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Selected Projects

The members of the Royal Holloway Centre for the GeoHumanities are involved in a whole series of projects under the centre’s five key themes; Environmental GeoHumanities; Spatial GeoHumanities; Creative GeoHumanities; Digital GeoHumanities and Public GeoHumanities. These projects often see scholars and practitioners engaging with a range of partners across the cultural, creative and heritage sectors around the world.

Selected Projects

Open-weather is a project by Sophie Dyer and Sasha Engelmann probing the noisy relationships between bodies, atmospheres and weather systems through experiments in amateur radio, open data and feminist tactics of sensing and séance. On September 6th 2020, open-weather collaborators and extended networks co-produced the global weather ‘nowcast’ featured on the newly launched project website:

Air, by Peter Adey combines cultural and scientific history with a philosophical account, to explore our attempts to understand, engineer, make sense of, and find meaning in Air. Combining established figures such as Joseph Priestley, John Scott Haldane, and Marie Curie with unlikely individuals from painting, literature, and poetry, this richly illustrated book unlocks new perspectives into the science and culture of this pervasive but unnoticed substance.

A co-edited book project (Manchester University Press 2021) by Professor Klaus Dodds and Professor Sverker Sorlin of KTH University, Ice Humanities interrogates how ice gets experienced and storified. By 2100 it is likely that many mountain glaciers will have disappeared and the Arctic Ocean turned into open water. The implications for global climate change are immense in the form of sea level change, ocean acidification and further state-change in the cryosphere. As scholars of indigenous communities have noted in places like the Arctic and mountainous regions of the world such as the Andes and Tibet, ice and snow are enriched by multi-voiced and situated accounts, which speak to community dynamics, kinship, oral memory, and relationality with the more-than-human world. We will be presenting some of the collection at the 2021 STREAMS Transformative Environmental Humanities conference:

Majestic and awe-inspiring, there is nothing like the sight of a mountain on the horizon. Throughout all of human history mountains have been linked to the eternal, attracting us to their dizzying heights, stunning us with their natural beauty, and often threatening us with their dangers. Through a compelling journey to both real and imaginary peaks, this book explores how the mountain has figured in our history, culture, and imaginations.          

Veronica della Dora explores the ways mountains have functioned spiritually as a boundary between life and death, a bridge between the earth and the heavens. Interlacing science, culture, and religion, she sketches the mountain as a geological phenomenon that has profoundly influenced and been influenced by the human imagination, shaping our environmental consciousness and helping us understand our—quite small indeed—place in the world. She also explores their significance as objects of human feats, as prizes of adventure and sport, and as places of serene beauty for vacationers. Magnificently illustrated and showcasing famous peaks from all around the world, Mountain offers a fascinating dual portrait of these giants in nature and culture.

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Knowing the Underground: Science, Exploration and Embodied Engagement with Subterranean Spaces. 

Funded by a Leverhulme Trust Artst in Residence grant

Subterranean spaces conjure up powerful geographical imaginaries; the unknown lurks in their dark unfathomable depths; their damp volumes unsettle, disarming with their challenge to visually dominated sensory regimes and discomforting with experiences of confinement and containment. They are spaces of capitalist exploitation and scientific fascination and significance, where bones and material culture are dug up and dated, where sediments enable the recreation of past environments and the prediction of future ones, and where nature and technology come together to exploit resource rich environments and to create powerful environmental imaginaries. Taking up these themes, this residency creates a unique collaboration between artist Flora Parrott and physical and human geographers in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The overall aim of the residency is: To develop a creative practice based exploration of the place of embodied engagement with underground spaces in the making of geographical knowledge past and present. In drawing together the artistic practice and research interests of Parrott and Hawkins and other geographers at RHUL this residency will explore embodied engagements with the underground both in historical records of the scientific exploration of underground spaces but also in contemporary scientific practice conducted in underground spaces.

A primary focus of the work will be developing modes of communicating interdisciplinary research by generating workshops, performance and performance lectures. Primarily the project will intersect with the Geography Department’s pioneering work with the Art and Communicating Geomorphology working group of the British Geomorphological Society.

Extending her existing work on Karst caves in Brazil and her wider work on historical and contemporary underground spaces (including as Artist in Residence at the Royal Geographical Society Collection) Parrott will develop new pieces that will contribute to her exhibitions in 2017, the focus of work being a new site-specific intervention in the RHUL Geography Department.

