Welcome to the blog for Geography at the University of Liverpool. Follow this blog for regular updates on our work including our research activities, comments on news stories and updates on what our staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students and alumni are doing. We hope this will help give an insight into the dynamic world of geography at the University of Liverpool and that the blog will become a space for conversation about what we do. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment or email us.
Post by Dr. Bethan Evans
On Friday 21st November, Ciara Kierans and I organised a workshop on Disability, Arts and Wellbeing on behalf of the University’s Centre for Health, Arts and Science (CHARTS). This was the second in a series of workshops funded by The Wellcome Trust on behalf of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research. We were delighted that we could hold the Liverpool workshop in collaboration with DaDaFest, an innovative Disability and Deaf Arts organisation based in Liverpool which works across the North West, Nationally and Internationally.
The Medical Humanities is an interdisciplinary field that brings perspectives from the arts, humanities and social sciences to questions about medicine, health and well-being. It is a field which often involves a diverse range of perspectives, including researchers, practitioners, patients and artists. Recently there has been a move to develop a more Critical Medical Humanities through engaging with activists and critical theory to question the politics and power of medicine and ideas of health, illness, disability and embodiment.
As a Critical Geographer who works on questions of embodiment and health, I see many parallels between the medical humanities and geography: both involve questioning the relationships between nature and culture (and what we see as ‘natural’) and challenging unequal power relations between different bodies. Importantly, the move to more Critical Medical Humanities has also involved questioning the power and positions from which medical humanities knowledge is produced (who is involved in the production of this knowledge and who might be excluded). This is reflected more broadly in the social sciences and humanities in moves to more participatory models of research (e.g. participatory geographies) and the growth of the para-academic movement.
It is in light of all of these things that we were keen to host the workshop in collaboration with DaDaFest, to involve people from lots of different disciplines, to hold it in a non-academic space (the workshop took place at The Bluecoat Gallery) and to involve artists. The day involved presentations from people working in different fields researching diverse topics which relate to disability, art, wellbeing and medical power. For example, there were presentations on racism and the historical use of slaves in American medical research, on ideas about ethnicity in organ donation, on dis/ability and sexuality, on the representation of PTSD in romantic novels, on arts practices for wellbeing, on bioart, on cinema and memory and much more. The full workshop programme is available here.
All of these presentations were fascinating, and were followed by what was the highlight of the day for me, the final session when we were lucky enough to have the Artistic Director of DaDaFest, Ruth Gould speak to us about the history of DaDaFest and give us a guided tour of one of the current exhibitions ‘The Art of the Lived Experiment’ and artist Rachel Gadsden talk to us about her work with disabled artists in the Middle East (there is a video about this work available here) and give us a tour of the exhibition which comes from this work ‘Al Noor- Fragile Vision’. This was an excellent way to end the workshop and really made clear the value of breaking down boundaries between academics, artists and activists. These exhibitions are excellent and I highly recommend that you take time to visit them and see them for yourself.
Last week the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation (CGE) held its third annual boot camp for Graduate Researchers based here at the University of Liverpool, and Lancaster University. The CGE currently funds 50 PhDs in across a host of university departments including Engineering, Chemistry alongside 4 PhDs based in Geography and Planning.
Decamping to Ribby Hall, just outside Preston, the CGE researchers participated in a host of sessions all aimed at helping them to develop their skills in post-PhD life, either presenting research to other academics, putting together a business pitch, or marketing their ideas using video. We also heard from guest speakers including Mark Shayler from the Royal Society’s Great Recovery Project, who spoke about the circular economy, and how important research is in filling that role, as well as Gary Townley from the Intellectual Property Office who spoke about IP in all its forms.
One of the major draws of the bootcamp was a session held by Bellyflop TV, which was aimed at GRs who wanted to produce videos that could either demonstrate their research, or market a new idea or business idea that they might have upon graduating. To help illustrate how a video was put together, our researchers were asked ‘What made you want to do a PhD?’, with the resulting footage being compiled. The result is the video below.
