Tag Archives: resistance

It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that counts.

By Kieran Phelan, University of Nottingham

It is remarkable that this summer marked four years since London played host to the world’s Olympians and Paralympians. ‘London 2012’ was arguably one of the most exciting opportunities in London’s recent history, to showcase to the world the very best of competitive sport. Whilst the opening ceremony’s fireworks, theatre and show-biz pizazz certainly laced the event with an almost-perfectly staged veneer, London’s Olympic Games were also politically, quite contentious. Despite providing the world’s avid sports fans with just under a month of high-quality sport, its mobilisation, organization and promised legacy have since been marred by questions of worth and value.  In times of austerity, some have argued that the London Olympic Games were a gigantic waste of time and money that not only excluded local residents, but stoked London’s rapidly gentrifying transformation. As Bridget Diamond-Welch aptly describes, with the thousands of hours and millions of words reported on the Olympics, we easily can forget just one thing. In the very location of the Olympic Games, not too long ago, were businesses, factories, residents and homes.

This summer’s Olympics and Paralympics were no different. In fact, it was memorably political. Just hours before the opening ceremony, thousands of activists marched along Copacabana seafront protesting the government’s decision to host the Olympics at a time when Rio’s government is cash-strapped. Local people seized the international limelight to publicly question the appropriateness of the Olympics, and mobilise around their shared grievances. By public disruption, protesters were scratching off the event’s polished façade to re-narrate the sporting mega-event. They wanted to air their frustrations with the way the Olympic Games were organised, which adversely affected poorer communities. Exclusion and eviction were the necessary costs of ‘getting ready’ for the Games.

Sporting mega-events such as the Olympic Games are really interesting. Not only do they provide opportunities to plug into great sport, but they also serve as a lens through which to find international commonality. Sport enables cultural exchange and establishes bonds of friendship. They are, importantly, not just about what happens on the field but what happens off it too. Of course, they are about professional competition, but often, they also seek to achieve broader goals; engagement, participation and legacy. In striving for these aspirations, it is important to ask not only who is engaged and taking part, and ultimately who isn’t. Susan Fitzpatrick’s recent article in Area directly attends to this issue, reviewing how the political subjectivity of local residents were shaped and influenced by another sporting mega-event; Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games.  Using the preparations for the Games as a starting point, Fitzpatrick prises open discussion about how political subjectivities are necessarily placed. Urban mega-events such as the Commonwealth Games are viewed as important catalysts for political articulation. They provide the impetus for communities to focus their opposition and articulate their anxieties, excluding and including in equal measure. Finding spaces for discussion and political organization are necessary parts of this process. Fitzpatrick goes on to discuss how Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games drew into view placed political struggles. Interestingly, the Games were also presented as their solution. Fitzpatrick draws upon the disconnection between ‘event time’ and political time; timescales that forever seem incongruous with one another. ‘Official’ opportunities for engagement can be, simultaneously, temporally-bound sites of dialogue, subversion, resistance and re-narration. Official discourses frame and contextualise resistance, and have real material effects on how people criticise and engage with sporting mega-events such as the Commonwealth Games.

When reflecting upon these ideas, I thought back just a few short weeks ago to the discussion surrounding the Rio Games. I asked myself what are the things that most of us will remember; the colour of the water in the diving pool? The outfits of the Olympians? The night-time antics in Copacabana? Unsurprisingly, the salient thoughts lack depth or substance. Whilst it’s exciting to plug into a month of sport, perhaps we all too easily plug-out, change channels and forget, once it’s all over? It’s just great sport for most of us. We must not forget however, the Games are also people lives and livelihoods too. Fitzpatrick’s (2016) article perfectly sums up the importance of inclusion, valuing the mega-event’s associated political questions that are too readily dismissed. It would seem, sporting mega-events are not always about the winning, but it truly is the taking part that counts.

books_icon Diamond-Welch B 2012, August 20. The Olympic Transformation: Regeneration or Gentrification. Sociology in Focus Retrieved October 7, 2016

books_icon Fitzpatrick S 2016. Who is taking part? Political Subjectivity and Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games. Area doi: 10.1111/area.12295

60-world2 Hunt E 2016, August 10. Why is the Olympic diving pool green? The good news is it’s not urine. The Guardian Online Retrieved October 10, 2016

60-world2 Morby A 2016, August 8. Fice of the best outfits sported by Rio 2016 Olympians during the opening ceremony. Dezeen Retrieved October 7, 2016

60-world2 NBC News 2016, August 5. Olympic Tourists, Athletes Enjoying Nightlife Ahead of Rio Opening Ceremonies. NBC News Retrieved October 7, 2016

