Magna Carta Today? By Marjorie Mayo

2845315725_002Whilst the government was marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta with a lavish, £1,750-a-ticket jamboree of corporate lawyers in Westminster, justice campaigners were gathering outside Parliament. Magna Carta promised that ‘to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny .. justice’, enshrining the principle of access to justice as a fundamental right – one law for the rich and for the poor alike. And this is precisely why protesters were gathering in Westminster – to protest at the government’s restrictions on access to justice, with particular impacts on the poorest and most disadvantaged, as a result of drastic cuts to legal aid.

CUCR’s latest publication, ‘Magna Carta today: What would a progressive government need to do, to ensure access to justice for social welfare in the twenty first century’ – produced in partnership with Unite the Union – sets out the arguments against the government’s so called ‘reforms’, together with proposals for a National Strategy to ensure access to justice for all, regardless of income. The pamphlet is being launched with Sadiq Khan, Shadow secretary of State for Justice, in the House of Commons on 11th March.

For more information and access to a copy of the pamphlet please contact: Marj Mayo:

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Marjorie Mayo is Emeritus Professor of Community Development at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her publications include ‘Access to Justice in Disadvantaged Communities’ with G. Koessl, I. Slater and M. Scott, 2014.

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New Developments in London: Selling More Than Buildings? by Stefanie Lai

Coming from Hong Kong, advertising and publicity for property developments generically emphasizes the quality and luxuriousness of their buildings. However in London lately I have observed some hoardings and billboards that are a little left-field. In the past year I have collected a number of photos that are amusing, thought-provoking or even disturbing.

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The ‘White Collar Factory’ being built just off Silicone Roundabout at Old Street conjures Orwellian nightmare images of young men in beards, skinny trousers and narrow ties sitting at rows of desks in an open-plan office.

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Located on Bishopsgate between Liverpool Street Station and Shoreditch High Street, the entire hoarding reads ‘The Un-Square Mile’, referencing both the expansion of the City, and the hip-ness of Shoreditch, which is just around the corner. The idea that a building can be creative and flexible is again buying into the trend for open-plan working and other flexible strategies such as hot-desking and sharing works spaces.

photo 3

The design and name of Spark Apartments on New Cross Road suggests affordability and ‘budget’, which makes sense in the current debates around the lack of affordable housing London, and criticism that new developments target rich investors and price out new property owners. However, it may be step too far to visually associate what will be the single most expensive purchase most people will make with toys, plastic, bright colours and mass-production.

photo 5

The blurb reads: ‘The Crown Estate and Oxford Properties are reinstating St James’s Market as a defining part of the area. With over 280,000 square feet of office, shops and restaurants centred around a new public square, soon global businesses and flagship retail will begin to define this part of St James’.

This is perhaps the most generic of developers’ messages in this review, making no pretence that the development is targeted at the most affluent businesses and individuals. It is regrettable however that the mention of a ‘public square’ immediately raises questions about how public this will truly be. And while Piccadilly Circus and Regent’s Street have already been colonised completely by global brands and chain stores, it is sad to think that this development that claims to be a ‘defining part of the area’ will house stores that already exist in one iteration or the other elsewhere , representing another nail in the coffin of high streets that are becoming increasingly homogenous, and a Central London that only caters to tourists and well-heeled locals.

It is unsurprising that developers are trying to adopt and use the language of societal trend and issues. However I find it disturbing that seemingly innocent advertising so squarely puts its finger on and seeks to profit from issues that are damaging to our society.

The type of work alluded to in the first two pictures might often be thought of as ‘bullshit jobs’i—work that is perceived as ultimately pointless in a wider context, most notably roles in consultancy services where neither concrete goods are produced nor are services provided seen as benefitting people or society. There is also research that open plan offices, far from encouraging communication and collaborative working, were actually negatively impacting creativity, productivity and satisfactionii. Flexible work also means freelancing and zero-hour contracts, which leaves workers with very little protection or stability.

High property prices make both the residents and businesses in London more generic as increasing numbers of people and businesses are priced out.

If property developers are able to put a positive spin on these messages, making them seem like everyday facts of life that one might be able to make a profit from, then they are not just changing the city’s physical environment, they are also changing the way that we perceive and think about spaces and issues in the city.

Stefanie Lai is currently a student in the MA World Cities and Urban Life. She has lived in Hong Kong and London, is interested in mobilities, especially cycling and walking in the city, and has recently been experimenting with photography.

i ‘On the phenomenon of bullshit jobs’,

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Book Launch. Video Methods : Social Science Research in Motion edited by Charlotte Bates


To celebrate the launch of Video Methods: Social Science Research in Motion edited by Charlotte Bates (Routledge 2015), Phillip Vannini will be talking about making Life Off Grid, a film about people who have chosen to build their lives around renewable energy, with beautiful, inspiring, and often challenging results.

