Professor Alison Blunt
Professor of Geography, Head of School
Tel: 020 7882 8437
Location: Geography Building, Room 114
School of Geography
Queen Mary, University of London
Mile End Road, London E1 4NS
My research interests span geographies of home, empire, migration and diaspora, including research on imperial domesticity in British India, Anglo-Indian women and the spatial politics of home and homeland, settlement houses and new ways of dwelling in the city, and the city as home for people living in diaspora. My research has been funded by the AHRC, ESRC, The Leverhulme Trust and UrbanBuzz. Recent books include Domicile and diaspora: Anglo-Indian women and the spatial politics of home (Blackwell, 2005) and, co-authored with Robyn Dowling, Home (Routledge, 2006).
I was awarded the Gill Memorial Award from the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) in 2002, a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2003, and was appointed as an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2012. I co-direct the Centre for Studies of Home, a partnership between Queen Mary and The Geffrye Museum of the Home , and serve on the Council of the RGS-IBG. I am past editor of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (2008–13) and am associate editor of South Asian Diaspora.
Key recent publications include:
- Blunt, A. and Bonnerjee, J. (2013) ‘Home, city and diaspora: Anglo-Indian and Chinese attachments to Calcutta,’ Global Networks 13, 220–240.
- Blunt, A., Bonnerjee, J., and Hysler-Rubin, N. (2012) ‘Diasporic returns to the city: Anglo-Indian and Jewish visits to Calcutta,’ South Asian Diaspora 4: 25–43.
- Blunt, A. (2008) ‘The skyscraper settlement: home and residence at Christodora House,’ Environment and Planning A 550–71.
- Blunt, A. and Dowling, R. (2006) Home. Routledge: London.
- Blunt, A. (2005) Domicile and diaspora: Anglo-Indian women and the spatial politics of home. Blackwell: Oxford.
My undergraduate and Masters level teaching is directly informed by my research, and I have written and co-edited the key texts for a number of modules. I jointly teach a first year module on ‘Critical human geographies,’ which introduces students to the ways in which attempts to change the world have shaped the discipline of geography. My lectures focus on humanistic geography, feminism, geographies of sexuality and postcolonialism, and all include time for class discussion. I am co-author (with Jane Wills) of the key text for this module, Dissident Geographies: an introduction to radical ideas and practice (Pearson, 2000).
My third year module on ‘Geographies of Home’ explores home on scales from the domestic to the global. It focuses on questions such as: why is identity often shaped by a sense of home? How and why is the home an important site and subject for creative work in literature and the visual arts? Why are nations often described as ‘homelands’? How do experiences of home change with transnational migration? Drawing on historical and contemporary examples, and a range of personal and academic accounts, the module also includes a visit to The Geffrye Museum of the Home and opportunities for creative coursework. I am co-author (with Robyn Dowling) of the key text for this module, Home (Routledge, 2006).
I also enjoy teaching on MA Cities and Cultures, and teach a new module with Catherine Nash on ‘Cultural Geography in Practice.’ This module explores creative, collaborative and curatorial practices in cultural geography. My part of the module focuses on home and diaspora through seminar discussions and visits to The Geffrye Museum of the Home and the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers). Together with other colleagues (including Jon May, Miles Ogborn and David Pinder in Geography at Queen Mary), I have co-edited a book used on this and other modules: Cultural Geography in Practice (Arnold, 2003).
I also teach undergraduate tutorials across all three years and supervise undergraduate and MA dissertations.
- GEG4101 Critical Human Geographies
- GEG6102 Geographies of Home
- GEG7120 Geographical Thought and Practice
- GEG7122 Cultural Geography in Practice
Student feedback on my teaching includes:
- 'Alison is a fantastic and enthusiastic lecturer – she really engages with you as an individual, whilst teaching the class as a whole' (Geographies of Home).
- 'An engaging topic one can understand on a personal and wider level' (Geographies of Home).
- 'Interesting topics and captivating lectures' (Critical Human Geographies).
- 'I've always been interested in feminism and being taught about it was great' (Critical Human Geographies).
