Saturday, 9 January 2010

Leeds Psychogeography Group

I set up Leeds Psychogeography Group in 2009 and it ran till 2012. Talks were held in term time at the University of Leeds and were available to people inside and outside academia. Speakers were invited to talk to the group on a variety of subjects relating to the city, urban space, the Situationists, human/urban/neo-geography, urban walking, local history. During this period we had speakers from many backgrounds, including artists, geographers, writers, urban walkers and film-makers. Walks were also organised on a regular basis. While there are no longer any talks, you can still subscribe to a psychogeography news mailing list and/or join Leeds Psychogeography Group on facebook (see below). I use the mailing list to keep people updated on anything psychogeography related including: conferences and talks; books and films; artworks, walks and performances, etc.

Please note: You are welcome to contact me via my website to go on the mailing list that I maintain for psychogeography related news, or join the group on facebook: Leeds Psychogeography Group

Monday, 4 January 2010


Often space is controlled in a subtle way: for example, the idea of 'walkways' popularised by university architects in the 1960s. Walkways were meant to join areas together and encourage students to 'bump into each other'. Even though this seems like a community-spirited idea, it does have the function of controlling space in such a way that students are discouraged from taking other routes. This image is based on a map and a drawing taken from the Chamberlin, Powell and Bon University of Leeds Development Plan (1963). Text has been added and dotted lines extended across both images in order to appropriate the images and make the overall look appear more seamless.


By actively engaging with urban space the Situationists International (SI) attempted to rearrange the material matter that appeared as urban décor, and even if they could not do this in concrete space, they had every intention of changing the psychic space of urbanism. These walks (dérives) became 'moments', or situations. The SI project that was directed at urbanism was about seizing a moment in time and space and attempting to change its aesthetics for a short time. This map is a modern take on the Naked City Map designed by the SI and is based on an actual dérive at the University of Leeds. The map is based on a GPS image taken during the walk and the images were taken at various stopping points which are highlighted on the map and appear as a mauve camera icon.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A Schizocartographical Methodology

In her book Doing Research with Cultural Studies (2003) Paula Saukko acknowledges the “crosscurrents” in cultural studies, in particular making reference to the blurred boundaries between culture and economics, especially in how they relate to social spheres as they exist in space (2003: 6). This seems particularly pertinent to my own project inasmuch as it traverses a number of fields, for example: geography (urban, human); Marxism, capitalism and ideology; history and historicity; representation; institutional discourse, power and knowledge. Saukko also highlights the problem of attempting to analyse a culture of which we are a part (2003: 12). While this brings with it a number of negative aspects (for example: an inability to create distance from the object of study or bias towards/against the object of study), some of its plus factors include: ease of access to the object and, an understanding of the internal workings of that which is being studied.

Because my concern is in how the university represents itself – the way it provides a selective narrative – I shall be focusing on articulation theory as a way of providing other narratives of the university. This will predominantly be done in the form of a schizocartography: a re-mapping of the university in an effort to provide alternative histories. Jennifer Daryl Slack states: “With, and through, articulation we engage the concrete in order to change it, that is, to rearticulate it. […] Articulation is, then, not just a thing (not just a connection) but a process of creating connections [...] ” (1996: 114). Representations rely on pre-defined associations and connections that are subsumed under that which is being represented. These connections are not necessarily apparent in the image of representation, even though they are, mostly, an intentional part of the process of forming that representation. These representations appear in the form of a narrative which, following many repetitions, get mistaken for the 'truth' (doxa). The narrative eventually reaches the level of a discourse which becomes the dominant voice. My interest is in how the discourse of the university is held in place through a specific ideology which creates both a 'truth' and also forms subjects through the actions that it requires they participate in. While I am conscious that it is questionable that not all practices can be reduces to discourse, it is discourse that I shall be using as a starting point in order to question the story the institution tells about itself. This project is cultural and political and is about the material existence of minorities that are not represented in images of the university – and I do not mean those that are actually covered in images of the university that concentrate on the political correctness of 'diversity', but those that are, literally, 'off the map'.

Using Stuart Hall's own description of articulation, I am attempting to both “utter” and to connect parts (1996: 141) in an effort to show what is missing in the university's discourse. Hall goes on to explain that to understand a particular dominant articulation “you need to know the ideological terrain, the lay of the land.” (1996: 142) (Hall's spatial reference echoes the part of my thesis which uses space as a place from which to examine the university in its corporate incarnation – I will return to this aspect shortly). Nevertheless, in order to be able to re-articulate the institution, it is important that one understands the different ways the university has already been articulated, and also the reasons why those articulations have appeared the way they do. I shall be analysing this historical aspect of the university's former representations from a genealogical perspective. This ties in with the discourse aspect of the institution, especially in a relationship with power.

