Friday, May 13th
Time: Session:
13:00-13:30 Registration / Tea and Coffee
14:00-14:30 Opening remarks

Esther Leslie, Lecturer in English and Humanities at Birkbeck and Acting Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

14:30-16:00 Keynote Speaker – Andy Merrifield (independent scholar)

Independent scholar, writer, social theorist and urban geographer. Author of numerous books, including most recently Magical Marxism (Pluto, 2011), John Berger (Reaktion, 2012), The Politics of the Encounter (University of Georgia Press, 2013), and The New Urban Question (Pluto, 2014). His latest work, The Amateur, is forthcoming with Verso.

“The Shadow Citizenry and the Right to the City”

In 1989, Henri Lefebvre said the right to the city is nothing more than a “revolutionary conception of citizenship.” He implied revolutionary citizenship is not really a right at all: it has to be taken not given, struggled for not rubber-stamped. Today’s revolutionary citizens are citizens without rights, disenfranchised urban citizens the world over, shadow citizens, we might call them, carriers of shadow passports. Shadow passports express an urban citizenship waiting in the wings, a solidarity haunting the mainstream, floating through frontiers, across designated checkpoints. For shadow passports holders, homeland securities and border control agencies know nothing about true identities; official maps rarely tell where to go: they’re useless in helping us find ourselves, in helping us discover one another. This talk will put a fresh spin on Lefebvre’s right to the city thesis and on the possibilities for participatory democracy

Discussant: Kate Maclean, Senior Lecturer in Social Geography and Director of Birkbeck Gender & Sexuality (BiGS).


16:00-17:30 Panel Session 1: Spatiality as a literary resource: topographies of memory

Silvina Alonso-Grosso: (lawyer; PhD student, Birkbeck) ‘The Ruins of a City: Spaces of Memory through Borges’ Narrative’.

Zeynep Harputlu (research associate, Siirt University, Turkey): ‘Ruins, Memory and Identity in Victorian London: “The Ruined Man” in Charles Dickens’ and George Gisings’ Fiction’.

Monalesia Earle (Post-Doc, Birkbeck): ‘Reading the Interstitial Body: Identity, Memory and Place in Queer Fiction’.

CHAIR: Senjuti Chakraborti, MPhil/PhD candidate, Birkbeck School of Arts/School of Law.

17:30-18:00 Drinks reception
18:15-20:30 Film Screening: Half Way, by Daisy-May Hudson. *

Synopsis: Half Way documents a family as they go through the emotional and physical anguish of becoming homeless and living ‘halfway’ between homes.

Daisy Hudson’s day to day filming of her family’s fight to retain their dignity as they wait for a new home from the council will give an audience a rare and direct insight into the struggles of homelessness and social housing.

100 hours of raw footage has been edited down to a feature length film with the intent to defy stereotypes and challenge taboos towards homelessness and ‘scrounge culture’ – from the perspective of those living through it.

Half Way is an honest, often humorous and moving first hand testimony. Not only does it offer a powerful personal story, but is representative of a widespread problem in the UK. The definition of “homelessness” is changing, once a term reserved for those on the fringes of society, it is now becoming an epidemic of the mainstream.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Daisy Hudson, in discussion with Phil Cohen

Q&A with director.

Discussant: Phil Cohen is Visiting Professor in Cultural Geography at Birkbeck College and Emeritus Professor in Cultural Studies at the University of East London, where he was the founder/director of the London East Research Institute. Co-founder and research director of Living Maps.

*This film screening and discussion has a separate registration link.


Saturday, May 14th
Time: Session:
9:30-10:00 Registration (for those attending Saturday only) and tea and coffee
10:00-11:30 Keynote Speaker – Heather White (University of Puget Sound)

Visiting assistant professor at the University of Puget Sound, with a joint appointment in the religion department and the gender and queer studies program. She is a specialist in American religious history, with a focus on religion and sexuality in the twentieth century. Author of Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights, (University of North Carolina Press) and  co-editor (with Bethany Moreton and Gill Frank) of a forthcoming anthology, titled Devotions and Desires: Religion and Sexuality in the Twentieth Century United States.

“The Right to Space: Ecclesial Spaces and Gay Politics in New York, 1969-1975”

This lecture examines the surprising relationships among New York gay activists and liberal Protestant churches during the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A number of urban congregations provided space to the growing gay movement, and I examine gay activists’ use of physical facilities supplied by Christian churches–institutions that those same activists often criticized as sexuality repressive. However, the church involvement came at an important movement—as gay activists worked to challenge the social and spatial hegemony of New York’s heavily policed gay bars but before the newer organizations had enough resources to buy or lease their own space. During this transitional time, churches hosted dances, public meetings, and other key events, thus facilitating the formation of a new kind of queer public space in which movement participants could claim and enact “out and proud” identities.

Discussant: Dominic Janes, Professor of Modern History at Keele University. 

11:30-13:00 Panel Session 2: Material culture and collective memory

Domingo Martinez Rosario (independent scholar, artist): ‘The Spectator’s Experiences of Time: Memory, History and Temporality in Counter-Monuments and Contemporary Artworks’.

Terrell Carver (professor, University of Bristol): ‘The People’s Pavements: Material Visuality and Communicative Genres in the Baldosas por la Memoria of Buenos Aires’.

CHAIR: Eva-Maria Lauenstein, PhD candidate English & Humanities, Birkbeck.

13:00-14:00 Lunch (provided)
14:00-15:30 Panel Session 3: Occupying the city: spaces of dissent and encounters

Carolina Amadeo (MSc student, Birkbeck): ‘Public Schools’ Occupations in São Paulo and the Reshaping of Relations of Belonging’.

Bernardo Gutiérrez (journalist, writer and researcher; Participation City Lab of MediaLab Prado (Madrid ‘s City Hall): ‘Party-movements, network parties and citizen overflows’.

Marco Venturi (PhD student, University College London): ‘Do We Still Need Soho? A Reflection on the District’s Past, Present and Future’.

CHAIR: Nick Beech, Lecturer in the History of London at Queen Mary, University of London.

15:30-16:00 Coffee Break (Nibbles, Tea and Coffee)
16:00-17.30 Roundtable Discussion: “Theory into practice”

Fernanda Pradal

Activist, member of the movement Ocupa DOPS in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ocupa DOPS is a campaign for the transformation of the building of the former political and social order department (DOPS) in Rio de Janeiro into a memory centre of resistance. Fernanda is a PhD candidate in Law at PUC-Rio and a visiting researcher at Université Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense.

Liam Harney

Leads the ‘E14 Expedition’, group of residents from one East London postcode working to identify and address issues around unemployment, crime and mental health. Liam is also a concluding his PhD in Human Geography at Queen Mary University.

 Ally Standing

Artist, currently working with photography to explore the urban environment. Although the work is particularly relevant to Birmingham – what remains of this modernist legacy – at this time of urban renewal and change, it speaks of the postmodern city in general, and could be understood in other places too.

Discussant and closing remarks: Melissa Butcher, Reader in Social and Cultural Geography in the Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies (GEDS), and Acting Director of BISR.

17:30-18:30 Join us for a glass of wine at The Marquis Cornwallis (31 Marchmont Street. WC1N 1AP)