- 'The content is very interesting and relevant to the world today' (Critical Human Geographies).
Diaspora cities: imagining Calcutta in London, Toronto and Jerusalem
Although ideas and lived experiences of diaspora are intrinsically transnational, a wide range of research invokes the nation through material and imaginative connections to a past, present or imagined ‘homeland.’ Other research focuses on the city as a site of diasporic resettlement, exploring the contested terrains of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. Focusing on four communities from Calcutta (Anglo-Indian, Brahmo, Chinese and Jewish), this research investigates the importance of the city rather than the nation in shaping, recasting and articulating diasporic identities, and studies diaspora cities as places of origin and resettlement. This research was funded by The Leverhulme Trust from 2007-10, with the research team consisting of myself as Principal Investigator, Noah Hysler-Rubin and Shompa Lahiri (postdoctoral research fellows) and Jayani Bonnerjee (PhD student). See publications for a list of papers published from this research.
Living with the past at home: domestic inheritance and pre-habitation
This project seeks to understand people’s attitudes to and understandings of the history of their homes. It involves interviews with a range of British householders to discover how their knowledge of the past of their homes informs the choices they make in living in them. These choices might relate, for example, to the material furnishing and designing of different home spaces as well as more generally to perceptions of and feelings about the past. The focus includes what has been ‘inherited’ from previous inhabitants – materially, aesthetically and in terms of stories that might have been passed on or uncovered. The research is funded by the AHRC and is in collaboration with The Geffrye Museum of the Home. Catherine Nash is Principal Investigator, with Caron Lipman as postdoctoral research fellow and Alastair Owens and myself as Co-Invesigators. The project has included workshops at the Geffrye and will conclude with an exhibition there opening in September 2013.
Cities, communities and philanthropy
My research in this field has two main directions: first, historical research on settlement houses in London and New York, which developed from my involvement with the British Academy funded international network on ‘The Urban Atlantic.’ This research includes a study of new ways of urban dwelling promoted by Christodora House – the ‘skyscraper settlement’ - in New York City. Second, I am Co-Investigator on a pilot project funded by the Centre for Public Engagement at Queen Mary on ‘Mapping corporate philanthropy and community engagement in East London.’ Focusing on companies based at Canary Wharf, this project seeks to identify the ways that corporations engage with communities in the East End of London through various types of corporate social responsibility and philanthropic initiatives. The research team also includes Cathy McIlwaine as PI, Alastair Owens and Jane Wills as CIs and Johanna Wadsley as postdoctoral research fellow.
Connected Communities: research review on ‘Diaspora and Transnationality’
Together with Cathy McIlwaine, Jayani Bonnerjee and Cliff Pereira (community engagement facilitator) and working in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) and The Geffrye Museum of the Home, this AHRC research review explored the idea of ‘connected communities’ in relation to diaspora and transnationality across the humanities and social sciences. It developed the idea of ‘connectivity’ within and across communities that are transnational and diasporic. Four one-day workshops brought together brought together more than 70 participants from across the academic, arts/cultural and community sectors
For a full list of publications, please go to publists.
- Blunt, A. and Dowling, R. (2006) Home. London: Routledge, 304 pp.
- Blunt, A. (2005) Domicile and diaspora: Anglo-Indian women and the spatial politics of home. Oxford: Blackwell, 288 pp.
- Blunt, A., Gruffudd, P., May, J., Ogborn, M. and Pinder, D. (eds.) (2003) Cultural geography in practice. London: Arnold, 330 pp.
- Blunt, A. and McEwan, C. (eds.) (2002) Postcolonial geographies. London: Continuum, 245 pp.
- Blunt, A. and Wills, J. (2000) Dissident geographies: an introduction to radical ideas and practice. Harlow: Prentice Hall 212pp.
- Blunt, A. (1994) Travel, gender and imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa. New York: Guilford, 190 pp.
- Blunt, A. and Rose, G. (eds.) Writing women and space: colonial and postcolonial geographies. New York: Guilford, 256 pp.
