Transport Geography Research Group’s Dissertation Prize

Posted by Katy Crossan, Senior Commissioning Editor, Geography

Ashgate are pleased to sponsor the prize awarded by the Royal Geographical Society’s Transport Geography Research Group for the best undergraduate dissertation that focuses on any aspect of the geography of mobility and transport, undertaken at a UK university, and which demonstrates conceptual and/or methodological sophistication.

The prizewinning student in 2014 was Joshua Holmes for his dissertation Flying in the Face of Convention: Exploring the Spatial Politics of Affect and Biopower within Dublin Airport. The judges praised the original approach taken to understanding the human response to travelling through an airport and in particular the  innovative methodologies deployed which took advantage of new technologies. The analysis of the data provided a thorough understanding of the space of an airport terminal with strong reference made back to the literature. Details of the 2015 winner will be announced shortly.

Ashgate’s Transport and Mobility book series is run in conjunction with the Transport Geography Research Group.

Building the Modern Church

“… a powerful contribution to the field of architectural history and religious studies”

Robert Proctor’s book on Roman Catholic Church architecture spanning a critical twenty year period from the mid-1950’s, has been enthusiastically received by architectural historians since its publication in April 2014. Proctor has been praised for the depth and thoroughness of his archival research…

“The book is clearly written, avoiding professional jargon (whether ecclesiastical or architectural), and is well illustrated with black and white and (fewer) colour plates. There is also a useful series of plans. This is an indispensable guide for all those interested in a hitherto little-regarded but extraordinarily rich subject”.

To celebrate the book’s publication, the author took part in a tour organized by the Twentieth Century Society, which visited post-war Roman Catholic churches in West and North West London, all of which featured in the book. A copy of the tour notes is available to Click Here to download

Another important accolade for this book is news that it has been shortlisted for the prestigious Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion, more information about this award and the other shortlisted books can be found on the SAHGB website

Read all the excellent reviews and information on this book, including sample pages by visiting: Building the Modern Church: Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain, 1955 to 1975

Robert Proctor is Senior Lecturer on Architectural History & Theory at the University of Bath, UK.

British Generals in Blair’s Wars – a guest post from Hew Strachan

This is a guest post from Hew Strachan, editor (with Jonathan Bailey and Richard Iron) of British Generals in Blair’s Wars


In 2003–4 I was one of a group of five Oxford academics who set up the Changing Character of War Programme, thanks to a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. We were determined that this would be an opportunity not just to conduct academic study but also to engage with practitioners, and to that end we were extremely fortunate to engage Major General Jonathan Bailey. He had not only been the British Army’s last Director General of Development and Doctrine but also—very unusually for a British general—possessed a Ph. D. The book would not have come into being without the Programme, the Trust and the General.

British Generals in Blairs WarsNobody then could foresee how the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan would dominate the next decade. Jonathan’s original focus lay on the Army’s most recent conflicts, those of the 1990s in the Gulf, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. They form the opening chapters of the book and for somebody like me—who had been brought up in the Cold War—they carried a great deal of intrinsic interest precisely because they dealt with real wars and not with conflict understood simply as theory. But the real excitement was to follow. Soon we were in a fortnightly cycle of seminars during the Oxford terms, at which officers who had recently returned from operations gave us their thoughts and reflections.

Following the campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan vicariously, albeit in the comfort of All Souls College, Oxford, gave me an insight into the conduct of war which I had never imagined that I—as an academic—would ever be privileged to acquire. Of course, I was not experiencing the intensity of fighting or even of service in a theatre of war. I was safe, warm and well fed. But I gained a perspective different from those who were in the field, precisely because my involvement was not broken by the rotations into and out of theatre but continued week by week. I developed a real sense of development over time—of the ways in which the character of war does indeed change as one side adapts to the enemy, to its political masters and its allies, and to the terrain and the seasons. I learnt that ‘the changing character of war’ was not just a convenient phrase, but a reflection of a core truth.

