect, ‘own’ common geographical terms. Second, unlike trademarks and patents, GIs are a collective form of IP as any number of producers of a particular food can utilise the same geographical name.

Stilton Cheese is one of the most interesting PFNs. This is partly because it is unlawful to manufacture ‘Stilton Cheese’ in the parish of Stilton. This is due to the historical geography codified in the Stilton PFN regulation which states that the eighteenth and nineteenth century’s inhabitants of the village retailed imported cheese but never consistently generated their own outputs. Moreover, Stilton, by law, must use pasteurised milk. The PFN thus functions as a safety mechanism which prohibits firms that make raw milk cheese from ever assuming the valuable ‘Stilton’ moniker.

“Bell Inn Stilton Village.jpg” The Bell Inn in Stilton parish argued by the village campaign to be the birthplace of Stilton Cheese. Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

The Bell Inn in Stilton parish argued by the village campaign to be the birthplace of Stilton Cheese. Photo: Matthew J Rippon.

Yet the place and methods of production are currently under attack from two independent antagonists that wish to destabilise the PFN regulation. The first – the Stilton village campaign – seeks to add the parish of Stilton to the protected zone. The second – from Stichelton Dairy – aims to create unpasteurised ‘Stilton’. The Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association (SCMA), which represents the ‘genuine’ Stilton manufacturers, is demanding that the status quo be maintained.

This ongoing conflict reveals how the PFN model cements the places and production methods that use economically and culturally esteemed geographical place-names while noting that motivated actors can nonetheless challenge both the regulated geography and formalised manufacturing styles.

About the author: Dr Matthew J Rippon obtained his PhD from the School of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London.

books_icon Rippon, M. J. (2014), What is the geography of Geographical Indications? Place, production methods and Protected Food Names. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12085

60-world2 There’s ‘Stilton’ and then there’s ‘Stilton’ cheese Food and Geography Blog 11 January 2014

60-world2 Stilton seeks right to use its own name for its cheese Daily Telegraph 18 April 2014

60-world2 War of the cheeses Telegraph Magazine 01 December 2007 (pdf)

60-world2 Stilton Cheese Protected Designation of Origin (pdf)

60-world2 Stilton Cheesemakers’ Association

Sochi and the spatialities of contentious politics

By Helen Pallett

2013_WSDC_Sochi_-_Zbigniew_Brodka_2

Image credit: Sacha Krotov

With the Winter Olympics drawing to a close at the weekend, global attention has moved away from Sochi, at least until March 7th when the Winter Paralympics begins. The Sochi Winter Olympics have been notable, not only for the achievements of the athletes involved, but for their politics. The site itself was heavily monitored and policed to curb the activities of ‘extremists’ out to disrupt and injure, and many activists were arrested or forcibly moved from the location. But Sochi itself also took on a broader political symbolism as an emblem of the struggle for LGBT rights. Some states such as the US deliberately sent prominent gay sports people to Sochi to head-up their delegations, whilst many news outlets, such as The Guardian, The New Statesman and Channel 4 in the UK, took the opportunity to highlight their support for the cause of equal rights, particularly through the use of the symbolic rainbow flag. President Putin meanwhile notoriously told gay people that they were very welcome in Sochi but that they should leave children alone.

The Sochi Winter Olympics then was a moment of contentious politics, created by the increasingly draconian laws being passed recently in Russia regarding LGBT rights, and the releasing of several prominent activists from prison, in the run up to when the world’s eyes would be on Sochi for the games. But there is also a complex spatiality to this contentious politics. In a study of the contentious politics of immigrant workers’ rights in the United States Helga Leitner, Eric Sheppard and Kristin Sziarto argued that it was important to understand the role of scale, place, networks, positionality and mobility in shaping and forming part of this politics.

Scale is important to understanding the contested politics of Sochi, as movements and debates occurred at multiple overlapping and interrelating scales. From the policing or transgression of the micro-spaces around the Olympic site, to the scale of Sochi as a city which became an emblem of the LGBT rights struggle, to the scale of Russia as a country and legal and political context of the Winter Olympics, to the global scale of the Olympics itself with the world’s attention on developments in Sochi. These different scales interacted with one another, influencing  other processes and producing new political effects, which in this case served to magnify the issue of LGBT rights beyond this one city.