Journal special issues
- Blunt, A. and John, E. (eds.) (under review) ‘Domestic practice in the past: historical sources and methods.’ Home Cultures.
- Blunt, A., Bonnerjee, J., Hysler-Rubin, N. and Lahiri, S. (eds.) (2012) ‘South Asian cities and diasporas.’ South Asian Diaspora 4.
- Blunt, A. and Varley, A. (eds.) (2004) ‘Geographies of home.’ Cultural Geographies 11.
- Blunt, A. and Bonnerjee, J. (2013) ‘Home, city, diaspora: Anglo-Indian and Chinese attachments to Calcutta.’ Global Networks 13: 220-240.
- Blunt, A., Bonnerjee, J. and Hysler-Rubin, N. (2012) ‘Diasporic returns to the city: Anglo-Indian and Jewish visits to Calcutta.’ South Asian Diaspora 4: 25-43.
- Blunt, A. (2008) ‘The skyscraper settlement: home and residence at Christodora House.’ Environment and Planning A 40: 550-71.
- Blunt, A., Bonnerjee, J., Lipman, C., Long, J. and Paynter, F. (2007) ‘My Home: space, text and performance.’ Cultural Geographies 14: 309-318.
- Blunt, A. (2007) ‘Cultural geographies of migration: mobility, transnationality and diaspora.’ Progress in Human Geography 31: 682-94.
- Blunt, A. (2005) ‘Cultural geographies of home.’ Progress in Human Geography 29: 505-15.
- Blunt, A. and Varley, A. (2004) ‘Geographies of home: an introduction.’ Cultural Geographies 11: 3-6. Co-editor (with A. Varley) of this special issue on ‘Geographies of Home.’
- Blunt, A. (2003) ‘Collective memory and productive nostalgia: Anglo-Indian home-making at McCluskieganj.’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 21: 717-738.
- Blunt, A. (2003) ‘Geographies of diaspora and mixed descent: Anglo-Indians in India and Britain.’ International Journal of Population Geography 9: 281-294.
- Blunt, A. (2002) ‘“Land of our Mothers”: home, identity and nationality for Anglo-Indians in British India, 1919-1947.’ History Workshop Journal 54: 49-72.
- Blunt, A. (2000) ‘Spatial stories under siege: British women writing from Lucknow in 1857.’ Gender, Place and Culture 7: 229-46. This paper was reprinted in full in R. Lewis and S. Mills (eds.) (2003) Feminist Postcolonial Theory: a Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 720-738.
- Blunt, A. (2000) ‘Embodying war: British women and domestic defilement in the Indian ‘Mutiny,’ 1857-8.’ Journal of Historical Geography 26: 403-28.
- Blunt, A. (1999) ‘Imperial geographies of home: British women in India, 1886-1925.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 24, pp. 421-440.
- Bonnerjee, J., Blunt, A., McIlwaine, C. and Pereira, C. (2012) Connected communities: diaspora and transnationality. 80 pp. report funded by AHRC available at www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/docs/research/61819.pdf.
- Blunt, A., Hatfield, M. and Souch, C. (eds.) (2013) Publishing and getting read: a guide for researchers in geography. RGS-IBG and Wiley-Blackwell. Second edition.
I welcome enquiries about doctoral research on home, migration and diaspora.
Current PhD students
- Lamees Al Mubarak 'Children and global citizenship.' AHRC CDA with the V&A Museum of Childhood.
- Laura Humphreys 'Domestic labour, metropolitan households and the wider world, 1850-1914.' AHRC CDA with The Geffrye Museum of the Home.
- Carey Newson 'Inside teenagers' bedrooms.' ESRC.
- Eithne Nightingale 'Children, migration and diaspora.' AHRC CDA with the V&A Museum of Childhood.
- Eilidh Reid 'Masculine emotional geographies: home, ageing and later life.' QMUL studentship.
- Subhadra Roy 'Expressing identities and experiencing difference: Spatial practices in the everyday lives of Indian students in London and Toronto.' QMUL studentship.
- Annabelle Wilkins 'Home, work and migration in the East End of London since 1945.' AHRC CDA with The Geffrye Museum of the Home.