Date : Wednesday 25 March,4-6pm

Place : LG01, Professor Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths, University of London

Phillip Vannini is Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography and Professor in the School of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University in Victoria, Canada. He is author/editor of ten books, including Off the Grid: Re-Assembling Domestic Life (Routledge 2014), Ferry Tales: Mobility, Place, and Time on Canada’s West Coast (Routledge 2012), and Popularizing Research: Engaging New Media, New Genres, New Audiences (Peter Lang 2012).

For further information contact Dr Charlotte Bates

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The Transformation of Urban Dynamics – A Conversation

Professor Caroline Knowles and Angelo Martins Junior hosted a conversation with Thais Brito at CUCR, Goldsmiths London.


Thais is the Co-ordinador at the MESCLAS Research Group – (Memória, Espaço e Culturas) and at the Heritage Educational Program at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB -Brazil), where she is Professor at the department of Culture, Arts and Technologies.

She as a researcher at Coletivo ASA research group (Arts, Knowleges and Anthropology- university of São Paulo) and holds a Doctorate in Social Anthropology at the State University of São Paulo  (USP – Brazil).


She has worked on different projects related to sociability, aesthetic experiences, material culture, heritage and traditional artisans ‘work and currently researches the transformations of urban dynamics connected to heritage, communitarian spaces and immaterial culture.

For more information :

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Lecture : For a Sociological Reconstruction WEB Du Bois, Stuart Hall and Segregated Sociology by Les Back

Date : Weds 4th Feb

Time ; 5-6pm

Location : University of Warwick, Social Studies Building So.21

Les Back is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths College London.

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Research Seminar : Neighbourhoods as Arenas of Conflict in the Neoliberal City by Maria-Luisa Mendez

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Date : Tuesday 3rd February

Time : 3-5pm

Location : Goldsmiths College, PSH 314

Dr Mendez will present a paper which will focus on middle class politics in areas that have been recently declared as “heritage neighbourhoods” in Chile.

My argument in this paper is that, although these middle class residential politics involve strong institutional, symbolic, social and spatial boundary work, they do this while also expressing what they consider are more inclusive political views. This case shows how space is produced under times of change. These claims illustrate that it is possible to develop a rhetoric of justification that expresses both awareness of neoliberal residential politics and the desire for relatively exclusive spaces: they are actually not rejecting less privileged people, they are actually confronting a neoliberal urban massacre. Thus, when confronting urban transformation, these residents’ rhetoric on neighborhoods provides critiques to privatization and neoliberalism, by recapturing a pre-neoliberal reforms period and neighborhood sociability. Notwithstanding that, however, inequalities are still embedded in claims to place making and belonging. In this case, inevitably, belonging is a matter of rejecting the “aspiracional”, the emergent, the “neoliberal” new middle classes in Chile. 

Finally, by addressing the relationship of the middle classes to territory and their place in relation to the contemporary city (Butler and Robson, 2003; Bridge, Butler and Lees, 2012; Zukin, 2010; Low, 2003; Savage et al, 2005; Brown-Saracino, 2009), this paper focuses on questions regarding the ways in which we currently understand different middle class neighborhoods in terms of intra and inter class distinctions, and the local politics and practices involved in those distinctions.

María Luisa Méndez is a research fellow in sociology at Universidad Diego Portales and Principal Investigator at the Center for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies, COES. Her research focuses on the study of the middle classes in Latin America from the perspective of urban and cultural sociology, and particularly explores processes of inequality reproduction and social conflict.

For more information contact Dr Michaela Benson.

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The Gaze on Agbogbloshie: The misrepresentation of West Africa as Dystopia by Heather Agyepong

Heather_Agyepong_17 One man's trash One man's trash One man's trash One man's trash  One man's trash

This project intends to explore the misrepresentation of Agbogbloshie and the resulting socio-economic reality. Agbogbloshie is portrayed as the continent’s largest electrical wasteland; in truth it is a functional, profit-making recycling network. The conditions are harsh and pollution is rife but its inhabitants manage to live, work and save money for their families. In the last decade, Agbogbloshie has received an influx of western media attention depicting the displaced African as an aesthetic. The area receives regular visits from European journalists, academic researchers and photographers who frame their works according to a historical distortion of the African identity. The young boys who reside on the site are the most exploited group in the informal hierarchy of the recyclers. Images, interviews and even blood samples have been obtained in exchange for help. However, the majority of these researchers do not return or contact the boys after the data has been collected. The alienation felt by the boys is cultivated through these researchers who present the cultural baggage of European idealism within their projects. Through an inquest of interviews, visual methodology and fieldwork, this exposition has attempted to challenge these misrepresentations. The western gaze, that which perpetuates the archetype of Agbogbloshie as a dystopia, has overridden the ethics of planned obsolescence embedded in digital commodities. The work intends to exaggerate these discrepancies creating an embellishment of the visual aesthetic whilst confronting our obsession with African poverty.

​Heather Agyepong is a recent graduate from the MA in Photography & Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths College, London.

She is currently living and working in London within the realm of visual sociology.

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