No Man’s Land expedition to travel 6,000 miles through 19 countries exploring the origins and development of No Man’s Lands and uncovering their impacts on modern day society.
The No Man’s Land expedition team depart on 12 September, travelling from Nomansland, England, to Bir Tawil, a disputed territory on the Egypt-Sudan border, often described as ‘the last truly unclaimed place on earth’.
The six week research expedition, led by Dr Alasdair Pinkerton, of Royal Holloway University of London, and Dr Noam Leshem, of Durham University, aims to investigate the geographical and political effects of No Man’s Lands on modern day society, while charting their origins and development throughout history.
Driving a Land Rover Discovery Sport, the team will travel through the still contorted No Man’s Land of the Western Front, before tracing the route of the Iron Curtain through south-eastern Europe and exploring the United Nations Buffer Zone which still divides the island of Cyprus. The drive through Europe marks the centenary of the First World War.
The expedition will culminate in Bir Tawil, where the team will uncover the territory’s unique history and the impact of this fascinating No Man’s Land on those living within, and near, the area.
‘No Man’s Lands’ have existed within the English language for over 1000 years to describe pieces of unowned or abandoned land, the cracks between uncertain international borders, or the disrupted ground between opposing militaries. Whilst many associate the term with war, or think that No Man’s Lands are a thing of the past, Dr Pinkerton and Dr Leshem will go beyond standard academic fieldwork to link together multiple no-man’s lands through the format of an expedition while documenting the lives of those still affected by these challenging spaces.
Dr Pinkerton said: “This is an extraordinarily ambitious project that goes way beyond standard academic research — 6000 miles, 19 countries, a demilitarised Buffer Zone and the world’s last truly unclaimed territory, all in little under 6 weeks. Along the way, we will be working with local communities to understanding the continuing challenge of living in, or near, No Man’s Lands. In Cyprus, we have partnered with the Association for Historical Dialogue & Research (AHDR), an NGO located inside the UN Buffer Zone, and will be supporting young Cypriots to imagine alternative futures for the Buffer Zone that divides the city of Nicosia.”
The expedition is funded through a Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Thesiger-Oman Fellowship and supported by Land Rover with the loan of a vehicle. Its research findings will be used to develop educational materials for secondary level geography students.
Shane Winser, Manager of Geography Outdoors, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s expeditions centre, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the No Man’s Land expedition with a Thesiger-Oman Fellowship. Alasdair and Noam’s project is both intellectually and physically challenging; an arduous journey exploring intriguing spaces across Europe and into the Middle East that were and are defined by their history and modern-day geography.”
About the Nomansland to No Man’s Land expedition team:
Dr Alasdair Pinkerton, is a political geographer at Royal Holloway University of London who has worked extensively in South America, South Asia and Cyprus. He has published widely in academic journals and regularly appears in print and broadcast media as a commentator on geopolitical and diplomatic issues.
Dr Noam Leshem, is a political geographer at Durham University with over 15 years of experience studying conflicts in the Middle-East. He has written about contemporary political activism and was the recipient of the 2012 Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for Best Middle East dissertation by the British Society for Middle East Research.
Mr Elliot Graves is a geography graduate from Durham University and Director of FOXEP Productions, a creative media production house. Elliot has professional experience in photography, cinematography, design, development and radio production. He will ensure that a wide audience receives regular updates on the expedition’s findings and activities while the team is in the field.
To find out more about the project, visit www.intonomansland.org or follow @IntoNML on Twitter.
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