Project team: Flora Parrott and Dr. Harriet Hawkins

See also:

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Genealogies of a Geographical Metaphor

The term mantle has inspired philosophers, geographers, and theologians and shaped artists’ and mapmakers’ visual vocabularies for thousands of years. According to Veronica della Dora, mantle is the “metaphor par excellence, for it unfolds between the seen and the unseen as a threshold and as a point of tension.” The Mantle of the Earth: Genealogies of a Geographical Metaphor is an intellectual history of the term mantle and its metaphorical representation in art and literature, geography and cartography. Through the history of this metaphor from antiquity to the modern day, we learn about shifting perceptions and representations of global space, about our planetary condition, and about the nature of geography itself.

This project explores the potential of arts and humanities perspectives on plants, botanical gardens and biocultural collections to foster innovative, engaging and useful research. It seeks to make an evidence-based case for the feasibility of interdisciplinary projects linking arts and humanities researchers in UK universities with staff in botanical gardens. The first phase of the project scoped out the potential for Plant Humanities within the developing strategic collaboration between Royal Holloway and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (see the Final Report by Felix Driver and Caroline Cornish, August 2020). The second phase will involve national and international research, drawing on directly on related projects in the field, notably those linked to botanical gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, New York, Padua and Kew.

This AHRC research project explores the mobility of biocultural collections, taking as its focus the Economic Botany collection at Kew.

From 2020-2, Dr Dan Whistler (PI, Philosophy) and Dr Danielle Sands (Co-I, LLC) will be running the AHRC-funded network 'The Philosophy of Plants.' Focusing on the context, reception and contemporary significance of J.W. Goethe ’s Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen (1790), the network will explore the ways in which theoretical ideas have been determined by encounters with plants over the past two centuries by way of collaborations with partners including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Goethe-Archiv, Weimar.

Nature is as much an idea as a physical reality. By 'placing' nature within Byzantine culture and within the discourse of Orthodox Christian thought and practice, Landscape, Nature and the Sacred in Byzantium explores attitudes towards creation that are utterly and fascinatingly different from the modern.

Drawing on Patristic writing and on Byzantine literature and art, the book develops a fresh conceptual framework for approaching Byzantine perceptions of space and the environment. It takes readers on an imaginary flight over the Earth and its varied topographies of gardens and wilderness, mountains and caves, rivers and seas, and invites them to shift from the linear time of history to the cyclical time and spaces of the sacred - the time and spaces of eternal returns and revelations.

Contact information:

You can find out more about this book on the Cambridge University Press website.

Arts of Climate Reconstruction, led by Bethan Lloyd Worthington, responds to ongoing excavations at Gully Cave in Somerset, which are recovering rich assemblages of fossilised plant and animal remains within an area rich in Paleolithic and Pleistocene cave sites. Through ceramic and needlepoint sculpture, writing and artists books, this practice-based project seeks to view an essentially nonhuman dwelling place through a poetic or metaphorical lens of domestic interior and exterior spaces. A podcast discussing the project can be found at:

This project, led by Cecilie Sachs Olsen explores the possibilities and practices of participatory art in architecture and urban development. Drawing together various creative practices, from the curatorship of Oslo Architecture Triennale to a series of performative audio walks, the project aims to expand current understandings of what urban development is and can be.

This project by Thomas Dekeyser examines the long histories of resistance to technology across philosophical, literary and archival sources. Through the prism of techno-nihilism, the project conducts a reflection on the relations between technology, bodies and space to engage the politics of ongoing calls for technological futures.

This project by Innes Keighren examines the geographical making and mobility of radical politics in the Age of Revolution through detailed study of the authorship, global circulation, and reception of one of that era’s most controversial and widely discussed books: William Macintosh’s Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782). Using unstudied archival and bibliographical collections, the project will reveal the geography and history of Travels and show how it inspired readers on three continents, sparked debate over colonial policy and the nature of civilisation, and challenged existing understandings of the rights of individuals. Visit the project’s blog for updates and further details.

Working with the British Library Jeremy Brown's AHRC funded PhD explores the diverse roles of maps for sixteenth- to early nineteenth-century British travellers to Italy.

This project by Revd. David Williams explores the multiple and diverse ways in which sacred space, sacred objects, and relics have been shared by different religious groups in the Byzantine Mediterranean. Case studies include shared spaces of varying scale, from shrines and monasteries (for example, the shrine of Saint Sergius in Rusafa, northern Syria, the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist converted into the Grand Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, and the monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai peninsula) to entire cities (Constantinople and Jerusalem) and islands (Cyprus).