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Cultural Geographies in Practice: Topographic Mixings: Images and Imaginations in London's Borough Market
journal contributionposted on 29.01.2013, 14:36 by Benjamin F. Coles
Introduction: The photo-essay that follows this introduction tells a story of Borough Market, a ‘fine’, ‘ethical’ and otherwise ‘alternative’ food market located near London Bridge. It is an account of place, a ‘place-writing’ – a kind of visual ‘topography’ – fashioned from a collection of photographs and words and assembled into a narrative of place and place making. As I position it here, topography is a methodological encounter with place that utilizes different types of theoretically and empirically informed writings, and more broadly, ‘texts’, to engage with place and place-making and to (re)present the interrelations between its ‘surfaces’ and ‘structures’. Its theoretical perspective is broadly, albeit cautiously, phenomenological in that it holds place and place-making as the ways in which humans construct reality and engage with the world. This perspective is tempered by a critical and reflexive position concerned the powers and politics of place and place-making, the roles that Geographers (and other practitioners) and Geography have in (re)producing and (re)presenting place and geographical knowledge. Empirically, this topography draws from the usual sources that otherwise inform qualitative research, such as participant observation, semistructured interviews, site-writing, archives, and documentary photography. It is crafted from the assembled output of these methods, the notes, the transcripts and the photographs, into a writing of place much in the same way as an ethnography is crafted into a writing of society or culture; it draws upon the same assembly of ‘fictions’ for its narrative, and, like ethnography, it is a methodology (rather than method) that blends the empirical with the theoretical in its framing, analysis and (re)presentation of social-spatial practice. Unlike ethnography, because topography is a (re)presentation of place and place-making, it is itself a spatial practice where place emerges through its writing, telling and its (re)presentation.