The politics of place are also clearly at play in Sochi, with the city becoming so much of an emblem of broader struggles for LGBT rights, linked to its fleeting importance at a site for a major sporting event. Sochi’s reputation as a resort for Russia’s wealthy and extravagant elite only served to increase the controversy around the games. Like with many other social movements and instances of contentious politics the topology of networks was important to the visibility of the LGBT rights struggle around Sochi, connecting Russian and Sochi-based activists to other LGBT activists globally, and importantly, being passed through high profile media networks from Twitter to the international news outlets. The struggle for LGBT rights was also passed through significant sporting networks, reaching far beyond the pool of athletes involved in this Winter Olympics to the delegations sent by other countries to the games, or to other sportsmen and sportswomen who chose this particular moment to be open about their own sexuality or to affirm their support of LGBT rights.

The mobility of many members of these networks was also a significant factor in their success in making LGBT rights into such a significant issue around the games, whilst attempts to curb the mobility of activists’ and other individuals’ bodies around the Sochi site was an important way in which Russian authorities attempted to resist and undermine the struggle.

Finally, Leitner and colleagues assert that socio-spatial positionality is also an important component of such politics, bringing into focus difference and inequality. In this case, the difference in Russia’s stance on LGBT rights was an important vector of difference in comparison to significant moves towards the fulfillment of LGBT rights, such as gay marriage, in much of Western Europe and North America, which had important implications for how the political struggle played out and was resisted by the Russian Government. But equally the struggle for LGBT rights around the Sochi Winter Olympics was very successful at forging alliances between different groups of activists, different national LGBT rights movements, and between activists and sports people or sports fans. That prominent news outlets also felt the need to show their support to the cause shows the strength of such alliances.

Attention to the complex spatialities of social movements and contentious politics, such as the LGBT rights struggle, can illuminate the  interactions of different tactics, arenas, allegiances and oppositions in the movement, as well as highlighting the multiple locations or levers of the political struggle ‘on the ground’.

books_icon Helga Leitner, Eric Sheppard & Kristin Sziarto 2008 The spatialities of contentious politicsTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers 33(2): 157-172

60-world2 Pussy Riot members among group of activists arrested in Sochi The Guardian, February 18

60-world2 5 reasons why Sochi’s Olympics may be the most controversial games yet The Guardian, January 31

60-world2 Channel 4 goes rainbow to wish “good luck to those out in sochi” Channel 4, February 6

60-world2 Putin cautions gay visitors to Sochi BBC News, January 17

Affecting Our Physique: The Place of Obesity

by Jen Turner

By Octagon (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Research carried out with people living in Colorado, US, has found that Americans who lived well above sea level were less likely to be obese than those in low-lying areas.  Reported in the Mail (online), Lead researcher Dr Jameson Voss, from Uniformed Services University in Maryland, said: “I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect… I wasn’t expecting such a consistent pattern as what was emerging.” The study based on data from 400,000 people living in Colorado illustrated that a person’s obesity risk dropped with every 660ft increase in elevation.

To examine obesity rates at different altitudes, the researchers combined information from several databases, including a telephone health survey of 422,603 Americans from 2011. The researchers had information on 236 people who lived at the highest altitude of at least 9,800 feet above sea level. Those people tended to smoke less, eat healthier and exercise more.

The researchers also had information on 322,681 people who lived in the lowest altitude range – less than 1,600ft above sea level. After taking into account other factors that could influence the results such as retirement age, the researchers found adults living in the lowest altitude range had a Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measurement of weight in relation to height – of 26.6. That compared to people who lived in the highest altitude range, who had a BMI of 24.2. A healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9.

Dr Voss considered that the associations persist over the long term, with changes in elevation perhaps affecting appetite hormones, growth and how many calories the body burned. These findings could help explain the difference in obesity rates between states.  However, the results are unable to conclude whether moving to an area of high altitude would mean you would automatically loss your excess weight.  It would be interesting to study whether obesity prevalence would change if the research participants moved to a lower altitude.

