Category Archives: Geography

Ireland’s 1916 Rising shortlisted for the Geographical Society of Ireland’s Book of the Year award 2014

Posted by Fiona Dunford, Marketing Executive

Irelands 1916 RisingCongratulations to Mark McCarthy, whose book Ireland’s 1916 Rising, was short-listed for the 2014 book of the year award from the Geographical Society of Ireland.

The Judges’ comments:

‘immaculately researched and a lively engagement with the key critical debates surrounding issues of memory, commemoration and historical legacies surrounding the revolutionary period in modern Irish history ‘  Nessa Cronin, Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway

‘In this definitive work on the topic, Mark McCarthy traces the political, ideational, identity and iconographic impacts of the Easter 1916 Rising in Ireland… This is required reading for scholars in the field and beyond’   Pádraig Carmody, Dept of Geography, Trinity College Dublin

Mark McCarthy’s book explores why, how and in what ways the memory of Ireland’s 1916 Rising has persisted over the decades? It breaks new ground by offering a wide-ranging exploration of the making and remembrance of the story of 1916 in modern times, which is not only of historical concern, but of contemporary political and cultural importance.

More about Ireland’s 1916 Rising

SOAS Food Studies Centre books launch

The SOAS Food Studies Centre is hosting a launch event today to mark the publication of eight books authored or edited by centre members including Why We Eat, How We Eat edited by Emma-Jayne Abbots and Anna Lavis published by Ashgate. The event, which is open to the public, is being held in the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London from 5.30pm-8.00pm on Monday 19th May. Commentary is being provided by Peter Jackson, Professor of Geography at The University of Sheffield and Francesca Bray, Professor of Social Anthropology at The University of Edinburgh. Commissioning Editor Katy Crossan is attending the event.

Why we eat How we eatPraise for Why We Eat, How We Eat:

‘This book is a masterful examination of the multidimensional nature of eating in symbolic, economic, political, material and nutritional terms, and it is a must-read for anyone interested in food and eating.’   Stanley Ulijaszek, University of Oxford, UK

‘This work will undoubtedly shift theoretical and applied debates about food and eating to a new level, and will have significance to those many disciplines that have a vested interest in why we eat, and how we eat.’   Megan Warin, University of Adelaide, Australia

‘This fascinating book would be of interest not only to scholars in the social sciences and humanities interested in critical food studies, but to any reader interested in the social, cultural and political dimensions of food and eating practices.’   LSE Review of Books

Why We Eat, How We Eat is part of the Ashgate Critical Food Studies series. We are actively looking for innovative and original new books which further critical food research and writing . If you have an idea or proposal for a book which might be suitable for the series please contact Commissioning Editor Katy Crossan or Series Editor Professor Michael K. Goodman.

Recent reviews by the LSE Review of Books

The LSE Review of Books regularly features Ashgate titles. It’s a fantastic site for book reviews in general, and covers a wide range of social science topics, including sociology, politics and IR, architecture, planning, gender studies, to name just a few.

Recent reviews of Ashgate books include:

Dynamics of Political Violence: A Process-Oriented Perspective on Radicalisation and the Escalation of Political Conflict, edited by Lorenzo Bosi, Chares Demetriou and Stefan Malthaner

Unconventional Warfare in South Asia: Shadow Warriors and Counterinsurgency by Scott Gates and Kaushik Roy

The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History and Survey of Contemporary Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design, by Phillip James Tabb and A. Senem Deviren

Media and the Rhetoric of Body Perfection: Cosmetic Surgery, Weight Loss and Beauty in Popular Culture by Deborah Harris-Moore

The Impact of Racism on African American Families: Literature as Social Science by Paul C. Rosenblatt

The Greening of ArchitectureUnconventional warfare in south asiaThe impact of racism on african american familiesDynamics of political violence

For more reviews visit the LSE Review of Books

Ayona Datta on The Intimate City: Violence, Gender, and the ‘Descent Into The Ordinary’ in Delhi

Posted by Katy Crossan, Commissioning Editor

Ayona Datta, author of The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement , will be giving the Urban Geography Plenary Lecture at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida next week (8-12 April 2014).

