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!

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 eyeglassbooks 

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


My Previous 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?

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).