60-world2 Watts J 2015, July 19. Rio 2016: ‘The Olympics has destroyed my home’. The Guardian Online Retrieved October 7, 2016

60-world2 Williams R 2016, July 22. Why the London Olympics were a gigantic waste of time and money. The Guardian Online  Retrieved October 7, 2016

 

Workfare and the Unions

By Julie MacLeavy, University of Bristol

Worfare image

Workfare: doesn’t work and not fair. Photo by Howard Jones licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

The potential role of organised labour organisations in policy debates on and resistance to workfare programmes is a complex issue, as is broached in relation to the US context in the article accompanying this blog. Recent developments outside of the US might point to a more engaged role for unions in such debates. In the UK, the state’s largest union, Unite, responded to last fortnight’s launch of the Coalition government’s new ‘workfare’ programme with a plea to charity managers not to sign up for community work placements, which are by part of a set of measures aimed at helping jobless benefit claimants move from welfare into work. In a statement, Unite described the mandatory work placements as “nothing more than forced unpaid labour”.

Their opposition to the Help to Work programme, which aims to reduce unemployment by making the payment of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) dependent on individuals’ enrolment for a six months work placement, is threefold. First there is no evidence that workfare programmes get people into paid work in the long-term. Second, workfare programmes stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, or face having their benefits docked. Third, workfare displaces existing workers and enslaves jobseekers and in doing so undermines collective bargaining.

Unite’s statement of opposition to the implementation of workfare is important. Given the quietude and ineffectiveness of progressive welfare politics over the past two decades as the welfare system has increasingly required work in exchange for time-limited assistance, the addition of this established organisation’s voice to the critique of workfare could help to forge a counter discourse about welfare that consciously recasts welfare struggles in terms of civil and economic rights. Unite’s opposition identifies the manner in which the reduction of welfare assistance/imposition of workfare ensures a steady supply of cheap labour to industry and in doing so narrows the distance between the concerns of unemployed and its union members.

Until now, those targeted by workfare have not had the necessary institutional resources to effectively dispute the received wisdom that welfare recipients are unemployed because of a lack of motivation, skills and a ‘work ethic’. There have been independently-organised campaigns against the Help to Work scheme and its predecessors – including the former Labour government’s suite of ‘New Deals’ for the unemployed (which similarly required unemployed persons to undertake education, training or work experience in return for JSA payments) – but these have produced little in terms of long term resistance. With further support from the unions, claimant-led campaigns could be horizontally linked, relationships between welfare activists and the trade unions developed, and a greater level of public debate about the government’s reforms fostered. These nascent developments might also provide a model for the organisation of counter-workfare coalitions in the US context, where workfare programmes have also proceeded apace along broadly comparable lines to that of the UK, and with similar degrees of quietude and ineffectiveness within progressive welfare politics (see article reference in The Geographical Journal below), albeit with important differences and national inflections.

About the author: Julie MacLeavy is a Senior Lecturer in political and economic geography at the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, UK.

books_icon MacLeavy, J. (2014), Workfare and resistance in the US: the quietude and ineffectiveness of progressive welfare politics post 1996. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12092

60-world2 Guardian, The (2014) New Help to Work programme comes into force for long-term unemployed. 28 April

60-world2 Unite (2014) Charity bosses urged to shun ‘workfare’ scheme by Unite. 28 April

Content Alert: New Articles (11th May 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Migration, urban growth and commuting distance in Toronto’s commuter shed
Jeffrey J Axisa, K Bruce Newbold and Darren M Scott
Article first published online: 8 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01097.x

Original Articles

Mobile ‘green’ design knowledge: institutions, bricolage and the relational production of embedded sustainable building designs
James Faulconbridge
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00523.x

Creating and destroying diaspora strategies: New Zealand’s emigration policies re-examined
Alan Gamlen
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00522.x

The demographic impacts of the Irish famine: towards a greater geographical understanding
A Stewart Fotheringham, Mary H Kelly and Martin Charlton
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00517.x

Transnational religious networks: sexuality and the changing power geometries of the Anglican Communion
Gill Valentine, Robert M Vanderbeck, Joanna Sadgrove, Johan Andersson and Kevin Ward
Article first published online: 25 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00507.x

Geographies of transition and the separation of lower and higher attaining pupils in the move from primary to secondary school in London
Richard Harris
Article first published online: 23 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.519.x

Rethinking governance and value in commodity chains through global recycling networks
Mike Crang, Alex Hughes, Nicky Gregson, Lucy Norris and Farid Ahamed
Article first published online: 23 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00515.x

