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- Sports week: The one-legged team against the one-armed team
- Pi day
- Service announcement: Downtime tomorrow
- FutureLearn this week
- Doreen Massey: A short reading list
This morning we arrived at the University to hear the news that Doreen Massey, Emeritus Professor in the Social Sciences Faculty, had died on Friday. Professor Massey was a passionate geographer, and equally passionate about the OU. As a too-slight tribute, we've curated some of the best pieces about, and by, her.
The OU News site includes a tribute from our current Vice Chancellor, Peter Horrocks:
"In her work for the University over many years and in her role as Emeritus Professor, the OU was fortunate to benefit from Doreen Massey's continued involvement, engagement and contribution. Doreen was one of the academics who have come to define the contribution of The Open University to society."
At OpenDemocracy, Jo Littler and Jeremy Gilbert celebrated her combination of the political with the academic:
Indeed, it’s difficult to think of a British scholar of her stature who remained so consistently and directly engaged in immediate political activities alongside rigorous academic work. She could relate a unique history of having engaged with and advised such earlier key figures of the left as Ken Livingstone in the 1980s and Tony Benn in the 1970s. In recent years she was proud to have been invited to advise Hugo Chavez’ government in Venezuela, and to have had one of her key conceptual phrases ‘geometries of power’ directly cited by Chavez in his political speeches. But she was by no means a mere counsellor to Great Men of the Left. She was a lifelong feminist and was absolutely at the forefront of the radicalisation of human geography from the 1970s onwards: a pioneer both in developing approaches informed by Marxism and then in complicating those approaches with a detailed attention to the multi-dimensional nature of power, space and selfhood. In works such as Space, Place and Gender, For Space, and World City she established and cemented her reputation as an author read and appreciated way beyond the normal disciplinary boundaries of her field as well as a giant within it.
The Centre for Labour And Social Studies' Ellie O’Hagan, Rachel Yates and Dulcie Fairhurst remember a friend and colleague:
We knew Doreen because she kindly agreed to become a member of our National Advisory Panel. With Doreen it was easy to forget we were in the presence of greatness, thanks to her warmth, her laughter and her generous spirit. She made an effort to listen to people, to recognise the hard work of others, and never to assume that all of her achievements meant that she knew better (although she usually did).
Doreen was supportive of the work Class is doing, but she was also supportive of us – its staff of young women. She was very encouraging, and we all admired her immensely. In Doreen, we felt we had an ally. Her feminism was not just theory; it was something she did, and something she passed on. We will always be grateful for what she gave us.
The OU's OpenSpace Research Centre hosts an annual event named for Professor Massey - the 2016 Doreen Massey Event: Sharing The Anthropocene is scheduled for next week. The team at the Centre paid their own tribute:
Doreen was a true intellectual force in Geography and the wider academic community not just in Britain but across the globe, as you are all too aware. Her loss will be felt by us as Department, for we had the privilege of knowing her personally, and by the University, to which she was truly and wholly committed. Doreen’s passing will also be a profound loss to all those who were inspired by her work, which was always stimulating, not least because it was sharpened by her keen sense political purpose and commitment.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries wrote about Doreen at Hidden Europe:
It is a mark of Doreen Massey’s influence way beyond academic geography that her work last year caught the attention of Robert Macfarlane, the celebrated weaver of words who has also taught us a thing or two about landscape (and the words to describe it). Writing about nature writing in New Statesman in September 2015, Macfarlane reminded his readers that good writing on landscape requires a sensitivity to “structures of ownership and capital.” Follow the path of a good writer on landscape and nature, and you might indeed run across a bar-tailed godwit. But Macfarlane suggests that “One might as reasonably expect to meet the geographer Doreen Massey.” And yes, she’s been there on many of our journeys over the years and never more so than when we’ve ventured into rough, tough areas. Real life, real travel is not about infinity pools and the landscapes of privilege. We know that. You know that. And Doreen Massey knew that more than any of us.
Rob Kitchin at Ireland after NAMA recalled a night of football:
I first met Doreen in 1997 when she came to Queen’s University Belfast to present a talk. The first thing she asked was whether we could find a pub that was showing a Liverpool match after the seminar, rather than going for a meal. That evening her natural enthusiasm bubbled over as she shouted colourful advice and support at the screen and engaged in banter with other patrons. She was a lifelong Liverpool fan and regularly attended games at Anfield.