Her lecture, The Intimate City: Violence, Gender, and the ‘Descent Into The Ordinary’ in Delhi draws on the accounts of men and women facing the immanent violence of demolition of their homes in Delhi slums to ask what their stories of gendered and sexualized violence within the slums tell us about the ways that violence might be conceived in the city. Ayona will also discuss how the intimate and the urban are linked during the protests across Indian cities after the brutal gang rape of a student in Delhi in 2012  and how the intimate city can be made a part of a wider agenda of urban geography.

The Illegal City was honoured at the Geographical Perspectives on Women Speciality Group (GPOW) book event and nominated for the AAG Meridian Book Award in 2013. Discounted copies will be available for purchase from the Ashgate stand in the conference book exhibition.

The Illegal CityPraise for The Illegal City:

‘At its core, it is an immensely scholarly work that adds substantive and methodological value to urban development studies. It is rich with insights and observations that may lead to further work…’    Times Higher Education

‘This compelling analysis sheds new light on interstices of vulnerability that are often hidden from view or simply neglected and attributed to the “normality” of life among the poor. The Illegal City is immensely smart and will appeal to a wide readership.’    Cecilia Menjivar, Arizona State University, USA

‘The Illegal City is a thought provoking study of the double nature of law as both threat and hope in the lives of people in squatter settlements in a city. Paying close attention to the processes of governmentality through which space is categorized and acted upon, Datta produces an excellent ethnographic account of the fine workings of power and domination that are reproduced within the slum. Especially interesting is the way she tracks the manner in which gender folds into other differences and produces the uneven subjectivities through which law is encountered. This book is theoretically bold and ethnographically well anchored in the lived experiences of the poor.’    Veena Das, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Ayona Datta is Senior Lecturer in Citizenship and Belonging at the University of Leeds and currently co-chair of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association, UK. Read more about her work on gender, citizenship and urban life on her blog, The City Inside Out.

The Processes of Remembering the First World War

During the First World War centenary years, Ashgate’s blog will play host to a series of blog entries – contributed by Ashgate authors – that reflect upon the Great War’s impact upon history and culture over the last one hundred years, and explore issues raised by the latest research in war studies.

ross j wilsonThis first entry is contributed by Ross J. Wilson, author of Cultural Heritage of the Great War in Britain (2013).

With the advent of the hundredth anniversaries of the First World War, questions have been raised as to the ways in which the conflict is remembered in Britain. Over the last few decades, concerns have been expressed that media representations of the ‘mud and blood’ of the Western Front have dominated popular understandings of the war.

However, rather than assume the public passively consume film and television, perhaps it would be better to ask why particular ideas of the conflict persist? What do these visions of the past do for those who honour them today?

To answer this issue, the ‘meanings’ of the war of 1914-1918 within contemporary society across Britain can be examined. These meanings can be identified through the manner in which the conflict is still used as a mode of conveying ideas and values.

For example, expressions associated with the war, such as ‘over the top’, ‘in the trenches’ or ‘no man’s land’, punctuate everyday language, not just as a means of vivid illustration, but to communicate ideas about responsibility, blame and collective identity.

For example, dissenting groups might describe themselves as ‘in the trenches’ over government reforms or ‘in no man’s land’ after the withdrawal of funding. These concepts are employed purposefully to highlight neglect or to assign blame.

These terms are used in a wide variety of contexts in political, media and public discourse, to describe a range of issues, as the First World War is employed as a means of understanding contemporary society.

Similarly, the suffering of the troops on the battlefields has become a feature of modern British identity politics, as communities associate themselves with the trauma of the war. To state a connection to this sense of victimhood provides a point of identification.

In this sense, to bear witness to the victims of the past provides contemporary individuals with a means to highlight current fears and anxieties. Whilst most frequently associated with the memorialisation of the Ulster Volunteers in Northern Ireland, this is not a unique phenomenon.

Distinctive narratives of suffering and victimhood in the war have been utilised by Scottish, Welsh and northern English communities in recent years, as well as political groups of all persuasions, to assert their rights and interests.

The critique of the ‘popular memory’ of the First World War in Britain is an act which obscures the complex processes of remembering that occurs within groups, communities and individuals.

The First World War is a symbolic resource enabling current generations across Britain to ‘return to the trenches’, not as the result of a vapid viewing of Blackadder Goes Forth, but as a means to shape contemporary ideas, debates and identities.