Combined, the research completed by the PhD researchers, working with their companies and the CGE will be responsible for the mitigation of 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, 725,000 tonnes of water and over 13,000 tonnes of material diverted from landfill by the project’s end. Importantly, however, while the video does a great job of showcasing the range of innovation that the CGE supports, what it really shows is that each PhD has its own story and that often research is driven by a passion that goes beyond 9-5, and that ultimately it is this passion that has driven the success of the CGE’s projects.
Blog post by Emma O’Connor, final year BA Geography student
Having spent weeks thinking about how I am going to spend my summer, I thought it was probably best to gain some work experience, considering I was going to be starting my final year of University in September and still had no idea what I wanted to do when I left! After checking the university’s CareerHub, I discovered that there were so many opportunities available to students and came across my internship advertised on the website.
I spent this summer working as an intern for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. During my 12 weeks working in the VIP team, there was never a dull moment. My main project throughout the summer was to secure celebrity prizes (very exciting) for the annual Firecracker Ball. With previous prizes including a meet and greet with Daniel Craig, expectations were high and the pressure was on. Emailing and liaising with agents and publicists became daily tasks and at times very frustrating but once I secured my first prize, the rest kept coming! With prizes from Michael Bublé and McIntyre, I am sure that the ball will be nothing less than a success!
During my time at Barnardo’s I also worked on some of the main events over the summer, including the Young Supporters Concert which was held at the Royal Albert Hall. Throughout the day, my responsibilities ranged from organising the thousands of children through the dress rehearsal (without a doubt the most hectic hours of my life), briefing the celebrity presenter, helping with photography and ensuring that the event ran smoothly. The event was a huge success and having been a part of it from the beginning to the end, I learnt how much time and planning goes into these fundraising events but after working a 12 hour day, I was beyond relieved when it finished!
As part of the internship scheme, the interns were given the opportunity to join the development board, where they could organise and run their own fundraising events. During out 12 weeks, we held two fundraising events which were both hugely successful. The first was a Barnardo’s Summer BBQ Fete. I was head of the entertainment committee which meant that my responsibilities included deciding on the stalls, including a photo booth, wellie toss and penalty shootout (summer fete classics!). We were also in charge of the music and prizes. Who knew there was so much red tape to go through when organising an event?! The second fundraising event we held was a comedy night which was one of the most successful development board events ever! This was so much fun and was a great opportunity for all the interns to get to know each other!
The internship offered two insight days throughout the summer. The first was a service visit to ‘The Hub’ which is an alternative educational provision, aimed at improving attendance and encouraging involvement in education and community life for those at risk of social exclusion and young mothers. This gave me the opportunity to really see and understand what the charity does and how they help children at risk. It was really insightful and was definitely a highlight of my internship! The second insight day was a CV and Interview training day. This was the opportunity for all the interns to receive feedback on their CV’s and advice on interview techniques. This was an invaluable opportunity that Barnardo’s offered the interns and I will no doubt be taking everything I learnt from it away with me. The CEO of Barnardo’s, Javed Khan, also came and spoke to us, giving us valuable advice on how to succeed in our future.
My internship at Barnardo’s was an amazing experience and I learnt so much from my time there. Although, most importantly, I can say that I emailed Michael Bublé’s…agent!
Kathy Burrell has just had a new book published with Palgrave MacMillan. Co-edited with Kathrin Horschelmann at Durham/Leipzig the books brings together a diverse range of chapters to consider different aspects of mobility during and after socialism in Eastern Europe and the (former) USSR. See link and blurb:
This edited collection explores what mobility meant, and means, in the specific contexts of socialist and post-socialist Soviet and East European societies. Under the socialist regimes, mobility was at the heart of everyday interactions with the state, from controls on travel and communications mobilities to daily experiences of transport usage and the immobility of queuing for goods at times of shortages. These mobilities have been reshaped under post-socialist regimes. While the collapse of socialism heralded a liberalization of international migration and increased automobility, new experiences of poverty, unemployment, and in the case of some states, war, plus the loss of subsidized travel greatly reduced fields of mobility. Bringing together contributors from the dynamic fields of Mobilities and Socialist/Post-Socialist Studies this book uses the focus on socialist and post-socialist mobilities to investigate fundamental intersections of power, control, resistance and inequality.
