Heterotopias of Compensation: Travis Elborough’s A Walk in the Park

In this short essay Inspired by Travis Elborough’s A Walk in the Park: The Life and Times of a People’s Institution (Jonathan Cape 2016), Tina Richardson explores the phenomenon of the public park as an example of Michael Foucault’s concept of heterotopia.

Travis Elborough’s new book A Walk in the Park is an informative, entertaining and elegant ambulation through the history of the public park covering a period of four millennia. While drawing on a breadth of research on the park and providing much useful information, Elborough still manages to keep the book lively and engaging when situating this phenomenon in its cultural lineage.

Rather than provide a book review (you can read some of the more ‘regular’ reviews here: one by Rachel Cooke in The Guardian and one by Daisy Dunn in The Times), I am offering a short essay. Inspired by the book my article draws on Michel Foucault’s theory of the heterotopia.

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DIY Academic Publishing

As universities become dominated by a narrow understanding of intellectual activity, designed to fulfil the obligations of the REF and other national research assessment systems, the search is on for a new way of doing intellectual production…and making it sustainable. Here Simon Cook and Drew Holgate explore one model of independent scholarship.

In the old days any self-respecting group of radical intellectuals or activists worth their salt set up a printing press. Control of the means of production generated heady times, and usually also growing debt and often bankruptcy. Today, new technologies make it ridiculously easy to set up a digital press with minimal costs.

Rounded Globe is a scholarly e-publishing operation founded in 2014. In this post, we outline our operation and vision.

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On the problem of ideology

In this article, republished and edited in the light of our post-Brexit world, Deborah Talbot puts forward the idea that a progressive politics needs to put aside ‘head in the sand’ ideological posturing. Instead, she argues, political movements should instead adopt a new sensibility that is empathetic and accommodating of difference, has a morality that forefronts the social good, responds to fact and evidence, and is flexibly minded. She does this by looking at what three female authors have to say about the practices of ideological cults.

With the rise of the cross-European anti-austerity movement, in the UK with the election of the Tory party in 2015 after nearly 20 years in a political wilderness (and I’m counting the 2010-15 Coalition here), and as a consequence of our post-Brexit turmoil, the question of the need for an opposition movement has again surfaced. The left in the UK is getting pretty excited again, because of Greece, the SNP, and the possibilities of the horrible chaos of Brexit laying the groundwork for a ‘socialist revolution’. I say again because there have been points even in my lifetime where left opposition movements have acquired an ideological (if not numerical) significance, such as the 1970s and 1980s.

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Fear and loathing on the Brexit trail – retrospective musings

As the Brexit Leave campaign won by a whisper, in a bitter and divisive campaign, Deborah Talbot reflects on the campaign. She realises that the comments might upset some people, but hopes you can put it down to her rather large vodka hangover, consumed with a pint of despair.

So the EU referendum is over, Leave has won, and somehow life must go on. As I write, I’m trying to figure out what I’ve learned from the campaign. On a more general level, I’ve understood that the campaign was full of nonsense and have a strong desire to run off to the nearest deserted island to regain my senses.

I’ve also gleaned finally and irrevocably that politics makes me feel really bad – stressed, depressed, pained, hyperactive. I’m not sure it makes everyone feel that way, but if it does that might be something worth thinking about.

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The lost art of interdisciplinarity and the neoliberal university

Continuing on work exploring the meaning of intellectual endeavour inside and outside the university, Simon Cook explores the lost art of interdisciplinarity and how the modern university was shaped by a neoliberal agenda.

I’ve been studying English intellectual history for nearly three decades, focusing on the years between 1865 and 1925. At the beginning of this period intellectual life in England took place largely outside the universities; by the end of it, the modern university had emerged, replete with its professional journals and division of faculties, and has claimed a monopoly over serious scholarship ever since.

And yet a decade ago I resolved to pursue my own research as an independent scholar, without any university affiliation. In this post, I offer some reflections on how my work has shaped my attitude toward the modern university.

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An open letter to the Brexit left

Fernando Sdrigotti writes an impassioned plea to members of the left (#Lexit) who are voting to leave the EU on the 23rd June, to have a rethink. A vote for Brexit is not an anti-capitalist vote, he argues, but a vote for a new right-wing agenda of neoliberalism and xenophobia.

I write to you as a comrade. But I also write to you as an EU immigrant in the UK, one that had the foresight to become a British citizen and therefore is able to vote in the EU referendum. This referendum is the most important election in my life. And so is the case with many of us, many of who don’t have the chance to have a say.

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Brexit…a very British coup

With some hesitation, doubt, and downright reluctance (and a strong sense of leaping into pointless media chattering), Deborah Talbot explores the issues around the EU referendum. Repressing a desire for it to be over, she argues why she’s voting remain. It’s all about culture, she says…

I suppose it’s difficult to watch what is going on with the EU in or out campaign without commenting, though I have studiously avoided doing so thus far, like most people who are caught up in ambiguous claims for either case. Hitherto, I’ve not been sure Brexit had any meaning at all, given that, even if people did vote to leave the EU, the record of member states so far have not suggested that they will necessarily respect the democratic vote (quite apart from vote rigging). Plus, I was never sure whether it mattered, given that national policy is formed from a complicated mix of international treaties and realpolitik. The UK has always been more American than European, and the UK’s elite will always prefer to slavishly follow its diktats rather than Europe’s. The whole thing seemed more to do with Tory internal politics, and as such, sit on a continuum between the unreal and the downright weird.

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Setting Up a World: Phenomenology and Cultural Amnesia in General Orders No. 9

In this article, Tina Richardson reviews General Orders No.9, written and directed by Robert Persons and released in 2009, and reflects on the geography of loss and forgetting.

On its website, General Orders No. 9 describes itself thus:

An experimental documentary that contemplates the signs of loss and change in the American South as potent metaphors of personal and collective destiny.

As a psychogeographer, the word ‘loss’ is not lost on me, since a wealth of psychogeographical accounts and related literary texts exist on this very subject. Written and directed by Robert Persons, the award-winning General Orders No. 9 would make for a very neat analysis along the lines of nostalgia, haunting and memory – quite possibly one of a deconstruction.

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