Shelf life: Laura Vaughan

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

What sort of books in­spired you as a child?

E. L. Konigs­burg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler struck me as a safe sort of ur­ban ad­ven­ture, one that en­tails run­ning away from the New York sub­urbs to the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art. In my teens, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brook­lyn shaped my early in­ter­est in poverty, re­li­gion and the city.

Your new book, ‘Map­ping So­ci­ety’, ex­am­ines ‘the so­cial com­plex­ity of cities’. Which books first trig­gered your in­ter­est in this topic?

My ini­tial in­ter­est in so­cial maps came from Bill Hillier and Juli­enne Han­son’s the­o­ries of space syn­tax, laid out in The So­cial Logic of Space, which I first en­coun­tered in the 1990s. Around that time I also dis­cov­ered the map of “Jewish East Lon­don” within the leaves of The Jew in Lon­don. The book cap­tured the pat­tern of Jewish set­tle­ment at the time in graphic de­tail. The map’s au­thor, Ge­orge Arkell, had worked with Charles Booth on Life and Labour of the Peo­ple in Lon­don. I soon re­alised that Lon­don’s East End, which had been per­ceived to be an im­mi­grant ghetto, had a spa­tial com­plex­ity that war­ranted de­tailed ex­plo­ration; 25 years later, I am still min­ing the riches of its ur­ban spa­tial his­tory.

Which the­o­ret­i­cal works did you find most use­ful for your anal­y­sis?

Robin Evans’ Rook­eries and Model Dwellings in­flu­enced a lot of my early think­ing, while so­cial his­to­ries by Bill Fish­man ( East End 1888) and H. J. Dyos ( The Vic­to­rian City), and the more re­cent his­tor­i­cal ge­og­ra­phy of Cities in Moder­nity by Richard Dennis, showed me a way to re­search so­cial car­tog­ra­phy through the prism of a lo­cale’s phys­i­cal, cul­tural and eco­nomic con­text. David Si­b­ley’s Ge­ogra­phies of Ex­clu­sion and the work of Ceri Peach on the ge­og­ra­phy of eth­nic plu­ral­ism spurred me to an­a­lyse the spa­tial com­plex­ity of seg­re­ga­tion.

What gen­eral ac­counts would you rec­om­mend about the his­tory of map­ping?

Great Maps by Jerry Brot­ton is a good il­lus­trated in­tro­duc­tion. Peter Barber’s Lon­don: A His­tory in Maps gives a sim­i­larly long mapped his­tory of the city. Re­gard­ing so­cial car­tog­ra­phy, I’d rec­om­mend The Ghost Map, an ac­count of the 1854 cholera epi­demic and the es­tab­lish­ment of dis­ease map­ping as a sci­en­tific method. I must also men­tion The His­tory of Car­tog­ra­phy, much of which has been made avail­able open ac­cess by Univer­sity of Chicago Press.

What is the last book you gave as a gift, and to whom?

I’m fas­ci­nated by how im­mi­grants bal­ance mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties, so beau­ti­fully de­scribed by Eva Hoff­man in Lost in Trans­la­tion. The last book I gave as a gift was The Ex­iles Re­turn by Elis­a­beth de Waal, to a rel­a­tive who came to Eng­land as a child refugee.

What books do you have on your desk wait­ing to be read?

A Walk Through Paris by Eric Hazan, which de­scribes a route be­tween the city’s north­ern and south­ern ban­lieues through its work­ing-class ter­ri­to­ries, and Mu­nic­i­pal Dreams by John Boughton, a his­tory of coun­cil hous­ing in Bri­tain.

Laura Vaughan is pro­fes­sor of ur­ban form and so­ci­ety in the Bartlett School of Ar­chi­tec­ture, Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don. Her lat­est book is Map­ping So­ci­ety: The Spa­tial Di­men­sions of So­cial Car­tog­ra­phy (open ac­cess with UCL Press).

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