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.


Whether we are key workers in the front line, or locked down in the back yards,  whatever our medical or economic status,   we are  all caught up in the complicated epidemiological  eco-system that is Covid-19.  We are also facing an infodemic of public  commentary and analysis , no doubt soon to be followed by an avalanche of movies, novels and memoirs. The pandemic is already providing grist to many academic mills.

 If you read the two texts I have written on the subject you will see that I am interested in what might be called the pandemic’s ‘other scene’, the impact that it is having on our inner worlds, and in particular  our dream life. Using the approach of  ‘social dreaming’ developed by some social psychologists I would like to collect dreams that people are having at the current time and which they think might be directly or indirectly influenced by the experience of living through this pandemic. These two texts are Political Mindfulness: Fresh Perspectives On Multiple Crises’ and There Must Be Some Way Out Of Here.

All you need to do is to keep a dream book over a number of weeks and then send me some or all of the dreams you record. If you want to add your associations to the dream content, then please do so. But you don’t have to. It is   up to you. Complete confidentiality is guaranteed and in the event that I wanted to quote one of your dream texts in anything I wrote  I will contact you for permission first.

All you have to do to take part is use the contact form below. Look forward to hearing from you.  Phil.      

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

Phil now has a Wikipedia entry!  Click here to view it.

My New Book!

We are living through disturbed and disturbing times in which the maps drawn by political scientists no longer make sense of what is happening on the ground. Against this background the propagandists of neo-liberal individualism urge us to cultivate ‘resilience’ and ‘mindfulness’ as a way of seizing and surviving the present moment. Mindfulness in particular has been popularised as a way of promoting well-being by enabling people suffering from anxiety or depression to become more aware of internal mental states and their relation to external circumstances.

But what if this concept is applied not just to the adaptive strategies of an individual psyche but to the state of health of the body politic? It might then help us focus more precisely on how the stresses and strains of our everyday lives are connected to the social structures we inhabit. It might, for example, help us understand more concretely how issues, of race, gender, generation and class shape the most intimate registers of our being in the world.

From this starting point, the book charts a journey, at once intellectual andexistential, across the fault lines of our conflicted society and divided selves.It brings together writings occasioned by recent political and personalevents in an attempt to grasp their inter-connection in what is flashing pastbefore it disappears into a fog of reminiscence or rhetoric. Many of the pieces collected here are this kind of auto-ethnographic reportage. Others, more essayistic in form, step back to think more strategically about some of the deeper processes at work in our increasingly uncivil society.

Click here to read the book announcement.

They book is available from Eyeglass Books.

My Previous Book

Postcards to Grandad – A Family Romance

In this prose poem Phil Cohen explores the ‘other scenes’ of his family history, the stories he was not told about where he came from. Many of them were about the mysterious, and in his eyes romantic figure of his father’s father, a Jewish revolutionary from Vitebsk who emigrated to live in the Glasgow Gorbals during the period of Red Clydeside before and after the First World War.

The narrative draws on elements of this family romance, supplemented by what was later learnt about the grandfather’s actual life, and meshed in with aspects of the author’s own biography. Through this interleaving of stories in which elements of fact andfantasy become merged, Cohen sets out to examine his complicated heritage as a ‘Mischling’.

The text is accompanied by a scattering of graphics from John Wallett. These are not illustrations so much as typo/graphical asides upon the narrative themes, supplementaries with a skew of meaning in their own right.

‘Postcards to Grandad is a bold experiment in what happens when a writer and an artist from different backgrounds combine creative forces to tell the story of a diasporic journey across generations and cultures, in which recurrent elements of tragedy and farce interact with the contingencies of shifting places and times.‘

ISBN: 978-1-9164719-2-4 Price: £8
Published by eyeglass books, April 2019
Web site: www.eyeglassbooks.com
Order direct from Eyeglass Books 

Read more about the book at: Postcards to Grandad – a Family Romance

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).