Cultural Heritage of the Great War in BritainCultural Heritage of the Great War in Britain, published in the series Heritage, Culture and Identity, addresses how the war maintains a place and value within British society through the usage of phrases, references, metaphors and imagery within popular media, heritage and political discourse. Wilson explores why wider popular debate within historiography, literature, art, television and film draws upon a war fought nearly a century ago to express ideas about identity, place and politics.

Ross J. Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Modern History and Public Heritage at the University of Chichester.

Simon Sleight on Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870–1914

Simon Sleight has spoken on ABC’s By Design Radio programme about how young people and a dynamic youth culture shaped the early development of Melbourne.

You can download the programme from the By Design web pages

Baby booms have a long history. In 1870, colonial Melbourne was ‘perspiring juvenile humanity’ with an astonishing 42 per cent of the city’s inhabitants aged 14 and under – a demographic anomaly resulting from the gold rushes of the 1850s.

Young People Public Space MelbourneSimon Sleight’s book Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870–1914 looks beyond those institutional sites so often assessed by historians of childhood, and ranges across the outdoor city to chart the relationship between a discourse about youth, youthful experience and the shaping of new urban spaces.

Play, street work, consumerism, courtship, gang-related activities and public parades are examined, and reveal a hitherto hidden layer of city life. Capturing the voices of young people as well as those of their parents, Sleight alerts us to the ways in which young people shaped the emergent metropolis by appropriating space and attempting to impress upon the city their own desires. Here in Melbourne a dynamic youth culture flourished well before the discovery of the ‘teenager’ in the mid-twentieth century; here young people and the city grew up together.

About the Author: Simon Sleight is Lecturer in Australian History at King’s College London. He is also Adjunct Research Associate with the School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies at Monash University in Melbourne.

Review: “Marvellous Melbourne”, a precocious new world city of the late nineteenth century, is the site for this rich and acute study of how young people carved out their own spaces in the urban outdoors. Simon Sleight draws on a remarkable range of sources to illuminate the subversive perspectives of Melbourne’s youth. The book contributes to the burgeoning international scholarship on young people’s historical experiences, and is recommended reading for historians, geographers and sociologists alike.   Stuart Macintyre, University of Melbourne, Australia

More about Young People and the Shaping of Public Space in Melbourne, 1870–1914

‘This exceptionally rich and informed book punctures much of the myth about China’s operations in Africa’

China’s engagement in Africa is generally portrayed simply as African countries being exploited for their mineral wealth by a wealthy political and economic superpower. Is this always the case?

Certain African countries have been able to use China’s involvement in the region to grow their economies and to bolster their political capital. Angola has been amongst the most successful of African nations in this role. Lucy Corkin’s book Uncovering African Agency; Angola’s Management of China’s Credit Lines casts a fascinating new light on China’s involvement with her largest African trading partner.


‘This is a superb work and punctures the myth of African countries in thrall to China. Lucy Corkin’s deep account of how the Angolan Government exercises its agency, and how it negotiates with China, is revelatory. The work is nuanced and balanced and important.’
Stephen Chan, School of Oriental & African Studies, UK

CORKIN PPC(240X156)path‘This exceptionally rich and informed book punctures much of the myth about China’s operations in Africa. Based on detailed primary fieldwork in Angola and China, Corkin shows the limits to the “China’s impact on Africa” lens. This is a relationship driven as much by Africans as by the Chinese. Read it, and be informed by evidence rather than prejudice!’
Raphael Kaplinsky, The Open University, UK

‘This book is an immense achievement. It provides a finely detailed look at a critical relationship, and an illuminating analysis that is both empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated. Highly recommended for scholars, policy makers and anyone seeking a better understanding of how China really works in Africa.’
Deborah Brautigam, Johns Hopkins University, USA, and author of ‘The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa’

About the Author: Lucy Corkin is a Research Associate of the Africa-Asia Centre at School of African and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London, from which institution she holds a PhD in Politics. She was previously Projects Director at Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) in South Africa. She was a visiting scholar at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro’s BRICS Policy Centre. Lucy has participated in ground-breaking research on China’s relations with African countries. She speaks English, Portuguese, French, Afrikaans, and Mandarin Chinese.