The ‘missing middle’: class and urban governance in Delhi’s unauthorised colonies
Charlotte Lemanski and Stéphanie Tawa Lama-Rewal
Article first published online: 20 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00514.x

Science, scientific instruments and questions of method in nineteenth-century British geography
Charles W J Withers
Article first published online: 20 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00513.x

Genome geographies: mapping national ancestry and diversity in human population genetics
Catherine Nash
Article first published online: 18 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00512.x

Militant tropicality: war, revolution and the reconfiguration of ‘the tropics’c.1940–c.1975
Daniel Clayton
Article first published online: 18 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00510.x

Beginners and equals: political subjectivity in Arendt and Rancière
Mustafa Dikeç
Article first published online: 13 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00508.x

Scaling up by law? Canadian labour law, the nation-state and the case of the British Columbia Health Employees Union
Tod D Rutherford
Article first published online: 13 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00506.x

Geographies of Occupation

Sarah Mills

Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement against corporate greed and social and economic inequality which began in September 2011, continues to grow and inspire occupations across the world.  The original occupation in New York describes itself as a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%”.  The claiming of space, whether St Paul’s Cathedral in London or in Madrid Square, has been central to the identity and nature of the demonstrations.   Furthermore, the role of social media and digital communications remains vital in organising and documenting the protests.  The complex geographies and demographics of the occupy movement are still unravelling and emerging, with mainstream media only recently focusing on events.

In their commentary in The Geographical Journal published online last week, Peter Hopkins, Liz Todd and Newcastle Occupation document the occupation at Newcastle University, UK that took place during November-December 2010 in response to government spending cuts and increased tuition fees.  Here, the authors discuss characteristics of the Newcastle Occupation (the claiming of space, alternative governance structure, cyberspace and social media) that are currently being played out in different contexts through this month’s global occupations.  This article gives an important insight into one example of occupation and the actions of students involved in the process and politics of protest.

 Read Hopkins, P., Todd, L. and Newcastle Occupation (2011) Occupying Newcastle University: student resistance to government spending cuts in England The Geographical Journal

 Read the latest news on the global Occupy movement via The Guardian website

 Follow the latest on Occupy Wall Street  / Occupy London / We are the 99% campaign

Brave New World for Egypt

By Michelle Brooks

As the dust begins to settle in Cairo the people of Egypt are jubilant at the success of their 18 day revolution in effecting regime change and toppling the government led by Hosni Mubarak for 3 decades.   Now, as they prepare to play the long game waiting for free elections in September, the people, the revolutionary council and the ruling military must walk the tightrope of civic peace. Throughout the peaceful protests, distinctly multicultural and bursting with references to gender equality, poverty, religion, state-led violence and political freedom the activists displayed visual representations of the state through the lens of the working classes.  Why do I mention this? Amidst the macro-scale geopolitik at play and the roar of the oppressed and unheard there is also subtle resistance at work here. The use of imagery on banners and placards and voices on facebook became the ‘weapons of the weak’ (Hammett 2010:6) , weapons that became available in the face of unequal access to public resources, corrupted state-owned t.v./radio/newspapers. The script and symbolism in the banners, facebook pages and tweets began the process of self-assertion of nation and in the interim, this meant a disconnect with the previous regime. It is a media that can reach beyond borders and through societal strata, one that the ageing clunky oppressor was ill-equipped to outrun. Increasingly there is a call for a more critical reading of the role of visual metaphors in the construction of ‘nation’ and the sentiment behind national identities (Dittmer 2005:628). In the image below, the use of comic book imagery is clearly anything but innocent or child-like, indeed it is a powerful and effective political tool in it’s cause of freedom from tyranny.

Throughout the protests, the activists have repeatedly expressed their unity, Christians protecting Muslims as they prayed from pro-Mubarak forces and clearly chanting ‘Egypt for the Egyptians’.  There are many accounts of people watching events unfold around the world on T.V.’s, computers and listening to radios choked by the solidarity of this multicultural society overcoming everyday, that which so often divides and disables cohesion in the western world.

Indeed there is no doubt that these events have been an outstanding victory for the people of Egypt, for human dignity in the Arab world and for freedom of expression more widely. However, in time the ousting of the autocratic leader may prove to have been the easy part. The vision of Egypt as portrayed by the government was one of submission and secularism, there was no room for dissent or protest and public displays of religiosity were banned, all under the state of emergency since 1981 (but periodically dating back to 1967). With two thirds of the nation under the age of 30 for many this is the only Egypt in living memory, an Egypt ruled by a military government whose hand reaches into every area of governance, commerce (from petroleum to bakeries), media and education. It is difficult therefore to imagine the magnitude of the economic and political loss in status to the military if it is replaced by a civic democratic system of governance based on merit and a public mandate. Whilst these concerns are bound to dominate in future months, we will remember for some time, the courage of the Egyptian people, oppressed and thwarted for too long, circling in squares and squaring the circle.

