Welcome to My Website

This web site contains a selection of past and present writings, supported by picture galleries, videos and other material generated by my research. I am an urban ethnographer by trade and have worked mostly with young people and communities in East London, charting the impact of structural and demographic change on their everyday experience, and the stories they tell about the past, present and future of this area. My work draws on concepts and methods from a range of approaches in the human sciences, including anthropology, actor-network theory, psychoanalysis, narratology and cultural geography.  I have always been concerned to relate my 
research to educational and political issues, and to create a dialogic framework for the research process.

The site is organised into the following sections as listed in the navigation bar above.

New material will be added on a regular basis to each of these sections and through my blog I  also hope to comment from time to time on  cultural and political issues of the day.

Phil Cohen
London and Wivenhoe

Please feel free to contact me using this link or the link above.

Rethinking the Legacy 1968 – New!

Phil presented plenary talks at this session which brought together different generations of writers, researchers and activists to consider the political and cultural legacies of 1968, and their bearing on the future prospects for a more democratic, equal and participatory society.  For more information and to see his talks, click here.

My New Book!

Archive That, Comrade!

The book explores issues of archival theory and practice that arise for any project aspiring to provide an open access platform for political dialogue and democratic debate. It is informed by the author’s experience of writing a memoir about his involvement in the London “underground” scene of the 1960s, the London street commune movement, and the occupation of 144 Piccadilly, an event that hit the world’s headlines for ten days in July 1969.

After a brief introduction that sets the contemporary scene of “archive fever,” the book considers the political legacy of 1960s counterculture for what it reveals about the process of commemoration. The argument then opens out to discuss the notion of historical legacy and its role in “the dialectic of generations.” How far can the archive serve as a platform for dialogue and debate between different generations of activists in a culture that fetishizes the evanescent present, practices a profound amnesia about its counterfactual past, and forecloses the sociological imagination of an alternative future? The following section looks at the emergence of a complex apparatus of public fame and celebrity around the spectacle of dissidence and considers how far the Left has subverted or merely mirrored the dominant forms of reputation making and public recognition. Can the Left establish its own autonomous model of commemoration?

KPFA Interview Phil with Sasha Lilley 2018-08-15

PM Press/Kairos Paperback  : 198pp  $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-62963-506-4

Also available at Amazon: Archive That, Comrade!

Read more about the book at: Archive That, Comrade! Web Page

Phil will be in Australia to promote the book.  For more info, click here.

Archive that Comrade! Left Memory Politics, Toxic Fame and the Populist Archive


‘Don’t mourn- organise’ was a favoured campaign slogan of the old Left, part of its commitment to struggles of long duration against social injustice and a belief in the ultimate triumph of socialism. The past was only useful and remembered, in so far as it contributed lessons for the future. With the advent of identity politics, the importance of memory work, of recording and celebrating hitherto hidden and ignored life histories, has been transvalued as a resource along with a nostalgic tendency in some quarters to mourn the ‘world we have lost’ where working class culture, tied to the labour movement, was a major and progressive political force. 

But are the do-it-yourself archival practices of the me-too generation really an effective tool for building a shared sense of culture and community in which feelings of anger and loss can be addressed, so that grief does not have to be sublimated in grievance? How successful has the New Left been in challenging the multi-media apparatus of Fame and Celebrity which has come to dominate the politics of public commemoration? How far can the rise of the Populist Archive designed to communicate ‘positive images’ of maligned minorities, be seen as a response both to the death of the Collective Hero, and as a reaction against the competitive individualism promoted by the Fame Academy? 

In this talk I will address these questions by looking at some recent controversies surrounding public memorials , monuments and archives in both the UK and USA and by arguing for an alternative democratic politics of the archive.



October 16 6-8pm  IAS Talking Points Seminar : Towards a Citizen’s Atlas of London

Venue:IAS Common Ground  Ground Floor, South Wing, UCL London

WC1E 6BT  The event is free but you need to reserve a place : https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ias-talking-points-towards-a-citizens-atlas-of-london-tickets-49738857261


October 29 2-4pm Lecture  ‘Left memory politics, toxic fame  and the Populist Archive’  Room 341 New Social Science Building University of Sydney Free . To book: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/archive-that-comrade-tickets-48052234527   Further information:  greg.martin@sydney.edu.au

November 1stSeminar  Coming of Age stories  Female Orphan School Building James Ruse Drive Paramatta Campus University of Western Sydney.   Further information:  Stephen.Healey@westernsydney.edu.au


November 5th 1pm Skin in the Game? Some reflections on the role of organic individuals and the Dissenting Academy, Linkway Room, John Medley. Read the flyer here.

November 5th  6pm   Archive that,Comrade  book launch 6:00 PM – 7:30  Bon Ap’ Petit Bistro 193 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, VIC 3065  Further information: George.morgan@westernsydney.edu.au

November 8th 4pm Lecture Coming of age stories:now and then. University of Melbourne. Further information: da.woodman@unimelb.ed.au. Read the flyer here.

I would like to acknowledge those who have been essential to the creation of this website:  Norman Dallura (Dallura Web Design), Donald Nicholson Smith (editorial consultant)  and Jane Mullins (copy editing).