Past PhD students
- Akile Ahmet 'Home and identity for young men of mixed descent.' QMUL studentship.
- Halima Begum 'Commodifying multicultures: urban regeneration and the politics of space in Spitalfields.' ESRC.
- Jayani Bonnerjee 'Placing neighbourhoods and cities in diaspora space: Anglo-Indian and Chinese communities in Calcutta, London and Toronto.' The Leverhulme Trust.
- Jonathan Chipp 'Kierkegaard and Copenhagen: the Urban Performance of Theory': University of Southampton studentship.
- Georgina Gowans 'Geographies of home and empire: British women leaving India, 1900-1947.' University of Southampton studentship.
- David Hurford 'Daily bread: evangelical beliefs and identities through place.' QMUL studentship.
- Meena Khatwa 'Life journeys: narratives of Hindu mothers and daughters in British homes.' QMUL studentship.
- Kristina Legg 'The place of religion: spatialised subjectivites of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in Southampton.' University of Southampton studentship.
- Caron Lipman 'The domestic uncanny: co-habiting with ghosts.' QMUL studentship.
- Joanna Long 'Daar al Falasşini : Home, family and identity among Palestinians in Britain.' ESRC.
- Felicity Paynter 'Culture in Suburbia: The Place of Culture in Suburban Sustainability.' ESRC.
- Imogen Wallace 'From the geopolitical to the everyday: 'home' for Muslim women in London and Bristol.' ESRC.
The home has become an important focus of research, spanning work on the domestic sphere, including everyday life, architecture, interior design and material cultures, to the significance of home beyond the domestic, including broader ideas about dwelling, belonging, privacy and security.
Launched in 2011, the Centre for Studies of Home is a partnership between The Geffrye Museum of the Home and Queen Mary, University of London. It is directed by myself and Eleanor John (Head of Collections and Exhibitions, Geffrye). The centre is an internationally important hub of research, knowledge transfer and dissemination activities on past and present homes.
Research projects affiliated to the centre include an AHRC project on ‘Living with the past at home’ (Catherine Nash, PI); a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship (Richard Baxter) on ‘Home and inhabitation: a biography of the Aylesbury Estate’; and an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with four studentships on ‘Home-work: connections and transitions in London from the seventeenth century to the present.’
The centre’s activities include a monthly seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on ‘Studies of home’; regular workshops, conferences and research-in-progress days; and an annual lecture and postgraduate study day.
I am PI on The Child in the World project, a five-year collaboration between Queen Mary and the V&A Museum of Childhood (MoC) focused on researching the lived experiences of London children between 1870 and the present day. The research is being undertaken by three PhD students working on distinct Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDAs). They are supervised by staff in the School of Geography and the School of Languages, Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary, and by staff at the V&A Museum of Childhood. The students are also working across the two institutions to produce a series of joint publications and activities.
I have chaired LWPF since 2003 and was responsible for its relocation from Women’s Design Service to QMUL and its successful applications to ESRC to fund a seminar series on ‘Capital designs: women and planning in contemporary London’ (2004-6), to LCACE to fund a seminar series on ‘Building cultures’ (2007-8) and, in partnership with Women’s Design Service, to Urban Buzz to fund a project on ‘Gender and the Built Environment’ (2007-8). LWPF convenes up to three seminars a year at QMUL for academics and practitioners working on women and the built environment.
Everyone involved in the built environment world tries to meet the needs of their clients. Child-sized furniture is designed for nurseries, disabled parking bays are located next to entrances, sheltered housing sites are planned near post offices and shops. However people are often unaware of the needs of a majority of the population; women. With the introduction of the UK Gender Equality Duty there is now a legal obligation to consider those needs.
Funded by UrbanBuzz, and in partnership with the Women’s Design Service, this project (with Wendy Davis as PI, myself as CI and Clare Melhuish as postdoctoral research fellow) aims to raise the profile of gender issues in the built environment. It has involved the development of an on-line database of English-language academic literature, reports, and legislation on gender and the built environment.