Forthcoming, A new Book: MATERIAL DREAMS:maps and territories in the un/making of modernity (New Title)



MATERIAL DREAMS : Maps and Territories in the un/making of Modernity

The book takes the reader on a journey into the intellectual borderlands of the human sciences. Starting  from Korzybski’s famous dictum that the map is not the territory it develops a critique of both sociological realism and poststructuralism as accounts of  their articulation. Moving from the history of cartography to  autobiography and ethnography, Material Dreams argues for an alternative epistemology, underpinning a method of interdisciplinary research which can get to grips with the deeper, more unconscious ways in which individuals and groups   map and make sense of the world   while staying closely in touch with the material histories of  the specific cultures and communities  to which they belong.

In the second part of the book  this approach is applied to  studies of cultures which exist in the interstitial spaces  between official maps drawn by panoptic social science or political governance and  the territories of what Freud called the ‘other scene’: the uncannily familiar and the uncommonly strange. This is where the other class, other ‘race’, other gender, all those ‘on the other side of the tracks’ live, haunt and sometimes disrupt the dominant common sense, becoming objects of public fear and fascination on the way. It is also where academic orthodoxies  and rationalist pedagogies of Enlightenment fear to tread.

Chapters deal with the hidden history of masculinity and manual labour; contemporary cultures of working-class childhood and youth; landscapes of ruin and the depiction of war; and  the processes of urban fabrication set in motion by the Olympics . Across these various instances a story is told about how the unfamiliar, the uncommon, and the unknown not only unsettle the fictive concord between map and territory  but  give material dreams of prosperity, progress  and  social peace  their  purchase on the sociological imagination of modernity. The implications of this  analysis for re-grounding   critical theories  in the everyday practice of  democratic politics  are drawn out, drawing on examples from the authors own  work  over twenty years  in the schools and neighbourhoods of the working class  city.


Introduction:  The eclipse of Modernity or why the map is not the territory

In which we review recent debates on modernity in relation to the changing landscape of class, gender, generation and ‘race’ in Britain and   suggest why  the spatial turn in the human sciences is connected to a pervasive loss of trust in our ability to  map the past, the present and the future.

Part I: Maps 

Chapter One: On  Navigating the Uncanny

In which  we explore the quest for modernity through  the history of cartography, from Mercators  projection to Google Earth, examine some recent attempts to  valorise locally situated knowledge in and against the globalised space of  networks and flows and ponder the fascination of the Uncanny in the age of the sat nav.

Chapter Two :  Dwelling places: Some reflections on the Origins of Narrativity

In which  we  consider  what memoirs  have to teach us about the  nature of story telling and its relation to  a more hidden curriculum vitae and consider different grammars of autobiography  as strategies for re-locating the self in a world whose borders are continually shifting.

Chapter Three: Showing, Telling and Getting Real: The Politics and Poetics of Ethnography

In which  we  consider some of the problems of method which arise when we try to understand  cultures   as maps rather than territories  and  explain why ethnographers  need a theory of mimesis and masquerade   to get real with the worlds they explore.

Chapter Four: Thinking Places : On  Disciplines in Dialogue

In which we explore   changing regimes of scholarship  in the age of the knowledge economy by way of very short histories of the library, the study and the laboratory and  engage contemporary  Academic  debate on social epistemology and  inter-disciplinarity by imagining what a ‘university of the third space’ might look like.

Part II: Territories

Chapter Five: There Goes the Labourhood: Hidden Formations of Masculinity and Manual Labour from Pre- to Post-Industrial Capitalism

In which we explore  a terror incognita of  labour history,  discover that  the English working class  has two bodies, one with a white skin and the other wearing a black mask,  meet mummers, miners and sweeps,  find out whatever happened to  manual   culture  and why  Bob the Builder can’t fix  it.

Chapter Six: The Playgrounds of Prejudice and Other Tales out of School

In which we  see what happens when critical ethnography hits the streets of the working class city,  following  in the tracks of  young people in east London as they tell more or less tall stories which variously magnify  issues of  ‘race’ and ethnicity or cut them down  to size    but either way show  why the rhetoric of  multiculturalism is as bankrupt as ‘community cohesion’  when it comes to understanding what is at stake in their lives.

Chapter Seven: Landscape after Ruins: Prospects of War and the Unconscious Refuge

In which the reader  is taken on a journey to the dark side of the moon, visits  scenes of danger and devastation in the company of landscape painters and photographers  committed to the sublime or  the picturesque,  sits in on a child therapy session at the Hampstead  War Nursery and ends up at the Acropolis with Freud   to find out  what this  archaeologist of  the fractured psyche    did not see amidst the ruins.

Chapter Eight   Material Dreams : adventures  in a post- Olympic City

In which the reader accompanies the author as he digs beneath the surface of the Olympic Dream and discovers the avatars of modernity in the process of urban fabrication taking place in London East 20.


Glossary and Further Reading

To be published by Palgrave Macmillan in the  Autumn of 2014