For a historian, there was a further privilege. This was the first cut at a narrative, revealing details and depths untouched by the press. Much is now in the public domain, not least as a result of the evidence taken by the Chilcot enquiry. But the discussions by Tim Cross of the arrangements (or lack of them) for the post-war occupation of Iraq or by Andrew Stewart of coalition politics in MND South East were then both new and jaw-dropping.

Jonathan Bailey had intended that he would edit the results into a book, but his other commitments precluded that. We were lucky that Richard Iron, himself a key figure in the British Army in Iraq as well as another very thoughtful and reflective soldier, came to Oxford on a Defence Fellowship and could begin to collate and coordinate what Jonathan had accumulated. Richard rendered what had been intended for oral delivery into prose for the page, without losing immediacy or suppressing difference. I had never imagined that, for all my role as the host at the original seminars, I would find myself figuring so prominently, both as contributor and as co-editor. It has been a privilege. It is also one which I hope will benefit the British Army as it digests the lessons of its recent conflicts, waged by an unusually intelligent and articulate group of officers.


About the author: Sir Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and was Director of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War from its inception in 2004 until 2012. He is the author of several highly acclaimed books on military history, including European Armies and the Conduct of War (1983), The Politics of the British Army (1997), and The First World War: Volume 1: To Arms (2001). He is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the World War I Centenary Advisory Board. He has also written extensively on strategy, and is a member of the Chief of Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel.

Guest Blog from Barbara Larson, editor of our new Series: Science and the Arts since 1750

It could be argued (and has been) that in the modern period science and “art,” whether this be dance, painting, or theater, have been culturally understood within the context of the many binaries that form a western perspective (as in active/passive, objective/subjective, etc.). In recent decades, whether we refer to C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” (science and the humanities) or The Science Wars of the 1990s (scientists and the value of objectivity versus science as a social construction, with its reach into the arts) or the validity of the support of STEM versus STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ART, and math) in academe today we are engaging in a discussion regarding separation and difference.

Have science and the arts always been considered as opposing realms? Historians of science and art have pointed out that in the west well into the Victorian period science and art were, more or less, one intellectual culture and not until the natural sciences became specialized into specific fields at the end of the nineteenth century was there a division into two spheres. It has also been argued that in the early modern period art, then categorized as craft (whose practitioners were thought of as artisans), was itself responsible for the shift in bringing science into focus as practical, empirical observation by the seventeenth century. Recent publications have raised the possibility of some sort of resolution between “the two cultures” (E. O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge; Jay Labinger and Harry Collins, eds., The One Culture? A Conversation about Science, and Gillian Beer, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter). And knowledge production from varying geographical areas beyond the west promises to add further complexity to the relationship between science and the arts.

Just what science has been understood to be has shifted the discussion of how we talk about science and the arts. For example, historians of art in past decades tended to think of science as it related to art in terms of perspective, color, and mathematics. But invaluable early work such as that of literary historian Sander Gilman on medicine and representation in the arts, both grounded in cultural and political history, has done much to transform what we need to be aware of in terms of science and visual culture. What one finds in greater number today are historians of the arts and science pursuing questions of meaning and representation specific to place, politics, and moments in time or transformations in knowledge that feed directions in the arts (as in wave theories of energy and early abstraction).

Occasional collaborative projects between science and humanities historians, such as Caroline Jones and Peter Galison’s Picturing Science and Producing Art (on broad systems of representation linking science and art) have borne fruit, and even the hard science of neurology suggests promising directions either through brain imaging (as in musical performance) or the historical perspective on the mind in light of brain work today (neurologist Eric Kandel’s The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present). There have also been periods in which the connections between technology, science, and the arts are less oblique as in the contemporary period in which many artists are pursuing work that clearly integrates technology and science such as in the digital arts. More speculative yet compelling, are discussions regarding the proposed epoch of the Anthropocene (by definition an interaction between humans and global natural systems) and ecoart.

