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Accepted Papers:

The Guided walk as medium for contesting social values  


Catherine Harrington (University of Westminster)

Paper Short Abstract:

This case study examines how a guided walk, with its sequence of stories presented from the past and the present day can be choreographed with examining urban landmarks whilst walking through streets in London to provoke a reconsideration of accepted cultural values and norms.

Paper long abstract:

Guided walks offer a sociable learning setting where multiple layers of social / cultural issues can be presented to participants, to convey complex and unexpected interpretations of our cities' histories. A guided walk around the perimeter of Lincoln's Inn Fields is presented as a case study, to investigate how story telling in an experiential setting can be a powerful presentation medium for learning about the city, and for raising deep questions about shared cultural values. Lincoln's Inn Fields, with its history of illicit gambling activities residing alongside "respectable" renowned institutions, offers the ideal setting for investigating cultural and social issues. Iconic landmarks - the site of the demolished Debtor's Law Court, the architect John Soane's House and Museum, the infamous Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons, the residence of contemporary artist Anish Kapoor - provide the backdrop for descriptions of little known events excavated from present-day and Georgian / Victorian times. Contemporary attitudes are evaluated by comparing historical and contemporary scenarios across a range of themes (the duality of homelessness and conspicuous material wealth, obsessional ambition and professional reputations, roles of death and legacy, affluence and indebtedness, Victorian attitudes and current social norms, social responsibility and class divide). This case study gleans light on how carefully selected narratives can be astutely orchestrated with the choreographed movement through city streets, to provoke a discussion between people who had gathered informally for a one off event, and leave with a thoughtful reconsideration of their assumptions and accepted cultural values.

panel U04
Urban borderlands at the crossroads of anthropology and geography: spatiality, perceptions and social reproduction in a multiscalar perspective