The rapid rise in obesity rates over the last 30 years has been considerably noteworthy for geographers due to its profound implications for the health of populations. A recent paper by Dianna M. Smith, and Steven Cummins explains that, as this rise has occurred over a relatively short biological time scale, it is suggested that changes in the environments to which we are exposed may be to blame, rather than individual genetic endowment. Focusing on developed world nations, this article briefly reviews this emerging ‘ecological’ perspective in the search for the causes of obesity. This article explores how aspects of our environment might disrupt ‘energy balance’ through influencing food consumption and physical activity. It focuses on three hypothesised pathways for environmental risk: the organisation of built physical space, the social environment and the political environment. The article demonstrates that a consideration of scale and context are also important in the search for the environmental drivers of weight gain. For the discerning geographer, these inherent relationships between physical spaces and the body continue to be of interest; with this particular topic generating another avenue of study surrounding the transformation of the individual through space.

books_iconDianna M. Smith, and Steven Cummins, 2008, Obese Cities: How Our Environment Shapes OverweightGeography Compass, 3(1), 518-535.

books_iconJ D Voss, P Masuoka, B J Webber, A I Scher and R L Atkinson, 2013, Association of elevation, urbanization and ambient temperature with obesity prevalence in the United StatesInternational Journal of Obesity, DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2013.5.

60-world2

Want to slim down? Living at a higher altitude can help (and it’s nothing to do with climbing)Mail (online), 13 February 2013.

Postcolonialism, Responsibility, and ‘The Other’

By Benjamin Sacks

‘Responsibility is increasingly summoned as a route to living ethically in a postcolonial world’ (p. 418). So begins Pat Noxolo’s (University of Sheffield), Parvati Raghuram’s (Open University), and Clare Madge’s (University of Leicester) astute and occasionally scathing discussion of the current state of responsibility to and within developing countries. Published in the July 2012 issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, ‘Unsettling Responsibility: Postcolonial Interventions’ unravels traditional conceptualisations of responsibility and agency, at once highlighting recent, significant scholarship in the field and discussing possible new approaches to empowering peoples in developing countries.

Postcolonialism is often understood as a linear ‘give-and-take’; an attempt to rebalance wealth, resources, and power from highly developed, imperial states and their former colonies. But this singular approach is problematic at best. Joanne Sharp and John Briggs, for instance, both geographers at the University of Glasgow, admitted in a jointly-authored 2007 Geographical Journal article that they remained deeply divided over why postcolonial development had failed. Briggs, ensconced in development studies, pointed to ground level problems in developing states. Sharp, conversely, attacked the ‘dominating universalizing discourse of the West, and particularly the extent to which it suggests that it alone has the answer to development problems’ (p. 6). Their disagreement underscored the fundamental problem with the pervading model: the West empowered ‘The Other’ as and when it saw fit; the developing, or ‘Third World’, as victims, took whatever the West could offer.

‘Unsettling Responsibility’ seeks to alter this approach. The authors cite Doreen Massey’s (2004) and Matthew Sparke’s (2007) criticisms as catalysts for a new, multilinear system where ‘responsibility’ and ‘agency’ – both contested terms – are identified in developed and developing countries, supported, and adjusted accordingly (pp. 418-20). Responsibility is neither solely in the hands of the West nor in those of the developing world. Instead, responsibility and accountability operate on international, national, and local tiers, between developed and developing constituencies, various economic and social sectors, via contradictory legal structures, ‘ethical and moral economies’, and certainly through differing academic and administrative systems. Highlighting such factors, of course, complicates postcolonial discourse. In so doing, however, Noxolo, Raghuram, and Madge establish a potent framework that is applicable in a comprehensive range of situations, from Africa to Asia and the Caribbean.

Postcolonialism is an ironic term, for it implies that society has moved beyond colonial attitudes and aspirations, and is actively pursuing equality amongst countries’ standard of living. The number of Western-led interventions since the Second World War suggests otherwise. Further, ‘theories of responsibility’ utilised at ‘a high level of abstraction’ have only muddied geopolitical and anthropological analysis (p. 420). The authors recall G C Spivak’s Other Asias (2008) tenet that globalisation’s interconnectivity has created a plethora of ‘hugely uneven global relationships’ between the Global North and Global South. But importantly, responsibility and agency do not rest entirely with one side or the other: these relationships, however lopsided they may be, are the result of actors’ behaviour and decisions in both developed and developing states. In order to better analyse individual relationships of responsibility and dependency, Noxolo, Raghuram, and Madge contend that the language and processes surrounding ascription and agency must change, and that support should be provided where needed across the entire postcolonial relationship.

Pat Noxolo, Parvati Raghuram, and Clare Madge, ‘Unsettling Responsibility: Postcolonial Interventions‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 3, pages 418-429, July 2012

Joanne Sharp and John Briggs, ‘Postcolonialism and Development: New Dialogues?The Geographical Journal, Volume 172, Issue 1, pages 6-9, March 2006

Radio Space: North Sea Memories

The BBC's nemesis: Radio Caroline's offshore vessel, late 1960s. (c) 2011 Wikimedia Commons.