The series Science and the Arts since 1750 wades into the many intersections between science and the arts. These include the cultural conditioning of visual perception and aesthetics where artists and scientists are concerned, sites of representation that effect visual culture as in images of the body, how objects may function in society as art or science, changing scientific perspectives that inform the arts, among others. Camilla Skovbjerg Paldam and Jacob Wamberg’s recently published edited volume Art, Technology, and Nature: Renaissance to Postmodernity initiates the series and argues that science, technology, and art are drawing more closely together in the post-modern period and the relationship of observer and object is disintegrating. This they contend is akin to ancient and medieval periods in which art and technology both produced cultural products dependent on the triad of their title; and makers of these objects were often engaged in imitating nature’s creative forces. The editors discuss the history of the project as follows:

9781472411723Art, Technology and Nature arose out of activities in the research group “Art, Nature and Technology”, which was established at Aarhus University in 2005 with Jacob Wamberg as coordinator. The group, gathering historians of literature, art and medicine, was triggered by a frustration that C.P. Snow’s “two cultures”, although diagnosed half a century ago, still govern most academic practice: the humanistic and techno-scientific domains thrive in their segregated worlds.

Our observation, however, was that in our postmodern age barriers between natural and cultural agencies have long been porous. Where should we insert the boundary between natural and technological agency in a ‘cultural’ domain like biotechnology? Or in a ‘natural’ one like climate change? Likewise, art has long broken with the distant contemplation of nature in picturesque form, founded on a simultaneous displacement of technology to the fringes of artworks. In avant-garde art practices nature and technology alike are activated and integrated to the point where they lose their status as foreign and segregate domains. If art and technology are still a long way from the fusion into the re-actualized neo-ancient techné that Heidegger hoped for, at least their boundaries have become much more negotiable.

In order to illuminate these and other related themes in the triad art/technology/nature, the research group arranged two public events, from which much, although not all, of the book’s material derives: a session at the Association of Art Historians’ annual meeting in Manchester in 2009, and, especially, an international conference at the National Gallery in Copenhagen in 2010 (The Artwork between Technology and Nature).

Isabelle Wünsche, whose volume The Organic School of the Russian Avant-Garde: Nature’s Creative Principles is the second book in the series, examines ways in which certain Russian modernists on the eve of the Russian Revolution modeled their approach on the creative forces of nature in order to produce biocentric work. Below she details how she came to write her book:

9781472432698It was a spring day in Berlin in 1989 – the momentous opening of the border was still six months in the future – I was browsing the stacks of the State Art Collections library on Museum Island and came across a small, but dense exhibition catalog from the West Berlin Academy of Fine Arts: Sieg über die Sonne. Victory over the Sun was a Cubo-futurist opera written by Aleksei Kruchenykh with music by Mikhail Matiushin and stage designs by Kazimir Malevich. The last name meant something to me, but I was unfamiliar with Matiushin. The catalog included his reminiscences on Cubo-futurist events in St. Petersburg, an essay on sound and color, and another one on quartertone music. My curiosity about Matiushin’s work led to a thesis, and then a dissertation, and finally, The Organic School.

The book is important to me because for too long the avant-garde in St. Petersburg has been overshadowed by the better-known Moscow avant-garde. Moscow always somehow seemed more Russian, more exotic, and then after the Revolution, of course, it became the capital and the center of Constructivism. The “Organic School” refers to a group of artists within the Russian avant-garde, largely based in St. Petersburg, whose approaches to artistic creation were more nature-centric and less technologically driven. Artists such as Nikolai Kulbin, Elena Guro, and Matiushin found inspiration as well as a model for artistic growth in the creative principles of nature. In the book, I focus on the artists’ holistic worldviews and organic approaches to art and analyze the artistic influences, intellectual foundations, and scientific publications that shaped the formation of their art works. (Isabelle Wünsche)

The series Science and the Arts since 1750 will include both edited volumes and monographs that explore the arts—painting and sculpture, drama, dance, architecture, design, photography, and popular culture materials–as they intersect with emergent scientific theories, agendas, and technologies, from any geographical area after 1750.

Barbara Larson Professor on Modern Art History, University of West Florida


“We are all migrants” – the psychological wellbeing of migrants

9781472450326Brendan Kelly, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at UCD and author of Dignity, Mental Health and Human Rights: Coercion and the Law wrote an impassioned piece for the Irish Times earlier this week – where he discusses some of the results of his research with UCD into the mental health needs of migrants seeking mental health services in Dublin.

