Culture and Society

Culture and Society Research Cluster

Director: Dr Nuala Johnson
Telephone: +44 (0)28 90 973358

The Society, Space and Culture Research Cluster of the School of Natural and Built Environment focuses on historical and contemporary human geography. In order to advance its agenda, the cluster has developed a series of themes that explore the constitutive role of space and place in the global geographies of knowledge [economic; demographic; scientific; financial, digital, cartographic], politics and power.

A major question on Human Geography's research agenda is ascertaining the role of space in knowledge enterprises and socio-political processes. SSC has sought to address this problem in several distinct but related ways. 

First, making sense of the spatiality of scientific culture has been expanded through projects on the comparative geographies of botanical gardens in Britain and Ireland; the place of science in Victorian civic culture; the cultural politics of the sciences of human origins; and post-war British outer space research (Dunnett, Finnegan, Johnson, Livingstone, Wright). 

Second, critical cartographic/GIS techniques have been deployed to interrogate the veracity of the knowledge universe of the map, while digitally-translated documentary data have been used to re-configure our understanding of medieval urbanism and agrarian economies, as well as the spatial dynamics of religion and the politics of cartographic rhetoric (Amir, Campbell, Ell, Lilley, Livingstone, Shuttleworth). 

Third, the troubled material geographies of divided societies have animated investigations of Northern Irish labour market mobility and welfare reform; the social and political geographies of divided cities; Belfast’s industrial heritage; and the capacity of memory spaces to foster or challenge reconciliation in Ireland and the Middle East (Anderson, Amir, Boal, Johnson, Royle, Shuttleworth). 

Fourth, attention to the critical significance of space in the constitution of political life has challenged conventional understandings of ideas of sovereignty and globalisation, boundary-making and territorial identities; apocalyptic thought and nationalism, the development of island-based Company Colonies, the use of camouflage techniques as sources of political resistance; and the geopolitics of comic books and the geopolitics of religion (Amir, Dunnett, Robinson, Royle, Sturm); colonial discourses in North East India; financial geographies of mineral prospecting (Kumar, Majury).

The cluster’s research themes are carried out over a range of different geographical contexts and from the Medieval period to the present. Current research is focused on the UK; Ireland; Korea; Italy; Israel/Palestine; the Balkans; USA; Canada; Burma; and India. The cluster attracts research funding from, among others, ESRC; AHRC; British Academy; Leverhulme Trust; and JISC.