Benjamin Sacks

Uniquely amongst the major world powers, Britain’s international image is disproportionally defined by its broadcasting capabilities. The BBC’s announcement on 11 August to establish World Service FM stations in the Libyan rebel-held cities of Benghazi and Misrata (91.5 Arabic and English) raised few eyebrows; observers have come to expect the World Service to install itself in any democratic-leaning region. ‘We know the people of Libya are keen listeners of BBC Arabic’, Liliane Landor, BBC controller for languages, noted, ‘The new FM stations will give the people of Benghazi and Misrata somewhere to turn to for news they can trust and know is accurate’. Similarly, within weeks of the collapse of Iraq’s totalitarian Ba’ath regime, the World Service opened FM repeater stations throughout the country. In 2005 the World Service and the British Department for International Development (DfID) established Al Mirbad Radio, serving Basra, Missan and Dhi Qar provinces. Locally produced Al Mirbad Radio rapidly became one of the most popular stations in Iraq.  The BBC continues to organise and train new Iraqi media groups, with special emphasis on women and journalistic-independence.

Historically, the BBC’s influence was the result of a government policy that remained largely unchanged until the 1970s. A state institution, the BBC was conceived to ‘speak peace unto the nation’; to be the nation’s voice, a symbol of Britain’s strength, culture and public image, both at home and abroad. A broadcasting monopoly theoretically ensured this cohesive voice.

The BBC’s ubiquitous control began to falter after the Second World War. From 1955 onward, ITV competed with BBC Television for viewers. But the radio monopoly survived until 1972, when the Sound Broadcasting Act extended the Television Act 1964 to radio. The Independent Television Authority was renamed the Independent Broadcasting Authority, charged with the registration, organisation and monitoring of commercial (non-BBC) radio stations. The debates leading to the Sound Broadcasting Act highlighted the deep extent to which the BBC had become an integral part of British domestic and international life – an inimitable British geography with distinct cultures, populations and regulations.

But what catalysed Parliament’s about-face in British broadcasting policy? Such recent examinations as the 2009 film Pirate Radio have rekindled interest in the broadcasting ‘war’ that led to the de-monopolisation of British radio and the alteration of British broadcasting geography. In ‘Sinking the Radio “Pirates”: Exploring British Strategies of Governance in the North Sea, 1964-1991’, Kimberley Peters (Royal Holloway) critically examines the vital role offshore pirate radio played in fashioning contemporary British maritime policy. As Peters points out, when the first illegal offshore pirate station (Radio Caroline) broadcast on Easter Sunday 1964, the BBC was reeling from a precipitous drop in listeners. A network that principally catered to middle-aged, middle-class audiences, the BBC was increasingly perceived as being ‘out-of-touch’ with 1960s youth culture, which demanded contemporary rock-n-roll artists. Situated on converted fishing vessels anchored beyond Britain’s three-mile nautical limit, Radio Caroline and its cohort ‘flouted British rules and laws’, but nonetheless placed intensive pressure on the BBC to establish programming geared to a new, revolutionary generation (pp. 281-83).

The Area article also critiques the apparent contradiction between Britain’s historical support for ‘freedom of the seas’ and its determination to eliminate ‘obstacles to free navigation’ which, for purposes of convenience, included the so-called “pirate” radio stations. This approach proved both awkward and questionable: Peters argues that ‘certain methods of governance that were enacted were inherently problematic, challenging therefore Britain’s long history as a protector of the high seas’ (p. 283). London’s frustrating experience in stopping the nautical broadcasts led not only to Britain’s eventual acquiescence to commercial radio, but also to policy-makers’ review of how, where and when maritime law can be applied.

  ‘Al Mirbad: Local Radio for Southern Iraq’, BBC World Service Trust, accessed 12 August 2011.

 McAthy, Rachel,  ‘World Service Launches on FM in Libyan Cities’, Journalism.co.uk, 11 August 2011, accessed 12 August 2011.

  ‘More About Our Work in Iraq’, BBC World Service Trust, accessed 12 August 2011.

  ‘Our Work in Iraq’, BBC World Service Trust, accessed 12 August 2011.

  Peters, Kimberley, ‘Sinking the Radio “Pirates”: Exploring British Strategies of Governance in the North Sea, 1964-1991’, Area 43.3 (September, 2011): 281—87.

  ‘Sound Broadcasting Act 1972’, Parliament 1972 Chapter 31 (London: Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1972), pp. 477—96.