From the author’s introduction to Uncovering African Agency: Angola’s Management of China’s Credit Lines:

It is my hope that, despite the narrow focus of this book, it will have a wide appeal, as I believe the case study it examines sheds light on a number of themes that can be used in related research. It is at times a bit theoretical and at times a bit technical. I make no apologies for this as the literature on China-Africa relations has moved beyond the kind of broad-brush studies of 15 years ago and now merits proper empirical and theoretical inquiry.   

A Note on Research Challenges

This book draws on almost 200 in-depth interviews conducted in both China and Angola between July 2009 and February 2011 and is an attempt to bridge the gap between the often misleading musings of popular journalism and weighty academic inquiry into the nature of China’s relations with Angola, specifically through China Exim Bank’s financing to the Dos Santos government.

Undertaking research of this nature was not without its difficulties. One of the most important challenges lay in access to the relevant data, from both Chinese and Angolan sources. For Angola’s part, much of the difficulty lies in a lack of capacity (or political will) for official statistics to be generated by the Angolan government.

One Angolan academic referred to the search for data regarding China–Angola relations specifically as ‘a black hole’ in this regard. Messiant comments on the general reluctance of the Angolan government to publish official data, particularly where oil revenue is concerned. She further points to the active efforts on the part of the Angolan government to reduce transparency in this sector as reportedly

“The law regulating oil production stipulates that the parties concerned refrain from making public the terms of their involvement, which obviously makes transparency impossible.”

Shaxson also remarks on the secrecy that permeates Angola, suggesting that this is due to the dominance of the oil industry, which is governed by the control of access to information. The Angolan Ministry of Finance has since renovated its website and made public information on projects financed by oil-backed loans from Portugal and China. This is a decided improvement, but by no means sufficient.

One Angolan NGO activist was adamant that the figures published by the Angolan Ministry of Finance were fictitious. Indeed, Global Witness remarks that, despite an increase in the availability of official data from Angolan ministries, it is unclear whether these published figures are reliable.

Furthermore, the media are tightly controlled. One Angolan academic bemoaned the fact that Angola ‘has no newspapers that take public opinion into account’ and moreover that Angola’s academic community is severely lacking. In support of this claim, during the start of my fieldwork in Angola, three independent weeklies were bought by a hitherto-unknown media group, suspected to be owned by figures close to the President. There is an active rumour mill present in Angola due to a lack of media circulation outside of Luanda.

Comerford takes a more positive stance on the role of such informal communication channels, known locally as mujimbu, and argues for their importance as a means for a largely illiterate population, with a strong oral tradition, to gain access to information on current events, in an environment of heavy censorship. In this context, my choice of semi-structured interviews to generate data is particularly appropriate.

Data collection from Chinese sources is similarly challenging. Asche and Schüller express frustration at the discrepancies between statistics reported by yearbooks of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and IMF reports. This is explained in part by the current failure of (or lack of interest in) Chinese reporting methods to conform to international standards.

Brautigam, in her study of Chinese aid to Africa, found that Chinese academics cited reasons for a paucity of published statistics specifically on aid to Africa as cultural tendencies, as well as the fear of reprisal from the Chinese public that such large amounts of funds were being sent overseas despite the fact that areas of China are still very poor.

Hubbard, in contrast, has pointed out that there are data available, albeit in the Chinese language. Consequently, it is not necessarily opacity on the part of the Chinese government, but the inability of foreign researchers to read Chinese: ‘a “veil of ignorance” rather than “lack of transparency”’.

Large emphasises that Chinese language sources are often neglected by Western scholars. Large also recognises the pronounced need to generate research that takes account of Chinese perspectives on the matter, instead of those merely of the Western observer. He warns specifically against the potential of ‘self-referential logic’ in using exclusively English sources. Indeed, the same imperative exists to include African, in this case, Angolan, voices.

Two challenges on this front concern the fact that Chinese Africa studies are an underdeveloped research genre, as are Angolan China studies, although this is currently rapidly changing. Nevertheless, Chinese-language material related specifically to China-Angola relations is sparse, with most articles focusing more on business or trade. This reveals the lack of strategic significance of Angola as a separate country as viewed by Chinese researchers.

