Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group

Aberystwyth is a leading centre for research in cultural and historical geography. Members of the group have undertaken extensive research in a number of areas, and we welcome enquiries from prospective research students who are interested in studying in Aberystwyth.

Members: Peter Merriman (Head), Elizabeth Gagen, Gareth Hoskins, Mitch Rose, Robert Dodgshon (Emeritus).

Postgraduate members: Will AndrewsDaniel BeechJon Brettell, Osian EliasRhian Field, Prididome (Dom) PipatchukiatSamantha Saville and Nina Sharp

Affiliated members:  Jesse Heley, Rhys A. Jones, Rhys Dafydd Jones, Cerys Jones, Hywel Griffiths, Sarah Davies, Mark Whitehead, Michael Woods, Catherine Cottrell

Key Research Themes:

Landscape imageLandscape and Environment

Advancing theoretical approaches to landscape, exploring the relationship between landscape, culture and identity (Rose), mobility (Merriman), memory (Hoskins, Rose), and time (Dodgshon, Hoskins). Empirical research has been undertaken on the landscapes of the Giza plateau in Cairo (Rose), the mining landscapes of California, South Africa and Wales (Hoskins), the landscapes of driving in Britain (Merriman), the apprehension of Californian landscapes through dance by Anna and Lawrence Halprin (Merriman), urban farms in Detroit (Rose), and the rural landscapes of the Scottish highlands and islands (Dodgshon).

Extensive research has also been undertaken on the cultural and historical geographies of a diverse range of environments, often in collaboration with members of the Environment and Society, and New Political Geographies research groups. This includes research on the environmental history of coal, gold and diamond mining (Hoskins, Whitehead), environmental values (Hoskins), the historical geographies of atmospheric governance (Whitehead), memories of extreme weather events in the UK (Cerys Jones, Sarah Davies), and the environmental impact and resource use of alpine communities (Dodgshon).

The group has close links with academics working on landscape, place and culture within the Institute of Literature, Languages and Creative Arts, including the Centre for Cultures of Place

Seven BridgesMobility

Aberystwyth is a leading centre for research on the geographies of mobilities, undertaking research on mobile ontologies and movement-space (Merriman), migration, race and memory (Hoskins), the geographies of automobility (Merriman), extreme mobilities and charitable fund-raising (Sharp), and modified car cultures (Andrews). Research projects have focussed on the geographies of England’s M1 motorway (Merriman), US immigration stations (Hoskins), and the early history of driving in Britain (Merriman).

Members of the group work closely with mobility scholars around the world, and Peter Merriman is an Associate Editor of Transfers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies and sits on the editorial boards of Mobilities and Applied Mobilities.


Materiality, Memory and Heritage

Examining the intersection of themes of materiality, time, memory, heritage, politics and place. Research projects have focussed on industrial heritage sites and the construction of mining memories (Hoskins), theoretical approaches to temporality (Dodgshon), and the role of heritage sites in the construction of Egyptian national identity (Rose) and US national identity (Hoskins). Research has drawn upon a range of methods, from ethnographic and participative methods to archival research and interviews. 

Psychology, behaviour and space

Examining how authorities have attempted to shape and govern citizens through psychological and behavioural techniques, from the early twentieth century through to the contemporary era. This includes work on the role of development psychology in reconfiguring children’s bodies in the progressive era in the USA (Gagen), the role of emotional education programmes in reconfiguring citizenship and gender amongst contemporary British youth (Gagen), and research on the time-spaces of soft paternalism, neuroliberalism, mindfulness, and the adoption of behaviour techniques in contemporary Britain (Rhys Jones, Whitehead).

The cultural and historical geographies of WalesBlaenavon image

Aberystwyth is the leading centre for research on the cultural and historical geographies of Wales, with strong traditions of research on nationalism and national identity (Rhys Jones, Merriman), language politics (Rhys Jones, Peter Merriman), mobility (Merriman), memory (Hoskins, Griffiths, Cerys Jones), religion (Rhys Dafydd Jones), youth (Rhys Jones), and rural Wales (Rhys Dafydd Jones, Heley, Woods).

Specific projects have focussed on: mining, heritage and memory in Wales (Hoskins), Aberystwyth and the reproduction of Welsh national culture and politics (Rhys Jones), the Welsh Language Society’s campaign for bilingual road signs (Merriman, Rhys Jones), religion and identity in rural Wales (Rhys Dafydd Jones), historical geographies of globalisation in mid-Wales (Woods, Heley), flood memories in the Welsh colony of Patagonia (Hywel Griffiths, Stephen Tooth), the historical geographies of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (the Welsh League of Youth) (Rhys Jones, Merriman), mobility and connectivity in Wales (Merriman, Rhys Jones), cultural-historical geographies of Welsh rivers (Griffiths), and memories of extreme weather events in 19th and 20th century Wales (Cerys Jones). Some of this research has been published through the medium of Welsh as well as English.

In terms of creative and practise-based cultural geographies, Hywel Griffiths has produced award-winning poetry focussing on nature, place, history, and the politics of language and class in Wales, as well as children’s literature. In 2015 he was awarded the Chair and in 2008 he was awarded the crown at the National Eisteddfod, and his collection of poetry, Banerog, was shortlisted for the 2009 Welsh Book of the Year.   

Contributions to the discipline:

Members and affiliated members of the group have held significant leadership roles in cultural and historical geography and related disciplines, including: Fellowships of the British Academy and Learned Society of Wales (Dodgshon), Membership of AHRC grant awarding panels for ‘history’ (Rhys Jones) and ‘culture and heritage’ (Merriman), AHRC Peer Review College (Hoskins, Rhys Jones 2007-14, Merriman, 2007-14), European Science Foundation Peer Review College (Merriman, 2010-12), Editor of the Journal of Rural Studies (Woods), Associate Editor of Transfers (Merriman) and Managing Editor of Environmental Values (Whitehead), Book Reviews Editors of Cultural Geographies (Merriman), Area (Whitehead) and Space and Polity (Rhys Jones), and membership of the editorial boards of Children’s Geographies (Gagen), Cultural Geographies (Rose), Mobilities (Merriman), Geohumanities (Rose), Applied Mobilities (Merriman), Geo: Geography and Environment (Davies), Dialogues in Human Geography (Woods), Political Geography (Rhys Jones), and Rodopi’s interdisciplinary Spatial Practices book series (Merriman). Rhys Dafydd Jones serves on the Committee of the RGS-IBG’s Social and Cultural Geography Research Group, acting as Membership Secretary. Liz Gagen is a Committee Member of the RGS-IBG’s Gender and Feminist Geography Research Group. Hywel Griffiths is a former Chairman of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society).

Research on these themes has been funded by the AHRC (9 awards), the British Academy (3 awards), the ESRC (3 awards), and the Leverhulme Trust.          

Members of the group work closely with affiliated members of the Environment and Society and New Political Geographies research groups.