RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


184 Cultural Geologies: Working with stone in the geological turn
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Rose Ferraby (University of Exeter)
David Anthony Paton (University of Exeter, UK)
Chair(s) Rose Ferraby (University of Exeter)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Session abstract This session will explore the emerging field of cultural geology (Ferraby 2015; Paton 2015; Romanillos, under review). Developing from studies of the crafting and industrialised working of stone, the cultural geological perspective offers new ways of thinking about our relationship with the land and its substructures. Arising from attention to the specific trades, skills and knowledges that form within and in relation to distinct geologies, our understanding of human culture becomes entangled in the material lifeworlds of other species, and the liveliness of all matter. Stories of people and stone weave through the land on a temporal scale that is at once vast, yet resolutely intimate and bound to individual lives. In this way, cultural geology offers a serious point of discussion — a grounded model around which to debate the Anthropocene and the nature of humanity’s relationship to the matters of the earth.
This session encourages creative, multi-disciplinary approaches to the exploration and investigation of cultural geology. We welcome the involvement of scholars working between disciplines, and encourage discussion and practical presentation of different modes of working with stone and the geological.

Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Material Entanglements: Building Stone, Cities and Quarries
Tim Edensor (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
As John Urry contends, cities are 'economically, politically and culturally produced through multiple networked mobilities of capital, persons, objects, signs and information' (2006: ix).This paper focuses upon the materialities that circulate between cities and multiple other places, by focusing upon building stone in the city of Manchester. The material elements that constitute cities are always in a process of becoming, a process that also applies to stone despite its seeming durability. As such, where repair fails or is insufficient to remediate ruined stone, if a decision has been made to preserve a building, new material is required to restore its integrity. In Manchester, where many central buildings are clad in stone, a swirl of multiple, situated agencies continuously threatens their coherence. Since many of these building are composed out of stone from now disused and defunct quarries, new replacement supplies need to be sourced. Through this process, further layers of historical matter are laid that add to the urban composition. This myriad materiality underlines how cities are ceaselessly (re)constituted out of their connections with other places and how the fate of these sites of supply are also entangled with this ceaseless urban recomposition. I will exemplify these spatial and historical entanglements by looking at three buildings in central Manchester, and investigate how the volatile demand for replacement stone has impacted upon the fate of the various quarries that formerly supplied this material.

Noticing stone in the dark: narrating past, place and materiality in an abandoned subterranean quarry
Luke Bennett (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
This paper will explore the ways in which meaning is brought to a quarried void in southern England. Until its closure in the 1920s the site had been a source of fine building stone for over 2,000 years, that rock quarried in turn by Romans, Anglo Saxons, Normans and subsequent generations. The site is now a small scale tourist attraction, with enthusiastic local guides taking visitors below ground and into the emptiness of the evacuated strata. According to a guide's deft narration of the pasts of this site this place is rich with history and yet it is also a place at which there is nothing to see. This is a tour of a void, the only meaning here is that cast into this stone-framed emptiness by the interpreters of this place. This presentation will examine the narrative and performative practices by which a sense of the labour and lives once lived here are summoned, and also how a sense of the materiality of this place is necessarily also framed and presented. In doing so the analysis will consider – after Samuel (1977) and Strangleman (2013) - the motivations of post-industrial homage at sites of former (hard) labour, and the sense in which historical-materialist and neo-materialist (and posthuman) accounts of the physicality of our world and our relationship to it collide in such places.

Stone Films
Rose Ferraby (University of Exeter)
David Anthony Paton (University of Exeter, UK)
Iconoclasm and the racial politics of rocks and stones
Ben Pitcher (University of Westminster, UK)
Recent interdisciplinary work on 'the Anthropocene' has brought about ways of rethinking the relationships between human and non-human phenomena. Providing a ground for the belated recognition that 'the racial is not a natural category' (Goldberg, 2015: 103), anthropocenic approaches to race allow us to think through a new set of scales, rhythms and temporalities. The objective of this paper is to explore what an engagement with geological artefacts can teach us about the way we think about race in the contemporary world. Inverting the diverse claims that culture makes over rocks and stones in practices of racial formation, this paper sets out to give voice to lithic material as a more-than-human agency in the politics of race, exploring its potential to challenge and reconfigure our understanding of culture and identity.
In particular, this paper will centre on the recent iconoclastic defacement and destruction of ancient stone artefacts by representatives of ISIL in Northern Iraq. Acknowledging the power such practices have in reinforcing racialized and 'civilizational' distinctions between (Islamophobic) 'Western' and (Islamist) 'Islamic' positions, it elaborates a materialist phenomenology that troubles such geopolitical border-work. Iconoclasm facilitates a radically transformative engagement with ancient artefacts, opening them up to fresh human and posthuman temporalities. Such anthropocenic perspectives provide wider opportunities to reflect on the role, status and potential of rocks and stones as repositories of race, identity and difference.