Post by Sean Dunn, graduated BSc Geography 2014, current MSc student
The beginning of our trip started in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport with a mixture of excitement for the trip and dreading the long flight ahead of it. After a couple of good films, singing along to songs in Frozen with Amelia, my teddy bear George and I landed in San Francisco. Due to some severe jetlag we barely made it to midnight after a slice of pizza and a local beer. The next morning we made our way to the Airport to meet the rest of the Santa Cruz goers and the lecturers, where our journey began to Santa Cruz in some rather lively minivans playing California themed songs.
Once we arrived in Santa Cruz we had some time to explore and get orientated with this new city. It may be fair to say on the first night some of us enjoyed the local selection of alcoholic drinks and the novelty of being 21 in America. The next day we were taken on a walking tour of the city by the lecturers making friends with some lively seals, crossing a disused railway bridge and exploring local lagoon systems (which we revisited during our group project). The evening was then our own to begin planning for the next working day on our projects.
My group did a project concerning drought and whether it had heightened arguments between recreational users and conservationists of state parks and wetland areas. I think I speak for all of my group when saying we thoroughly enjoyed this experience and our project. At times we felt a bit out of our depth choosing a more human geography related topic but wouldn’t change it at all in hindsight. Our methods included interview and volunteering days and I believe this way we were fully able to experience the most of being in California and meeting the locals. It was a lot of hard work but enjoyable at the same time. We had the opportunity to travel throughout Santa Cruz County meeting countless interesting locals from keen fishermen all the way up to conservationists for global companies.
As well as our project work the lecturers took us on trips around the County which I really enjoyed as there isn’t much point going so far to visit a place without learning about your surroundings. The locations visited included the University, San Andreas Fault line, Redwood forests and a beach site where the famous surfing brand O’Neil was founded. I feel like I learnt a lot about the city.
When we weren’t working on our projects, the evenings and night time were ours to do whatever we wanted. Obviously some privileges come with our first trip to the USA being over the age of 21… a well-deserved night out! One of the best nights was for our pal Liz’s 21st where the lecturers gave her a cake and card. Most evenings were spent on the beach playing volleyball at the public courts and just soaking up the last of the California sunshine for the day. My room and I bought food from the local supermarket to make group dinners and lunches but if you didn’t feel like that there is no shortage in options. I don’t think there was a day when the boys didn’t have at least one Mexican from the little taco joint opposite the hotel! Apart from that there was a large selection of restaurants and small takeaways both in the city centre and along the boardwalk. One of the best places we visited doubled up as a restaurant and bar. It is a pizza place called Woodstock’s where we searched online finding a voucher which is pretty good. If you sign up to the newsletter you get half price extra-large pizzas which is about 20 inches. There were 8 of us with 4 pizzas and enough for lunch the next day! Whilst there we saw they had a dollar night, so we returned that day. When you buy a beer it is just one dollar for a refill!
After all of our fun in Santa Cruz and 10 brilliant days it was time to leave the city. It was a weird feeling to be returning back to San Francisco Airport. Once we arrived the goodbyes began but not before a big group photo of the whole trip. It feels weird saying it but it was emotional seeing everyone slowly walk off in different directions with suitcases rolling behind them. Everyone had made different plans whether it was travelling, first flight home or visiting family. For us, we were travelling.
First thing to do was collect the cars. It started well when the guy upgraded us to an SUV for free. I was the person driving and when I saw the car, I was in shock. My car at home is a Ford Fiesta and this was huge! Once I managed to get out the small lanes of the car park we were on our way due south! 8 of us in two cars starting our California Adventure. Our first stop was in Monterey at the opposite end of Monterey Bay to Santa Cruz. We grabbed a bite to eat in a restaurant and had a drink before going back to the hotel. We were absolutely shattered and I was preparing myself the drive the next day.
The next day was the drive down Highway 1. This is possibly the most picturesque driving I have ever done. Every few seconds was a perfect picture moment. Navigating up and down the cliffs on windy roads we finally arrived at Big Sur. We climbed to the top of the mountain to a beautiful waterfall for a photo moment before climbing the other way to one of the best views I have ever seen: looking out onto the redwood forests with the Pacific Ocean in the background. After this we continued to Santa Maria our rest stop for the night. The next morning we set of for LA. We stayed in a hostel on Hollywood Boulevard and drove up Mulholland Drive to take a picture of the Hollywood sign. This was the best part of LA as from this viewpoint you could see the entire skyline of the city.
