Report on urban identity, belonging and citizenship

This report for the Centre for Urban and Comminity Research at Goldsmiths has just come out.

It emerged from work undertaken for the Foresight Future of Cities programme, as a member of a team put together by COMPAS at the University of Oxford. The brief of that research project, to risk being reductive, was to examine the last fifty years of urban patterns of identity, belonging and citizenship, before trying to project those patterns forward across the next fifty years.

The Foresight Future of Cities programme focused on urban renewal, but specifically on the risk factors these processes may face, from flooding to riots.

However, after the project was completed, it struck the authors that their work on identity, belonging and citizenship – undertaken before the general election of 2015, before the referendum on UK European Union membership went to ‘leave’ and the whole subject became a white hot cipher in ‘Brexit’, and before the general election of June, 2017 – had a much wider use on a changing British landscape.

It strikes us that precisely because of what came after the Foresight Future of Cities programme, identity, belonging and citizenship is going to be one of the key intellectual sites for British researchers of all kinds in the next five to ten years. The work on Englishness now seems almost prophetic.

We have therefore taken steps to have this work updated and then to have it published in the hope that it might inaugurate necessary ongoing debates about identity, belonging and citizenship in Britain, as the island morphs into new subjective shapes.

There is no better place for this work to emerge at the start of 2018 than the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths. To connect this work to their roots, emerging somewhere between the Chicago and Frankfurt School, via crucial figures such as Paul Gilroy and Michael Keith, is to give the research a much needed politics.

Many thanks are due to Les Back, Director of the CUCR, for considering the report and providing a home for it.


Centre for Urban and Community Research

Here is a piece I have just submitted to the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) ahead of my talk at Goldsmiths, where I will work through the problems and pleasures of ethnography, via an overview of my Zero book, Small Towns, Austere Times (2014). I will explain the origins of that work in a private archive of visual material relating to one quite neatly bounded place. I will then open up these quite specific things into a much larger debate about the global and local, ethnography, ethics and the limits of seeing ‘in the local’, in the early 21st century. The poster for the event is here. This piece, for the CUCR blog, is a kind of effective Afterword to my Small Towns book:

Deracinated Localism

My explorations of Wales and its borderlands led me to re-apply what I had learned to my formative political landscape, the Calder Valley. Here is the first piece I put out on that place, again for Street Signs, The Dialectics of Deracinated Localism, Some Notes from the North. This then led to my PhD thesis, and the eventual passing of a Viva Voce, and then a book for Zero, Small Towns, Austere Times (2014):

Here is a sample chapter from that book, The Dialectics of Working and Not Working. Through this work I contacted a fellow Zero author, Greg Sharzer, who had No Local published in 2013. We are now working collaboratively on the global, viral rise of Localism as a ‘solution’. This is being articulated theoretically through examples such as Baron Glasman’s theological retrospectiveness, and Syriza’s use of Localism as an immediate response to the continuing crises in Greece. Greg effectively runs a branch of Historical Materialism in Korea.

My last single-author shout on this topic for the moment will be published in a chapter called ‘Is To Fix Always to Return?’ in a volume called Cultures of Repair, which will be published by Berghahn Books very soon. Catherine Malabou has written a philosophically generous introduction to the volume.