Enthusiasm at the RGS-IBG 2012, Edinburgh

I can honestly say that hearing the presenters in our ‘Geography of Enthusiasm’ session actually talk about ‘enthusiasm’ was one of the best moments of my career so far. Enthusiasm is now well and truly on the map! We had 5 excellent speakers and an audience of nearly 40 people. Fantastic.

First up was Sarah Evans (UWE): ‘Ambivalent spaces: women’s expeditionary work 1913-c.1950’. Sarah offered us a wonderful ‘unpacking’ of enthusiasm via the embodied and emotional geographies of women’s fieldwork. Characterising enthusiasm as a enjoyment, pleasure and passion, rather than using the term ‘enthusiasts’, these women were, or perhaps felt they were, passionate non-professionals. Often insecure in their professional roles. It was their passion that was driving them. Clearly, in terms of enthusiasm studies, women have for the most part been overlooked – so Sarah’s paper was a very welcome addition. Talking through examples of the micro-practices of fieldwork, Sarah drew out the narratives of enthusiasm and passion that the women she is researching  often struggled with during time away from home. Focusing on ambivalence – the love/hate relationship with exploration – specifically going to extremes of boredom and passion, relief and danger, homesickness and joy, Sarah’s paper makes an important contribution to ‘enthusiastic geographies’.

Next up was Ian Waite (Lincoln): ‘Sharing horizons that are new to us’: planning, freedom and growing up on a 1960s English council estate’. Now you can’t read about Ian’s work until you listen to this track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNPAM5ABhvs Ian offered up a beautifully rich and textured account of his childhood growing up on a council estate. Drawing on maps, old photographs and a few song lyrics, Ian took us on a journey into the special (and) hiding places he and his friends explored, disrupting boundaries of private and public space. Once again highlighting the gendered nature of enthusiasm. The nods from the rest of the audience suggested Ian had definitely tapped into a shared enthusiasm for exploration during childhood when we used to ‘make whatever out of whatever’. Brilliant stuff.

Our third paper was by Kate Evans (Swansea): Strangely familiar: Parkour, Freerunning and extremes of mundanity’. Kate talked about the bodily sensation of enthusiasm, the micro-gestures and background knowledges that constitute Parkour. It was terrific. Highlighting the more than  representational qualities of experience, Kate’s video footage enabled the audience to feel the pain, danger, injury, boredom, sitting out, excitement, embarrassment of the traceurs/traceuses. The rhythms exposed by Kate’s research, for example the waiting, stillness, pausing, expanded the ways in which (much like in Sarah’s paper) we might expand our notions of what constitutes being in the field. For Kate the body is co-constitutive of the field. We definitely need to explore the emotional intensities of fieldwork and exploring the world more fully.

Fourth up was Ceri Price (Bristol): ‘Greetings from’: postcards from the field’. Ceri talked about her recent research with a number of community groups in Bristol charged with creating a postcard to ‘represent’ their particular part of town. The groups were made up of volunteers that didn’t necessarily know each other. Of all the postcards only one featured people/personal spaces, the rest were of buildings or iconic landmarks. Someone in the audience remarked that they all featured a sense of home, because they featured houses. What we witnessed in Ceri’s paper was a varying enthusiasm for local areas, the different ways in which people chose to explore their local areas – often based upon age and mobility.

The last speaker was Luke Bennett: ‘Defensive enthusiasm: anoraks, bunkers and the erotics of knowledge’. There were plenty of laughs during this paper as Luke talked about ‘anorak knowledges’ and the knowledge practices behind them. Focusing on the data from an online forum, he introduced his term ‘bunkerology’ to describe those enthusiastic about hunting for bunkers. Luke’s paper was incredibly rich and I ran out of time scribbling down my notes – his slides can be found here. However, Luke’s paper raised lots of questions around the role of humour and banter in enthusiasm, once again the gendered nature of the pursuits researched under the name of ‘enthusiasm studies’, the ways in which anorak knowledges are valued and what can be learnt from this particular form of exploration.

You can probably tell that I am incredibly enthusiastic about this session. It was followed by a walking tour: Modernist Edinburgh. You can find a write up of the tour here. Here are some pictures to whet your appetite (no pun intended).

Raindrops forming puddle on tour

Outside Edinburgh University Library. Enjoying tour.

2 thoughts on “Enthusiasm at the RGS-IBG 2012, Edinburgh

  1. Pingback: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Edinburgh 2012 « The Culture of Enthusiasm

  2. Pingback: The Geography of Enthusiasm: Exploration and Fieldwork | Conserving the Twentieth Century

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