The latest issue of Area looks back on a “path-breaking”, “agenda-setting” and “world-changing” geographical paper from 1987, as part of its Classics Revisited series.
Professor Chris Philo, now a leading geographer, reflects upon one of his first academic papers: ‘Not at our seaside’. The paper was published in Area, one of the Society’s journals that remains geared towards early career researchers and innovative research.
“It kind of all started here,” Chris says. The short article stands out among his other papers of the time because it “reflected a cluster of ideas, issues and literatures that initially set my compass for many years of scholarly enquiry.”
The paper presented a historical study of local opposition to mental health services, specifically a ‘seaside residence for the insane’ at Exmouth. The paper explored significant contemporary issues of NIMBYism through historical examples of the Victorian era.
By revisiting this classic, written at the time by a PhD student, we gain insight into the ideas that proved influential for many established geographers today.
“Reading this paper has led to autobiographical reflection,” writes Professor Tim Cresswell in his commentary, published alongside Chris’ paper “I had no idea who Philo was… I guess, however that we were reading some of the same things [Michel Foucault, Peter Jackson, Denis Cosgrove].”
Indeed, leafing through old drafts – which he still keeps in his Glasgow office – Chris admits to feeling “a touch melancholic, recalling a much younger ‘me’, eager, excited and looking forward to making my academic mark.”
And ‘Not at our seaside’ certainly made its mark. Professor Mark Whitehead’s commentary even goes as far to call it “a mother ship” for the research imperatives of historical geography.
Area today continues to encourage, support and publish early career researchers – the leading geographical lights of the future.
We caught up with Dr Suresh Paul, recipient of the Geographical Award to discuss Equal Adventure – the organisation he founded – and the fieldwork of the future.
10 June 2021
Simon Roberts is a Data and Engagement Manager at Improvement Service, based in Scotland.
An introduction to exploring the Society's collections online.
Professor Rob Wilby, Loughborough University
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