Indeed, one Shanghai academic commented that, despite all the fuss about China-Africa relations, South Africa was a much more strategic African partner. Furthermore, until recently, there existed few studies on China-Africa relations with genuine African ownership; still rarer are those studies emanating from the African country whose relations with China are under study. Nevertheless I have made a pointed effort to use Angolan (Portuguese) and Chinese-language-based texts where they are available in order to reintroduce their voice to the discourse.

Read the full introduction, and find further details about Uncovering African Agency on our website

Two Ashgate books nominated to be honored at this year’s Geographical Perspectives on Women (GPOW) Book Event at the AAG

We are delighted to learn that two Ashgate books have been nominated to be honored at this year’s Geographical Perspectives on Women (GPOW) Book Event at the 2013 AAG Meeting in Los Angeles:

Feminist ImmobilitiesFeminist (Im)Mobilities in Fortress(ing) North America: Rights, Citizenships, and Identities in Transnational Perspective (Edited by Anne Sisson Runyan, and Amy Lind, both of University of Cincinnati, USA, Patricia McDermott, York University, Canada and Marianne H. Marchand, Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Mexico)

The Illegal CityThe Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement (Ayona Datta, University of Leeds, UK)

The book reception will be held on Wednesday, April 10, 7-9:30pm at The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring Street, a new and used bookstore located within walking distance of the Conference hotel in Downtown LA.

The Association of American Geographers meeting runs from 9-13 April 2013, in Los Angeles. Katy Crossan, Commissioning Editor for Geography, will be there with a book display, where you can see these books and many others from Ashgate’s list. Katy is actively seeking new book proposals and would be delighted to discuss any book ideas you may have.

THE review of Ayona Datta’s ‘The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement’

Ayona Datta’s book The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement has been reviewed by Urmi Sengupta in the Times Higher Education supplement.

From the review:

The Illegal CitySquatters’ communities are highly heterogeneous and residents experience constant change via their ever-shifting relationship to the distinctions of “legal/legitimate” and “illegal/illegitimate”. Inevitably, therefore, The Illegal City’s central message is a snapshot bounded by time and geography. However, this does not negate the work’s importance. At its core, it is an immensely scholarly work that adds substantive and methodological value to urban development studies.

Read the full review…

The Illegal City is the first book to be published in Ashgate’s Gender, Space and Society series.

Ayona Datta is a Senior Lecturer in Citizenship and Belonging at the School of Geography, University of Leeds.

The Dracula Dilemma: Tourism, Identity and the State in Romania – reviewed by Jerome de Groot in the Times Higher

“How to establish a serious national tourist agenda when the most famous person associated with your country is not only someone you’d rather not be associated with but furthermore is fictional? Duncan Light’s entertaining but very serious book considers the ways in which tourism has been configured in Romania from the late 1950s to the present day…

…At present, we have few historically wide-ranging accounts of the effects of literary tourism, and this is a great example of what might be done with a case study in terms of conceptualising the complex interplay of national identity, tourism and culture.”

Read the full review in the Times Higher

For many in the West, Romania is synonymous with Count Dracula. Since the publication of Bram Stoker’s famous novel in 1897 Transylvania (and by extension, Romania) has become inseparable in the Western imagination with Dracula, vampires and the supernatural. Since the late 1960s Western tourists have travelled to Transylvania on their own searches for the literary and supernatural roots of the Dracula myth. Such ‘Dracula tourism’ presents Romania with a dilemma. On one hand, Dracula is Romania’s unique selling point and has considerable potential to be exploited for economic gain. On the other hand, the whole notion of vampires and the supernatural is starkly at odds with Romania’s self-image as a modern, developed, European state.

The Dracula Dilemma examines the way that Romania has negotiated Dracula tourism over the past four decades.

During the communist period (up to 1989) the Romanian state did almost nothing to encourage such tourism but reluctantly tolerated it. However, some discrete local initiatives were developed to cater for Dracula enthusiasts that operated at the margins of legality in a communist state. In the post-communist period (after 1989) any attempt to censor Dracula has disappeared and the private sector in Romania has been swift to exploit the commercial possibilities of the Count. However, the Romanian state remains ambivalent about Dracula and continues to be reluctant to encourage or promote Dracula tourism. Romania’s dilemma with Dracula remains unresolved.

About the Author: Duncan Light is an Associate Professor at the Liverpool Hope University, UK

Further information about The Dracula Dilemma