The full text of his article can be found here.

Hilary Burrage on ‘Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation’ – a book which should never have been written

This is a guest post from Hilary Burrage, author of Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective


Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation: a UK perspective is a book which, ideally, should never have been written.

Eradicating_Burrage PBK_TemplateLike almost everyone else– but certainly, I now know, not absolutely everyone – I entered the Millennium in the belief that FGM in Britain was a thing of the past, a footnote to a truly awful ‘practice’ which sadly had occurred occasionally in London until it was outlawed in the UK by the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. Yes, I had written a letter or two to my MP back in the 1980s, and had asked questions where I could; the legislation, I had been assured, meant however that I need concern myself no further.

But with the Millennium came the internet; and with that came the brave decision in 2003 by members of the Inter-African Committee (IAC) – on 6 February, now the annual International Day for Zero Tolerance of FGM – to alert the world to a hard truth: the grim reality that FGM had not been stopped forever in Africa or anywhere else. Rather, the incidence of this harmful traditional practice was probably increasing, with some 130-140 million girls and women world-wide affected.

And slowly, evidential shred by evidential shred, it became apparent that, as diasporas from various parts of the world made their homes in Britain, so was FGM being practised more in the UK.

Even that however was not all. I learnt via the world-wide web too that so-called ‘female circumcision’ is not as it seems. I believe no unnecessary hurt to children should ever be inflicted, but FGM can be an act well beyond what is normally understood as ‘circumcision’. I discovered it can comprise the fully intentional removal of almost every part of the external female genitalia, usually without anaesthetic or asepsis, and often on small children.

By 2006 my mind was made up. I am a (grand)parent and a human being. I decided that my training as a Sociologist and my professional experience in areas like social care and health policy would henceforth be focussed on support for long-time lone voices opposing FGM, the then-few self-identified survivors, and people such as (the late) campaigner Efua Dorkenoo, the Paris attorney Linda Weil-Curiel, the American literary academic Tobe Levin and other stalwarts who have been resolute against FGM for many years.

The invitation to write for Ashgate which arrived a few years later from Jonathan Norman was therefore an opportunity which, after many months of research and reflection, I knew I should not pass by.

Nowhere could I find comprehensive, cohesive, up to date and easily available reportage and commentary all together on aspects of FGM in the UK and the wider Western world. Certainly there were admirable books, documents and, later on, websites concerning specific aspects of this harmful traditional practice, but little in the way of published sources for everything in one place about FGM in general, and / or specifically about FGM in Britain and first world nations. I would have to try to write a textbook, handbook, primer or whatever myself.

Eradicating Female Genital Mutilation is that book – a project which has taken more than four years to complete.

I am under no illusion that my efforts comprise more than one small start, but I hope such an approach, alongside other on-going work, will help to build a conjoined, inclusive inter-disciplinary field – not just a disparately funded multi-agency approach (essential though agencies are) – from which an articulated, shared paradigm for the eradication of FGM and other child abuse in the developed world will more clearly emerge.

I want to know that survivors will be enabled to play a part in eradicating FGM without also have so much of the burden placed on their shoulders: the safety of children is a responsibility of us all, not only of those whose trust has been breached. I want to see an approach where professions do not engage in turf wars arising from a failure at the highest level to ensure policy co-ordination and substantive support.

And most of all I want to see a world in which my book can be dispatched to the archives, a world in which children are safe and FGM no longer occurs.

The nations of Europe, North America and Australia have capacity and capability if they so choose to consign FGM to history without delay; and it must be done. If the prime role of the leaders of democratic states is not to protect the most vulnerable, those states have surely lost their way.

Eradication of FGM in the Western world would make a massive impact across the globe and, most importantly of all, it would mean that many thousands of little girls now at risk would be spared unspeakable pain, reaching adulthood instead as healthy, autonomous women.

