20 June 2013

During our last colloquia of 2012/13, we started to think about planning for 2013/14. We had the informal, open discussions in room G07 after Katherine's presentation (see abstract below), over wine.

“Culture, in a place like this?” : edgy places

Katherine Robinson, 3rd year PhD Student at Sociology, LSE

In this paper I introduce ideas around the notion of peripherality, which is a of the core theme in my PhD project.  I outline how understandings of the city neighbourhoods where I did fieldwork in two public libraries, ideas of peripherality operate on both a spatial level but also, and importantly, on a discursive level

I argue that peripherality conveyed in ideas of ‘the city’s edge’, are in fact more complex and nuanced, having different implications in different cities.  I go on to discuss the politics of place – how ideas of peripherality constitute daily practise in certain places, and how, while peripherality is undoubtedly conveyed through spatial location in the city, peripherality is simultaneously experienced in a discursive form.

I illustrate these ideas through relating an experience during fieldwork in the district of Berlin-Wedding.  I discuss how a library event showcasing a book about local brothers turned international football superstars,  Jérôme, Kevin-Prince and George Boateng, ideas of peripherality are brought sharply into focus, in both the curation of the event and in the way it played out.  Aware of its location in a ‘troubled’ neighbourhood, the library attempted to neutralise its portrayal as being part of the so-called ‘ghetto’ out of which these young men ‘made it’, while aware of the strategic importance of holding high profile events which play to particular locatory implications in making the library more visible as a ‘relevant’ cultural and social space ‘in a place like this’.

* Katherine is a third year PhD student on LSE’s Cities Programme, which is based in the Sociology department.  Her work is an ethnography of two urban public libraries in London and Berlin, through which she discusses ideas of place and contemporary urban multiculture.