Hammett, D. (2010) ‘Resistance, Power and Geopolitics in Zimbabwe’ Area no. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2010.00980.x (early view) [online] available from:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2010.00980.x/abstract

Dittmer, J. (2005) ‘Captain America’s Empire: Reflections on Identity, Popular Culture, and Post-9/11 Geopolitics’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 95: pp626–643 [online] available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8306.2005.00478.x/abstract

Read about Egypt protests on Al Jazeera [online] available from: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/

Revolting against inequality and discrimination

Burnt out car, 6th November 2005. Picture taken during the French suburb riots by François Schnell.

By Rosa Mas Giralt

The Guardian newspaper is currently publishing a series of reports looking at the increased political presence of anti-immigrant movements all across contemporary Europe. Within this series, yesterday’s article by Angelique Chrisafis entitled “Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots”, focused on the current state of affairs in Clichy-sous-Bois, the neighbourhood at the edge of the French capital where the 2005 riots started. It made sad reading. Time has not transformed the social issues (e.g. poor housing, marginalization, joblessness, racism) that lay at the root of the revolts which were sparked after the death of two youngsters who were hiding from the police. Discrimination against young non-white French people and immigrants is rife and there have been no signs of convincing policy initiatives to address the situation. Unfortunately, in the current uncertain economic climate, right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric continues to dominate the French debate on immigration and ethnic minorities. The riots could potentially reignite at any point.

In 2007, Geography Compass published an article by Mustafa Dikeç which focused on the 2005 riots in the banlieues of Paris. In it he argued that a geographical approach to analyzing these revolts can provide a better understanding of their recurrence. The article provides a historical perspective of the revolts, exploring similar incidents that have taken place in the country since the 1980s, and relating the creation of the banlieues to France’s post-war economic and political transformations and colonial past. Dikeç (2007: 1203) suggests that “geographies of revolts overlap with geographies of mass unemployment, discrimination and repression”, geographies which have been expanding in the last 30 years. From this perspective, revolts can be understood as resistance movements and not as ‘imitation’ incidents, based on the logic of ‘copycat effects’, which have dominated behavioural accounts.

Read The Guardian‘s series of reports “Europe: Immigrants under pressure”

Read article by Angelique Chrisafis “Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots”. The Guardian. 16th Nov 2010

Read Mustafa Dikeç (2007) “Revolting geographies: urban unrest in France”. Geography Compass. 1(5): 1190-1206.

The geographies of schools

By Rosa Mas Giralt

BBC2 is currently showing a number of documentaries and dramas under the banner of School Season. The programmes focus on the current education system in the UK and explore issues around schools, parents, teachers and pupils. So far, there have been very interesting contributions such as John Humphry’s documentary Unequal Opportunities examining the reasons why there continues to be great differences between the educational attainment of advantaged and disadvantaged pupils; although completely engaging and illuminating, the programme exposed once more that, without adequate resources and investment, improving the educational opportunities of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is very difficult to achieve. Another absorbing programme was the drama Excluded, which focused on an inner-city school and a pupil who faced exclusion for his disruptive behaviour, showing the complexity of issues that may affect a young person’s life and the difficult task of those in the teaching profession who need to make decisions which can be life-changing for pupils. The season continues and most of the programmes can be watched on the BBC website (for a limited number of days) or they can be downloaded from the BBC iPlayer.

The sub-discipline of children’s geographies has provided influential research aimed at deepening our understanding of the lives, experiences, identities and spaces/places of young people and has foregrounded their capabilities as social actors on their own right. A recent contribution to this scholarship is an article by Barker et al. (2010) in the current issue of Area. This paper explores a new internal space created in some schools in which pupils, who have been temporarily excluded (fix-term exclusions), can be confined, the so called “Seclusion Units”. Using a Foucauldian approach, the authors map these spaces, explore their surveillance and power structures and the possibilities for resistance which pupils have within them. Importantly, the authors find commonalities between the spatial practices of these units and those of other penal spaces such as prisons; this leads them to issue a call for a “moral debate about the desirability of these contemporary educational practices” (2010: 385), a debate which seems crucial.

 Visit the BBC’s School Season website to discover more about the programmes

 Read John Barker et al. (2010) “Pupils or prisoners? Institutional geographies and internal exclusion in UK secondary schools”. Area. 42(3): 378-386