I have no easy answers; I aim only to spark serious, open debate about how the academy can join forces in a fitting way with those on the frontline of positive, value-oriented action. To that end I’ve devised a website for the topics in my book, where readers can elaborate (and doubtless correct) information, and discuss the issues further.

The point of my book is not the rigorous, even vigorous, exchange of views, essential of course though rigour remains. The point is whatever contribution to a fundamental common good may flow from these and other’s exchanges.

Female genital mutilation is an egregious human rights abuse visiting shame on us all. It is patriarchy incarnate, a brutal abomination. It must stop.


About the Author: Hilary Burrage is a freelance sociologist and community activist. She has been a senior lecturer in health and social care and a university research associate in community health as well as a non-executive director of Merseyside NHS ambulance trust and a trustee of the Liverpool school of tropical medicine.

‘Not since Efua Dorkenoo’s Cutting the Rose (1994) has a monograph on female genital mutilation outshone Hilary Burrage’s. Outraged at ineffective child protection, Burrage provides a comprehensive, scholarly yet accessible guide – among the best ever to deal with FGM – to professionals and all people of conscience.’
Tobe Levin von Gleichen, Harvard University, USA and University of Oxford, UK



Alastair Williams reflects on writing Constructing Musicology…

9780754601340I am delighted to have been offered the opportunity to reflect on how Constructing Musicology has fared during the years. The idea for the volume came from my first book New Music and the Claims of Modernity (Ashgate 1997), in which I build on Adorno’s view of modernism in music. During the 1990s, there was a surge of interest from English-language musicology in Adorno’s writings on music, since they focus squarely on meaning and subjectivity – areas that had been neglected by the positivist musicology of previous decades. So I was able to develop this tendency and to link it to a growing awareness of the resources that a broader range of literary and critical theory could bring to musicology. My intention in writing the book was to provide a guide to how musicology was absorbing critical theory, while demonstrating the wider importance of the theories being used.

In particular, I was keen to demonstrate that these theories have significance beyond the confines of postmodernism. And this aspect of the book has certainly proved to be prescient, because the once ubiquitous postmodernism is now an historical phenomenon. This is partly because terms such as ‘intertextuality’ and ‘deconstruction’ have become so commonplace that they do not require a larger framework, and partly because postmodernism turned out to be more an expansion of previous views than their antithesis. Beyond the postmodernism debate, critical theory has remained an important resource for musicology, but with growing familiarity (which the book has facilitated) it no longer seems so different. What, however, has remained is my argument that critical theory is democratic, because it facilitates the understanding of music from more than one perspective.

Another topic that the book addresses, from a theoretical perspective, is the widening repertoire that is increasingly being considered by musicology. Notably, the volume looks at the field of popular music, showing how identity is constructed by a struggle between authenticity and mobility, and between production and reception. On the flip side of the coin, the reduced cultural prestige of classical music has taken place at a time when there are increasingly diverse ways of encountering it, through a variety of media such as film, TV, radio and internet. Debates about identity in popular music have expanded since my book was published, just as there is now increasing significance attached to the ways in which classical music can connect with modern life.

There has been consistent interest in Constructing Musicology ever since it was published, from students and professionals alike, and readers have generally fallen into two camps. The first of these is readers who are seeking some assistance with what can be the bewildering terminology of critical theory, and are grateful to receive some help. The second group of readers is one that values my argument for its willingness to use critical theory to push beyond the postmodern consensus and for its insistence on understanding music in terms of subjectivity. In addition, there are readers from both camps who use the volume as what Professor Nicholas Cook has called a ‘Rough Guide to a changing discipline’. Published in 2001 Constructing Musicology has managed both to reflect on the achievements of the 1990s and to set the tone for the following decades.



williams_alastairAlastair Williams is Reader in Music at Keele University, UK. He has research interests in modernism and modernity, Austro-German music, critical theory, and subjectivity in music. He is the author of New Music and the Claims of Modernity (Ashgate, 1997), Constructing Musicology (Ashgate, 2001), and Music in Germany since 1968 (Cambridge, 2013), and a contributor to The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music (2004). He has also published articles in a wide range of music journals. He has received funding from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.