Things have been quite quiet on our blog for the last 4 weeks or so as some of us got a well earned break whilst our students are working on their summer dissertation projects. Alasdair Pinkerton (Alasdair has recently launched a No Man’s Land project with Durham Geographer and former colleague Noam Leshem, which he recently wrote about on our sister blog at e-IR) and I caught up with around half of the group for lunch yesterday; their projects include the arts of digital diplomacy; the politics of the Scottish Referendum; the volumetric geopolitics of Gibraltar’s territorial tensions with Spain; the spaces of Somali identity in London; a critical geopolitics of the ICRC; and the politics of scenario making in the futures of Yemen. We should hear more about those projects here in due course.
As we spoke Klaus Dodds could be seen on Parliament TV during the House of Lords Arctic Committee to which he has been appointed specialist adviser. It was great to see former colleague Phil Steinberg giving evidence as a witness to the committee, where he discussed some of the remarkable issues around ice which seems to trouble the way states define territory, how shipping routes are determined etc. The point he made about the way Canada makes decisions based on satellite imagery and from the number of pixels that could be attributable to ice, demonstrated the incredibly arbitrary visual culture bound up in this cause. I think some of these debates follow Phil’s recent conference at Durham a few weeks ago on the law and ice.
Many of us have been attending conferences over the summer. I spent a weekend at the Altonaer Stiftung für philosophische Grundlagenforschung (ASFPG) in Hamburg, organised by Valerie Kerruish and Mark Neocleous, to talk about my evacuation research. The workshop was on ‘Geographies of Law: Power, space, border’ and brought together critical legal scholars from IR, philosophy, law and geography. And I attended a tremendous event in central London on Sensing War organised by Kevin McSorley, Debbie Lisle, Tara Woodyer, Holger Pötzsch and Joseph Burridge. Our own Pip Thornton gave a terrific and thoughtful paper on the relationship between light, the sensible and conflict in her experiences as a reservist in Iraq. Pip’s PhD is exploring the figure of the soldier but in ways really quite sensitive to creative political expression, some of her own poetry featured in the presentation. At the end of this month Alasdair Pinkerton (working with Rachael Squire) will organise a really important event bringing together academics and foreign policy professionals at Cumberland Lodge, he has just written about this recently. Then in late August many of us are at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference for one of the major events of the year.
Back to maps, we recently won the University team teaching prize for our work on the collaborative security mapping project with the Master Geomatique Cergy-Pontoise that we held earlier in the year, but also the work on this blog. A fuller write up of that project will be posted here. I’m working with colleagues at Cergy to edit together a video of what we did.
Finally, in amongst shortlisting for two new post-docs which will be working with me, reading finishing PhDs, struggling to finish a few papers and other commitments, I’m finishing a long-over due book based on our Leverhume funded work on civil defence during the Second World war, with two historians of crime Barry Godfrey and Dave Cox. The book tries to explore the convergence of policing, local, regional and national government in the emergence of an apparatus of protection, how a particular city (primarily Liverpool), its strategic position and its inhabitants became a ‘problem’ for governance, security and social policy. This is more than it sounds, think troublesome urban areas, docks, dock workers, railways, subversives, munitions, food, water, gas, power, bomb shelters, lighting, roads, rubble, waste, bodies, families, parents, children, mothers, lice. Yes lice, what Titmuss famously exclaimed were ‘not political creatures’ of course were. I’ll blog more about this in the next few days, but we’re trying to tell the richest story we can of the mobilities, moralities and infrastructures bound up in this event. Here’s the cover, the book should be out with Bloomsbury early next year.