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.

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).