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From Brexit to the break-up of Britain?
From Brexit to the break-up of Britain?

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Week 2 Thinking beyond the divisions: understanding what they tell us


The maps you looked at in Week 1 offered a snapshot of political divisions in the UK in June 2016. A related group of maps could be generated from any set of voting results – such as the general election which took place in June 2017, or any other general election. But the picture given by the 2016 vote is particularly stark, perhaps because it was a referendum in which there were only two choices.

The question is, however, whether the divisions revealed by the maps have anything more to tell us about the UK. If they are an expression of economic and social processes then what are those processes? It is important to recognise that a snapshot like these maps freezes a particular moment in place and time. But it does not necessarily tell us much about the social relations that underpin it, that have come together to construct it and bring it into being. What is captured in the flat geographical surfaces of a map is the product of more complex sets of interactions. As a result, what is apparently fixed is only a momentary representation of a continually shifting reality. It is difficult for any particular map to capture the dynamic processes that generate the images it presents.

The course this week focuses on ways of thinking about geographies of division and difference, and explores how they are generated and how they are reproduced. It draws heavily on the work of Doreen Massey, who was Professor of Geography at The Open University from 1982 to 2016. Later weeks will turn to consider the ways in which those geographies are reflected in the Brexit vote.

By the end of this week, you will be able to:

  • understand the importance of uneven development as a way of thinking about geographies of social and economic change
  • identify some of the key features of uneven development as a process as well as a fact on the ground expressed in differences in wealth and prosperity
  • recognise the ways in which differing outcomes in areas, regions, territories and nations relate to and shape each other
  • understand some of the economic arguments for greater devolution in the UK.