Weeks Centre's 'Critical Terrain' project explores the divide between North and SouthIn 2013 Professor Yvette Taylor, Head of the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research at London South Bank University (LSBU), was awarded a British Academy Fellowship for a project exploring the North – South divide in the UK.
Yvette was awarded the mid-career fellowship in 2013, having achieved distinction in social sciences, for a project titled 'Critical Terrain, Dividing Lines & Lives: Re-Placing North–South Regionalism'. This award has provided more than £150,000 to the Weeks Centre - representing a solid investment in the Centre's developing international profile.
Exploring the divide between North and South
Since September 2013, Yvette has been travelling the lines between Newcastle, York and London – using them as 'North-South' fieldwork sites for the project.
North-South UK terrain is represented and perceived as a critical dividing line, as policies ('Big Society') summon 'community' as cure, claim and contestation in everyday lives. The project explores processes that shape and (re)shape regional maps - asking how dividing lines and lives can be shared beyond a static North-versus-South economy of belonging.
Through working with different York groups, services and residential hostels, Yvette has been exploring specific local responses to being in, and feeling excluded from, York, questions which deeply concern City of York council.
Participants have been engaged in workshops which think through place-based attachments, symbols, meanings and objects, representations and tastes - everything ranging from Yorkshire puddings and Tea & Scones, to Newcastle Real Ale and Fish n' Chips.
'Dear North, Dear South'
Amongst the questions explored in the workshops are 'how do homeless groups articulate claims on space?' and 'how do expressions of being 'at home' appear when residency is compromised?'.
Rather than viewing these concerns as only located in, or particular to, the sites explored, Yvette has been interested in fostering connections and conversations across space, using the letter writing exercise 'Dear North, Dear South…'
In discussing indicators and sentiments of place, people expressed particularity as well as commonality. In writing 'Dear South…', one York participant expressed an empathy for the cost of living, imaging London to be alluring as well as troubling:
How's things down there? I hope you're not finding it too difficult what with the higher cost of living. At least if you have any issues you are closer to Parliament so you could pop round and have a work (ha ha!). I saw on t.v. that the tube is being upgraded so you will have to take a black cab to work in the City. By the way, do you ever see anything of Her Majesty nowadays? She doesn't bother with us up here anymore!
Bye for now, York."
Critical Terrain: Dividing Lines and Lives
As part of the project, a conference entitled 'Critical Terrain: Dividing Lines and Lives' will be held at LSBU on 7 February. The event will see high-profile academics such as Valerie Walkerdine (Cardiff University), Valerie Hey (Sussex University), and Dr Jon Binnie (Manchester Metropolitan University), as well as LSBU academics deliver thought-provoking presentations on the topic of North and South divide.
Building on letter writing and postcard posts, the 'Critical terrain, Dividing Lines & Lives: Re-Placing North–South Regionalism' project will then culminate in an exhibition titled 'Walking The Lines: The North by the South, The South by the North', to be on display in the Digital Gallery in Borough Road at LSBU in July 2014.
Find out more about the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research.