In an extract from her work A Global Sense of Place, Doreen Massey takes us for a walk down Kilburn High Street:
Take, for instance, a walk down Kilburn High Road, my local shopping centre. It is a pretty ordinary place, north-west of the centre of London. Under the railway bridge the newspaper stand sells papers from every county of what my neighbours, many of whom come from there, still often call the Irish Free State. The postboxes down the High Road, and many an empty space on a wall, are adorned with the letters IRA. Other available spaces are plastered this week with posters for a special meeting in remembrance: Ten Years after the Hunger Strike. At the local theatre Eamon Morrissey has a one-man show; the National Club has the Wolfe Tones on, and at the Black Lion there's Finnegan's Wake.
In two shops I notice this week's lottery ticket winners: in one the name is Teresa Gleeson, in the other, Chouman Hassan. Thread your way through the often almost stationary traffic diagonally across the road from the newsstand and there's a shop which as long as I can remember has displayed saris in the window. Four life-sized models of Indian women, and reams of cloth. On the door a notice announces a forthcoming concert at Wembley Arena: Anand Miland presents Rekha, life, with Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Jahi Chawla and Raveena Tandon. On another ad, for the end of the month, is written, 'All Hindus are cordially invited'. In another newsagents I chat with the man who keeps it, a Muslim unutterably depressed by events in the Gulf, silently chafing at having to sell the Sun.
Overhead there is always at least one aeroplane - we seem to have on a flight-path to Heathrow and by the time they're over Kilburn you can see them clearly enough to tell the airline and wonder as you struggle with your shopping where they're coming from. Below, the reason the traffic is snarled up (another odd effect of time-space compression!) is in part because this is one of the main entrances to and escape routes from London, he road to Staples Corner and the beginning of the M1 to 'the North'. This is just the beginnings of a sketch from immediate impressions but a proper analysis could be done of the links between Kilburn and the world. And so it could for almost any place.
In 2013, Doreen was a guest on Social Science Bites, and invited us to rethink our idea of space:
I got really annoyed with the rest of the social sciences, and indeed with philosophers, paying so much attention to time. And space became a kind of residual dimension: it’s always ‘time and space’. So time is the dimension of change, and of dynamism, and of the life we live, and all the rest of it; and space became the dimension that wasn’t all of that. And a lot of us, I think, implicitly think of space as a kind of flat surface out there -we ‘cross space’ – and space is therefore devoid of temporality: it is without time, it is without dynamism, it is a kind of flat, inert given. Foucault wrote in the later part of his life that, yes, he thought we’d often been thinking of space like that and that was wrong, and I agree with Foucault in that later moment.
A lot of what I’ve been trying to do over the all too many years when I’ve been writing about space is to bring space alive, to dynamize it and to make it relevant, to emphasize how important space is in the lives in which we live, and in the organization of the societies in which we live. Most obviously I would say that space is not a flat surface across which we walk; Raymond Williams talked about this: you’re taking a train across the landscape – you’re not traveling across a dead flat surface that is space: you’re cutting across a myriad of stories going on. So instead of space being this flat surface it’s like a pincushion of a million stories: if you stop at any point in that walk there will be a house with a story. Raymond Williams spoke about looking out of a train window and there was this woman clearing the grate, and he speeds on and forever in his mind she’s stuck in that moment. But actually, of course, that woman is in the middle of doing something, it’s a story. Maybe she’s going away tomorrow to see her sister, but really before she goes she really must clean that grate out because she’s been meaning to do it for ages. So I want to see space as a cut through the myriad stories in which we are all living at any one moment. Space and time become intimately connected.
Doreen Massey contributed to OpenLearn, and our forerunner, Open2.net. Amongst her contributions:
In 2008, she joined Will Self and Laurie Taylor for a special edition of Thinking Allowed;
In 2006, she was part of a Material World special on the theme of Interdependence:
I think part of the point is precisely to push the term interdependence a bit. I think often we think it just means that if I do something it’ll have consequences around the world or that we can all interconnect or something like that. I think it’s quite a challenge actually taking interdependence seriously. It means we can’t even be what we are without people and things around the rest of the planet. The places that we live can’t be what they are without the places around the rest of the planet. So interdependence is a real challenge, taking it seriously means really changing the way we live in the world, and I think it’s a challenge to perhaps the dominant economic orthodoxy at the moment, which is one of very great individualism, the economic individual. Interdependence challenges that whole notion right from the start.