Our last driving point was San Diego. This was one of my favourite cities we visited and I finally had some time off from the driving. We spent 3 nights here and did so much in such a short space of time! We drove on the interstate to the last exit before Mexico to an outlet mall. I would 100% recommend visiting one of these! I ended up getting a pair of Reebok classics and a Ralph Lauren polo for the equivalent of £40 where that would be about £120 over here! We also went to watch a baseball match between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. I couldn’t attend without getting a foam finger! Our last day we spent on a local beach watching the sunset all together before an early night for the morning drive back up the coast towards San Francisco. We stopped only for some lunch in Santa Barbara which was beautiful. Lunch at the natural café for some healthy vegetarian food and a quick look in the thrift stores! One overnight stop and 16 hours of driving later we made it to San Francisco. The next two days we spent walking around the city, sampling the seafood and getting some presents for loved ones at home! Our last night was a bit emotional after spending so long in America!
I would 110% recommend this trip to anyone. I still look back on it now knowing it was the best experience of my life. The photos just remind me of what a good time we had. It was the most amazing way to end my University experience with some of my best mates over the previous three years! I hope I haven’t bored you too much and I hope you enjoy the photos of my teddy bear and his tour around California!
Guest Post by Matthew Wallace
Last week, I published a paper in Social Science & Medicine examining mortality among the major immigrant groups in England and Wales over a thirty year period from 1971 to 2001. While recent national media focus has fixated firmly on the fiscal cost of ‘health tourism’ – “Migrants to face emergency NHS charges” (BBC), “End of free NHS care for migrants under new bill” (Telegraph), “Tough rules to stop health tourists” (Daily Mail) – there has been little focus on the health of immigrants who actually live in England and Wales. The health and mortality of these groups is of substantial interest to policy-makers. Evidence suggests inequalities in health by ethnicity and country of birth, but there has been insufficient consideration of the importance of country of origin and length of residence in the United Kingdom.
In short, results from the paper show low mortality (compared to non-migrants in England and Wales) for individuals from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Western Europe, China and group Other Asia. Analysis also shows that this low mortality begins converging to native levels over time – though low mortality persists for some groups at old ages. As to why we see these patterns, low mortality among first-generation immigrants provides evidence of a ‘healthy migrant effect’ whereby individuals initially ‘select’ for good health and the personality traits often associated with a successful migration (ambition, social adeptness and risk-resilience). This good health and low mortality then wears off over time as individuals ‘acculturate’ or adopt the unfavourable habits and behaviours of the host society.
There are of course many additional dimensions to the research which I do not cover here. If you would like to read the discussion in full, the paper is available online through journal Social Science & Medicine or alternatively, at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Matthew_Wallace3. If there is anything you would like to discuss, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The paper was co-authored with Dr Hill Kulu; the research was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/J500094/1] with permission from the Office for National Statistics. The next step of my research is to study the mortality of second generation migrants in England and Wales. Previous research suggests that this group do not share the low mortality of their parents and may actually have a higher mortality risk than natives.
Having lived in Liverpool for a year, I can say how enriching the experience of leaving your individual comfort zone can be! I am Carolina Santos. I have been a Brazilian exchange student at the University of Liverpool for the last twelve months as part of the Science without Borders program, part of the Environmental Sciences degree. This is what I have learned…
Even after having spent some time in this lovely and vibrant city, it is still not easy for me to fully understand how deep the differences between Brazil and the UK – politically, socially, economically, culturally – actually are. While the UK has been at the heart of globalising processes since the Second World War – and the British Empire, with Liverpool at its heart, was central to global trade before that – the Latin American experience of deeply exploitative colonial processes both historically and, as Eduardo Galliano showed, today. This understanding profoundly shaped and intensified my experiences of living among such profound differences. The historical injustice of the legacy of global trade that is celebrated by Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Status still matters, and I am very pleased that these ‘geographies of responsibility’ are properly grappled with by Liverpool Geographers.