Saukko explains that genealogy “investigates how certain taken-for-granted […] truths are historic constructions that have their root in specific social and political agendas.” (2003: 115). Since the posthistoric university (Bill Readings) has an agenda which has become seamless with the politics of the day – capitalism and globalisation – a genealogical approach will enable, what Saukko describes as, these “timeless truths” (2003: 116) to be understood and will also help reveal the ways the institution is seen, how it represents itself and also what is the thinking behind the discourse it creates about itself. I have chosen a genealogical rather than archaeological approach because my concern is about what is not said, as opposed to what is said, for instance: what the maps of the university don't show, as opposed to what they do. Another reason I think the genealogical approach is significant to a study of the posthistoric university is that it enables an analysis of “the historicity of phenomenon that are forming in the present” (Saukko 2003: 134). Because my analysis of the university will concentrate mostly on space, my attempt will be to provide something similar to what Edward Soja would describe as a “thirdspace”: an open place that enables resistance to emerge. This resistance which will offer alternatives to the dominant voice of the university, the corporate voice, and will enable a polyvocality to emerge. The theory I shall be applying to an analysis of campus space will come from both the field of postmodern geography and also the work of Félix Guattari, in particular his examination of the psychiatric institution, but also the work he has done in the area of “molecular revolution” (both in the institution and in South America).

Using Guattari's theory as a way of providing a polyvocality which questions institutionalised thinking and subject positions, does raise problems in relation to cartography. Poststructuralist thinking is more oriented to the concept of networks rather than maps. Saukko states: “A more multi-dimensional mode of studying space acknowledges that any description is always also an inscription or contains a political agenda and, for its big or small part, transforms space.” 92003: 171). So, rather than providing a totally top-down approach to the problem of space, I intend to examine it from the ground up, literally, and attempt to see it from the perspective of a network. This is part of the process that will be working towards creating, what I have termed, a schizocartography. This approach is important, I believe, because as the researcher I do not want to appear to be 'above' the object of study, in any hierarchic sense.

The examination of the actual space of the campus will be undertaken by using the methodology of urban analysis set out by the Situationists International (SI) in their critique of the capitalist city, in particular urban walking as it pertains to psychogeography. This highlights one of the two practical aspects of the project I will be carrying out. The other being the product of this thesis, in the form of the final output of the analysis undertaken here: schizocartographical representation. My interest with the psychogeography of the SI is three-fold: their map-making techniques, which challenged the geography of urban space; the processes they utilised as a form of re-appropriation of space; and their critique of capitalism. In examining the posthistoric university through a critique of urban space, I am hoping to probe beyond the usual surface presented to the casual observer. I will be attempting to reveal the corporate university's history from an ideological perspective, through its concrete manifestation.

The university contains a wealth of archives that are available: for example, letters to and from the university to Leeds City Council and architectural development plans for the 1960s building project. Marketing material and also newspaper articles that represent the image the university portrays of itself can also be found in the university archives. There are also published histories of the university: in particular Studies in the History of a University, 1874-1974: To Commemorate the Centenary of the University of Leeds edited by P. H. J. H. Gosden and Arthur Taylor; and A. N. Shimmin's The University of Leeds: The First Half Century. The archives will be used to examine the difference between what the university says about itself and what it does not. Representations of the university, for example in its image as portrayed through the official university website, will be compared to alternative histories that are discovered through both the examination of urban space and also the university archives.

The process of map-making I have formulated is based on Guattari's schizoanalysis. Guattari says that the profusion of signs in the modern environment have resulted in “mechanisms of growing discordance being set up at all levels of industrial society in its neo-capitalist and bureaucratic socialist phase whereby the individual tends to have to identify with an ideal of consuming-machines-consuming-production.” (1984: 14). Guattari is criticising the postmodern dissonance that exists in the environment through the contradictory demands capitalism imposes on us. His approach to psychiatry, and society and capitalism, sought to provide a new understanding of the problems he highlights. Guattari's approach enabled dominant conventions to be questioned and provided a process that enabled other forms of representation to be made available.

I am hoping that this research will reveal what I propose to call the naked university: the hidden parts of the university that do not appear in intentional representations and are not readily available in published histories. These 'silenced' stories and histories are as much a part of the university as the narratives that the university perpetuates about itself. I believe, in addition to providing a counter-history, that this genealogical approach will enable an understand of the university as it exists in particular moments in time and will help reveal the specific organisations of power as they operated in those moments. This research offers a alternative approach to those published histories, mentioned above, which provide a history in a linear fashion (as is even apparent from the titles of the history of the University of Leeds texts mentioned above). This research will offer an alternative history of the university, which at the same time will highlight the investment the institution has in creating specific, and engineered, representations of itself.

I believe the outcomes of this research will be translatable to other universities. Even though each university will have a unique history and trajectory of its own, the process of examining its hidden (and/or alternative) histories, as set out in the methodology suggested above, will be able to be converted to other institutions. Every university has an ideal image of itself that it wants to portray, especially now that education has become product-oriented. In forming an image, it is important to emphasise the positive aspects and downplay the negative ones. It is only upon examining what is not said that a more full history becomes apparent.

The outcomes of the research, as well as appearing in the form of a written thesis, will also be translated into an art object which will manifest in the form of a schizocartography. This will be something that could be, loosely, considered cartographic, although not in the traditional sense of the word.

Word Count: 1839


Guattari, Félix. 1984. Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, trans. by Rosemary Sheed (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books).

Hall, Stuart. 1996. 'On Postmodernism and Articulation: An Interview With Stuart Hall', Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, ed. by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (London: Routledge) pp. 131-150.

Saukko, Paula. 2003. Doing Research in Cultural Studies (London: Sage Publications).

Slack, Jennifer Daryl. 1996. 'The Theory and Method of Articulation in Cultural Studies', Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, ed. by David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen (London: Routledge) pp. 112-130.