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Title: A Traveller's sense of place in the city
Author: Howarth, Anthony Leroyd
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 2599
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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It is widely assumed in both popular and scholarly imaginaries that Travellers, due to their 'nomadic mind-set' and non-sedentary uses of land, do not have a sense of place. This thesis presents an ethnographic account of an extra-legal camp in Southeast London, to argue that its Traveller inhabitants do have a sense of place, which is founded in the camp's environment and experientially significant sites throughout the city. The main suggestion is that the camp, its inhabitants, and their activities, along with significant parts of the city, are co-constitutionally involved in making a Travellers' sense of place. However, this is not self-contained or produced by them alone, as their place-making activities are embroiled in the political, economic and legal environment of the city. This includes the threat and implementation of eviction by a local council, the re-development of the camp's environs, and other manifestations of the spatial-temporalities of late-liberal urban regeneration. The thesis makes this argument through focusing on the ways that place is made, sensed, and lived by the camp's Traveller inhabitants. It builds on practice-based approaches to place, centred on the notion of dwelling, but also critically departs from previous uses of this notion by demonstrating that 'dwelling' can occur in an intensely politicised and insalubrious environment. Therefore, I consider dwelling in the context of the power asymmetries of place and urban precarity, as well as how it is crucial to making a home-in-the-world. Depicting a family fiercely and desperately striving to hold onto place in the time-space of the late-liberal city, a situation that affords them little promise of a future, the thesis destabilises established understandings and analysis of Travellers' experience, in a contemporary context. Chapter one considers how men's skilled activity, building materials and machinery are involved in creative acts of correspondence, which coalesce to make the camp a liveable place for its inhabitants. The central suggestion is that, through making and inhabiting the camp, it also comes to make and inhabit those involved in such activities. However, the family's ability to structure their own world, by building themselves a place to live, is contingent on a range of socio-political constraints that subject them to infrastructural violence. Chapter two turns from the camp's built environment to examine women's caregiving and home-making practices. It considers women's haptic involvements with their caravans, suggesting that these activities are not simply practices of creative homemaking but, due to the central role they play in raising families, they position women as world-formers. It also examines the ways that women's caregiving activities are intensified by the camp's insalubrious environmental conditions, and how these are involved in the unmaking of the family's matriarch. Chapter three considers the relationship between men's economic activity and the city. It draws correspondences between men's economic transactions with non-Travellers, and hunting, suggesting that each practice consists of the skilled capacity to procure resources from particular environments. Chapters four and five turn from Travellers' own place-making activities, to examine how a sense of place is produced from, and fractured by, the threat of eviction. In the first of these, I consider the role that state-administered documents, definitions and imaginaries play in shaping the spatial parameters of place for the Cashes. In the second I examine the ways that eviction, and the broader spatial-temporalities of late-liberal urban redevelopment, coalesce in the camp to produce a sense of place and time that is charged with affect and uncertainty.
Supervisor: Filippucci, Paola ; Okely, Judith Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Irish Travellers ; Gypsies ; Place-making ; Temporality ; Sense of Place ; Uncertainty ; Eviction ; The State ; Involvement ; Skillful Practice