And in the context of the 7/7 bombings in the capital, Doreen wrote for us about London:
It is a geography that attaches to any place, but it is especially important to a place like London. In recent debates about identity we have moved away from notions of isolated individuals towards an understanding of identity as thoroughly relational, as constructed through rather than prior to our interactions with others. The same move has been made in relation to place-identity. And yet the way that this insight has been developed has often been to concentrate on the implications for the internal constructions of identity: the internal multiplicities and fragmentations, and so forth. And so it has been with place-identity too: it is a commonplace now that every place is hybrid, that we must be critical of notions of coherent communities.
Yet, there is another geography, that geography of external relations on which identities, including the identities of places, depend. How do we bring that into our attitude to, and our politics of, place? This tendency to inward-lookingness becomes even clearer when we turn to the second reservation about the characterisation of London as multicultural future of the world.
For London is not only multicultural. It is also – for instance – a heartland of the production, command and propagation of what we have come to call neoliberal globalisation. Indeed it was in London that many of its lineaments were first conceived.
If it's Monday, that means our London-based chums on our sister site FutureLearn will have been spending the morning putting new courses into their system. Here's the things you can start to study this week:
- UNESCO: Global systems science and policy
- Trinity, Dublin: Irish lives in war and revolution
- Royal Holloway: The RAF in the Cold War
- Monash: The science of medicines
- UCL: The many faces of dementia
- University of Strathclyde: Geneaology
There's also a course from The Open University starting this week - Elements of Renewable Energy. Remember, if you'd prefer to study this course at your own pace, you can also find it here on OpenLearn.
There's good news and bad news.
The good news is we're taking delivery of a bunch of shiny new functions tomorrow.
The bad news is that our IT department has to unplug everything and hide the servers while they do the incantation to bring forth these new systems, so OpenLearn will be offline between 9.30 and 2.30 tomorrow.
Apologies - we'll be having a skeleton service of some bits and pieces that don't sit on our main system for you to enjoy, but much of our content will be beyond reach during that period.
It's Pi Day today - well, sort-of, if you write the date in an American style as 3.14, and it's only to two digits when, of course, Pi has been calculated to 13,300,000,000,000 digits.
Normally, OpenLearn Live attempts to find the most interesting videos to share with you. It's not that this one isn't fascinating - both how great this girl is at reciting Pi, but also in the discovery they have competitions where people see how much Pi they can recall. But... probably after thirty seconds you might have got the gist:
Want to see Pi in action? Leap into our Succeed With Maths course as it explains the areas of circles
This week, it's Sport Relief. To mark the occasion, we're going to start-up every day this week focusing on some noteworthy sporting events. And we're starting with the cricket matches between Crimean veterans.
You might think, as we prepare for this week of fundraising-through-sport, that the link between charity and sport is fairly recent. But the idea of staging an event to raise funds for a good cause can be traced back at least to the mid 1800s, when veterans of the Crimean war would regularly stage cricket matches to help support the demobbed troops. What's notable about these matches is that they would pitch a team of veterans who had lost a leg, against veterans who had lost an arm.
This, during the 1850s and 1860s, was nearly a hundred years before the birth of the Paralympic Games.
Obviously, at a time when visiting mental institutions was pitched as a fun day out for the family, it's possible there was a slightly macarbe interest from some sections of the crowds - one reporter described the event as "painfully wonderful and ludicrously horrible".
What's even more surprising is that these events were happening even before the Crimea - in fact, there's a record of match between one-armed and one-legged players as far back as 1796, both teams drawn from the ranks of Greenwich Pensioners (the naval equivalent of Chelsea Pensioners).
For the record, one-legged fielding is easier than one-armed batting, and in these matches usually were won by the one-legged teams.
These weren't the only noteworthy cricket matches played by Crimean veterans, though - in 1907, a team of veterans from the Crimean campaign and the Indian Mutiny played an exhibition match against a team of women. The teams included a husband-and-wife pair, and someone who had survivied the Charge of the Light Brigrade. Those of a mathematical and historical bent will have spotted the veterans were taking the field nearly a full half-century after their wartime exploits; this being considered "fair" to balance out the other team being merely women.