The Mark Blacksell Public Lecture
  • Room 018, Rolle Building, Plymouth University

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Why do we need to look at military landscapes?

Speaker: Professor Rachel Woodward, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Why, exactly, should we look at military landscapes? This lecture, which will draw on fieldwork and observations from around the UK, starts from an initial observation about the ubiquity of military landscapes. They are visible everywhere, as sites, places and spaces which can be read for what they tell us both about armed conflict itself as an event, but also for what we can learn about the huge range of activities that make the pursuit of military operations possible. In thinking about military sites as landscapes, we are prompted to consider not just their basic elements – what they look like and how their material features can be interpreted – but also their cultural significance in terms of how they can be interpreted and experienced, and how those interpretations happen in very different ways depending on one’s background, training, and purpose.  

This lecture proposes that there is an imperative to look at military landscapes, for three reasons. First, looking at these landscapes prompts us to think about all the obvious and less obvious ways in which military power works in space. Second, in studying military landscapes, we always have to consider how we can engage (or otherwise) with these spaces – what can we see, for example, and what can we not see? How does who we are influence what might be visible to us? Third, considering military landscapes provides a way to think through more abstract questions about how military power works.  So, for example, they prompt us to consider the interconnections between landscape, military power and national identity, or to contemplate how landscapes become mobilised in personal responses to armed conflict and how it affects us all in different ways.

The Mark Blacksell Lecture is aimed at a wide audience. Members of the public, academics and anyone with an interest in the Armed Forces will find it stimulating and informative. There is free admission to this lecture but booking is essential to attend. 

Doors open at 6.15pm and the lecture will start promptly at 6.30pm. The audience is also warmly invited to the drinks reception at 7.30pm following the talk.

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Contact Dr Nicola Whitehouse for queries about this event.

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Professor Rachel Woodward

Professor Rachel Woodward is Professor of Human Geography in the School of Geography Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University. She is a trailblazer in the field of Military Geography with an international reputation for her work. Rachel’s 2004 book Military Geographies set the agenda for geographical research on the Armed Forces and continues to be highly influential. Her paper ‘Military landscapes: Agendas and approaches for future research’, which was published earlier this year in Progress in Human Geography, underlines her continuing leadership of Military Geography and forms the basis of tonight’s talk.

Professor Woodward studied a BA in Geography with Archaeology at the University of Exeter and a PhD in Geography at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London. She has a personal connection to the lecture series and the South West: having been taught by Professor Mark Blacksell as an undergraduate at the University of Exeter, Rachel is delighted to present this lecture in his memory.

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About the Mark Blacksell Lecture Series

The purpose of the lecture series is to bring scholars working at the forefront of geographical knowledge to Plymouth University to present their research to a public audience. The lecture series is named after Professor Mark Blacksell, a human geographer at Plymouth University with unusually widespread interests and expertise. He was appointed Professor of Geography at Plymouth University in 1994, and served as both Head of the Geography Department and Dean of the Faculty of Science, before he formally retired in 2003.

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