Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, 1937-2015


RGS 2015: Geographies of Politics and Anti-Politics

By UoSAnti-Politics |


Last Friday, we organised a session at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference at the University of Exeter around the theme of Geographies of Politics and Anti-Politics. The call for papers coincided with a Geoforum debate between Nick Clarke, Jane Wills and David Featherstone about the discipline of Geography and the research problem of anti-politics.

Nick Clarke presented the first paper on ‘The changing spaces of political encounter and the rise of anti-politics’. Based on findings from Mass Observation, Nick made the case that anti-politics is on the rise, and is geographical. He showed how the sites where citizens interact with politicians had changed over time and suggested how this contributed to declining political support.

Charles Pattie (University of Sheffield) presented the second paper based on his research with Ron Johnson on ‘The changing geography of Britain’s Party System’. Charles examined the results of the 2015 General Election and highlighted a number of new stories to emerge about the changing bias of the electoral system and the importance of local campaigning in marginal seats. These findings will update the authors’ 2010 paper in The Geographical Journal.

The third paper was by presented by Jenny McCurry (QMUL) and was about ‘Exploring the political participation of a new electorate: The case of Polish migrants in Northern Ireland’. Jenny presented emerging findings from interviews with Polish migrants about their participation in local and European elections in Belfast. She explained that the rise of UKIP, negative portrayals of migrants by politicians and an increase in racist attacks generated anti-political feeling amongst Polish migrants. However, she also showed how disenchantment with Westminster politics could stimulate political participation.

David Featherstone presented the final paper on ‘The spatial practices of politicization and de-politicization’. He drew comparisons between the New Left’s engagement with de-politicisation expressed in E.P Thompson’s Out of Apathy with more recent debates surrounding post-politics. David’s comparison emphasised the need to critically engage with the terms on which politicisation is conducted. He argued that geographers should pay attention to the generative character of political antagonisms in different fields of social and political life in order to move beyond narrow definitions of politicisation and de-politicisation.

We would like to thank our speakers and those who attended for a great discussion.


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