During my time in Liverpool I was lucky enough to participate in a research project which examined potential learning between the British ‘Social Economy’ context and the Latin American ‘Solidarity Economy’ scenario, coordinated by Dr Peter North with Liverpool’s Social Enterprise Network. While it may seem a debate about definitions, basically the British Social Economy looks to use business skills and methods to do good and to meet social needs, while the Latin American Solidarity Economy context starts with a different question – how do we want to live with dignity, meeting both our needs, and those of the other species that we share this planet? How can we build an economy that helps us do that? While there are differences, both concepts put people before pounds or profit.
I found the differences between the UK and Brazil fascinating. You will have seen the million strong demonstrations in Brazil around the World Cup: was it right to spend money on stadia while people went hungry in the favelas a few miles away? Considering the current British socioeconomic condition of austerity and the continuing existence of highly deprived neighbourhoods (especially around Liverpool, close to the city centre), I could not help but feel that a dose of radicalism would be beneficial to British society, in order to build a stronger repudiation of the public sector cuts as part of a fight against deprivation and for a better society. Dr North told me that back in his day, Liverpool did see such a fightback, and it did not end well – are todays politicians right to be more pragmatic? As a Latin American, I’m not sure.
Indeed, it’s incredibly interesting for me to observe how people act in relation to economic crisis. Generally speaking: even though in both contexts there is a general historical tendency for people to get together in difficult socioeconomic times, it seems to me that Latin Americans explore and recognize their power as citizens able to make a difference and to fight for their rights more fully. They frequently make this explicit by taking to the streets far more regularly in order to pressure the public sector and fight for public policies or new agendas. The Solidarity Economy in this context can be considered a more radical anti-capitalist approach than Social Economy as it understands social issues as housing, employment, health and education are all connected as consequences of the same exploitative competitive system. The Solidarity economy is based on feelings of reciprocity, democracy and equality, and it works mainly through cooperatives.
In contrast, in the face of public spending cuts the British Social Economy or third sector has explored more market-based alternatives to stake funded provision. Social enterprises, for example, aim to tackle social issues as their main objective, and mainly differentiate themselves from private businesses by having their surpluses reinvested. I struggled to find anyone who had a good word to say about the Big Society! On the other hand, I was very impressed with the professionalism of and the commitment of the lovely friends I made at the Social Enterprise Network in Liverpool – their professionalism and expertise is something I will take back to Brazil.
That said, my Brazilian roots suggest that, no matter how developed the British third sector is and how great its social impact has become (especially around the very well-received “buy social, buy local” movement), it should also be important to keep a clear understanding of what social needs are and what social demands should be made to change things for the better, holding the balance between tackling social needs in positive, pragmatic ways while not accepting state withdrawal, especially in times of austerity, without a fight. We should not be complicit in the cuts, in neoliberalisation!
In this context, Brazilian experiences of public policies for the development of the Solidarity Economy consist of both massive popular pressure toward the public sector to win social benefits through a fairer economy for all, with concrete projects to make this happen. Ever since 2002 there has been a National Secretariat of the Solidarity Economy which supports solidarity economy initiatives nationally and locally. They focus on empowering people and communities with both technical and managerial support, and through supporting what we call self-management and direct democracy. They work to strengthen community cohesion and use educational methodologies developed by Friere which are part of a long-term process toward achieving a more representative and inclusive society. I suppose what I could not help thinking was that the British Social Economy movement could be more obviously part of a fight for a better world, not a way of making the cuts less ‘painful’.
Something else I could notice in the UK (more specifically in Liverpool) was the low involvement of the young student generation in political movements and social economy itself, and how little is made of the potential for running things in co-operative and solidaristic ways by student unions and even student guilds. They do not seem to do as much as I expected to organise political actions, even though the region has had a strong militant past by the 80s. This is a definitely different aspect from Brazil, where students still have a strong culture of political involvement, which is directly connected to the need for change and the fight for social equality, and, in this way, to solidarity economy principles. It all also shows how positive things could be could be if social enterprises got more support from universities, especially through student guilds and unions.
At this point, about to return to my home country, I am feeling fulfilled and thankful for taking back a huge bag full of learning and knowledge for life with me. Even though it has not been easy to live in a different place, noticing differences definitely has the potential to bring understanding between different societies and, consequently, to understand how both can make the world a better place in their own way.
Carol Santos, Science without Borders student, School for Environmental Sciences