The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr James Riding

NU Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT)

Background

I am a cultural geographer interested in finding new ways to creatively and critically narrate geographies of place, region, and landscape through oral history, ethnographic exploration and performative interventions in a variety of spaces. In my research I employ a range of methodological approaches and fieldwork techniques to describe regions, places and landscapes, and their inhabitants, drawing from performance studies, memory studies, and heritage studies, as well as poetry and literature. Much of the grounded fieldwork I have undertaken is located in estranged and difficult spaces such as former conflict zones and seeks to understand post-conflict societies through the writing of places and people, from the trenches of northern France to the once besieged city of Sarajevo.

I joined Newcastle University in September 2019 as NU Academic Track Fellow (NUAcT) in the Department of Geography and I have previously held postdoctoral positions at Tampere University (2016 - 2019 Academy of Finland RELATE Centre of Excellence) and the University of Sheffield (2013 - 2016 Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship). I gained my PhD from the University of Exeter in 2012 and I published an edited version of my thesis entitled Land Writings: Excursions in the Footprints of Edward Thomas in 2017. I am also the Reflections section editor (2017 - present) of the oldest Finnish geography journal Fennia - International Journal of Geography (published by the Geographical Society of Finland since 1889).

My recent articles (see Publications) deal with questions of trauma, memory, and nostalgia in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, exploring the post-socialist ethno-nationalist politics of the state, cultural heritage and memorial sites, spaces of activism and resistance, and the everyday spaces of the post-conflict city. These grounded articles relate to an experiment in ethnographic place-writing recently published by ibidem-Verlag called The Geopolitics of Memory: A Journey to Bosnia (2019), a documentary called Bridges <Bosnia 20> and an edited book published by Routledge called Reanimating Regions: Culture, Politics, and Performance (2017) which reanimated the study of regions in geography.

Please get in touch if you are interested in pursuing PhD research on the politics and geography of memory; nostalgia in post-socialist states; creative and cultural geographies of landscape and place; ethnographic and animated studies of regions; and transitional justice and reconciliation in post-conflict states.

Please also get in touch if you are interested in publishing a commentary, intervention, or short essay in the Reflections section of Fennia - International Journal of Geography and/or if you have an idea for a special issue related to contemporary geographical issues.


Research

My research focuses on questions of trauma, memory, and nostalgia in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina; creative, embodied and artistic explorations of place, landscape, and region; and the geopolitics of activism and resistance in post-socialist former Yugoslavia.

My current project is called The Former State Project: Nostalgia, Resistance, and Spatial Emancipation in Post-Yugoslav Space. It asks a simple question: in what ways, how and why, does a former state endure in the public consciousness? The symbolic power of Yugoslavia to shape politics and nation building in the new post-conflict, post-socialist successor states of the former Yugoslavia is well known, yet a critical examination of the former state in the present, is absent. Investigating the former state in the present, this project will build upon critical analyses of post-conflict, post-socialist economic, social, and political transformation in the western Balkans, which have begun to recognise and describe the deeply unequal societies and oligarchical democracies that emerged after the collapse of a socialist Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Yugoslavia remains today a feature on the world historical map and it is still remembered and mobilized in different ways by former citizens. The first objective of this project is to build a theoretical and methodological approach, which on the one hand considers the deeply unequal present-day social and political conditions in post-Yugoslav space, and on the other hand remembers a socialist Yugoslavia, analyzing the phenomenon of Yugo-nostalgia. The second objective is to develop a common language of struggle across post-Yugoslav space, alongside citizens involved in new radically democratic social and political movements. The third objective is to study the socialist spaces present in post-Yugoslav space, such as practices, institutions and material heritage. Working at the interface between the social sciences and the arts and humanities, this project will use a multi-sited ethnographic approach to study these objectives, incorporating site-specific observation, film and photography, interviews and oral history, focus groups and archival research, following and performing stories of the former Yugoslavia. The project will seek to create new knowledge of post-Yugoslav space, consider how co-existing narratives of the past are accommodated, and contribute to cultural dialogue, mutual understanding and enhanced inter-comprehension between Yugoslavia’s successor states.

Related to this is a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant 2019/2020 funded through the Elisabeth Barker Fund – research in the field of recent European history, particularly the history of central and eastern Europe – called The Former State Project: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. What remains of a former state? To answer this question, a geographer, filmmaker and poet follow the route of a six-week ethnographic journey taken in 1937 by British author Rebecca West (1892–1983) through Yugoslavia. Following West's thousand-page travel-book Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941) our aim is to document what remains of Yugoslavia, creating the first film about West and a travel-guide to a country that no longer exists. This project arrives at a time when Yugoslavia remains within living memory and it captures small details and intimate memories of the former state before they are lost. Yugoslavia is remembered differently across the territorial space of the former state and this project provides a comparative study of the seven new states that stand where Yugoslavia once stood. Employing a multi-media, multi-disciplinary approach in the region, it performs a novel yet critical engagement with the geo-humanities and the new mobilities paradigm.

To complement the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant 2019/2020 we received a GeoHumanities Variations on Mobility Creative Commission (2019 - 2020) to create a short film about journeys to Yugoslav monuments built after WWII documenting their form through poetry.

My previous research funded by the Leverhulme Trust [ECF 2013-638] called New Regional Geographies (For Sarajevo) led to a number of academic and creative outputs which are built upon in my current project and this varied work can be found under Publications.


 

 

 

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

GEO1015 Human Geographies of the UK

GEO2103 Development and Globalisation

GEO3102 Geopolitics

PhD Supervision

Haris Husarić (Cultural Landscapes of Post-Socialism: Materiality and Meaning of Work and its Absence)

Publications