The River Liffey flows through the heart of Dublin in Ireland. 17 Bridges is part of a body of research about Dublin’s relationship with its main river and in particular the swimmers who use the Liffey as their swimming pool. This essay focuses on a summer when a group of swimmers decided to jump off every bridge on the Liffey, raising questions of ownership and trespass.
This chapter explores some of the empirical questions that scholars have asked about siblings, from psychological questions pertaining to the influence of having a brother or sister on childhood development – which dominate academic studies of siblings – to the use of aspects of sibship configuration as a variable in quantitative analyses of educational and occupational outcomes, and practice-based questions about how vulnerable siblings can be supported. The chapter then moves on to a discussion of the sorts of sociological questions that have been posed about siblingship, identifying opportunities for new ways of looking both at and with siblings sociologically. Finally the chapter considers the importance of asking questions about cultural diversity and siblingship.
The chapter will then detail one of the most influential models of children in the early seventeenth century: the child as an expression of natural depravity. That the child was considered a threatening and morally debased figure in post-Reformation Europe has been established by many historians of the field. For example, the eminent historian of childhood, Hugh Cunningham, quotes a German sermon of the 1520s which explains that ‘infant humans are inclined in their hearts to adultery, fornication, impure desires, lewdness, idol worship, belief in magic, hostility, quarrelling, passion, anger, strife, dissension, factiousness, hatred, murder, drunkenness, gluttony, and more’, a rather heady brew with which the responsible parent had to contend. Cunningham explains that this understanding of the child as naturally inclined to evil was not unusual in the early modern period, and many seventeenth-century thinkers, when they devoted any attention to childhood at all, made much more of analogies between the child and Satan than a prelapsarian Adam. English Puritans read the child as a fount of sin and looked back at childhood, not with nostalgia or a desire to relive their youthful glories, but with horror and relief at having survived that physically and morally precarious age.
Understanding the place of water within social life makes us ask different questions about cities. This chapter is based on archival research, oral histories and written reminisces that have been collected over twenty years through living and working in Laurie Grove Baths in New Cross, South East London. I show the paradoxes of city life, like the unresolved tensions between regulation and resistance, through documenting the remarkable history of this grand old building and the forms of social life housed there, from wrestling matches to limbo dancing.
Chapter 3 examines curatorial strategies within institutions that attempt dialogue with social movements as they occur outside of the gallery. I foreground the place of the structural support in recent exhibitions as producing relational encounters and theorise an imagined, if not actual, form of autonomy within the exhibition space. I consider how these structures evoke land artist Robert Smithson’s non-site—a ‘two dimensional analogy or metaphor’ or ‘logical picture’ of representation of an actual site that does not resemble it, where the non-site of the gallery provides the controlled and yet malleable environment for the discursive exploration of social movements. In thinking through ideas about the subject, the focus is on artists who embody these other othernesses in ways that play out performatively in the imaginatively—sometimes problematically so—autonomous space of the gallery. The question of autonomy revolves around the political and activist aims of the encounters and negotiations enacted in the gallery space, and their transformative potential—or impossibility—beyond the gallery’s walls.
In 2021, I swam, walked and waded along the River Churn in the UK, just over 23 miles from its source at Seven Springs, Gloucestershire to its confluence with the Thames at Cricklade in Wiltshire. I followed the river slowly but surely, out of any order or sequence and often trespassing, picking out sections to swim-walk when cracks of time opened up in my life as a writer and mother to young children. I often headed off spontaneously and travelled light with little more than an ordnance survey map, dry bag, phone camera/voice recorder and my lovely dog, Biscuit. A native of Cirencester, the Churn is my home river – I’ve known it for over forty years, playing in and around it as a child growing up in Cirencester, watching the water voles dart through the crowsfoot, paddling and fishing for snotty dogs and minnows, shooting along it on tractor inner tubes where the flow ran high at the water meadows. What I had anticipated would be a project about movement, migration and invasion, developed into a playful poem sequence with found text marginalia that responds to my fascination with home, belonging, motherhood, ritual and a conversation with the iron age goddess of the Cotswold hills and rivers, Cuda.
The book concludes by emphasising why siblings matter sociologically, pointing to the significance of sibling relationships in people’s lives as well as highlighting how siblings can be a useful lens through which to examine key sociological themes and topics such as self, relationality, imagination and time as well as emotion. The chapter explores the idea that siblings affect how we ‘turn out’ in life and reflects upon the significance of power and diversity in shaping siblingship. Methods of studying siblingship, from the perspective of individuals as well as with sibling groups as the unit of analysis, are evaluated and a call is made for sociology to pay more attention to siblings.
In 2021 I was artist in residence with the Vincent van Gogh House Museum in Brabant, The Netherlands. During my residency I walked and swam, exploring and plotting the landscape. This essay describes my discoveries, both evidential and poetic, through text and image making, in black ink and analogue photography, with reference to bodies of water and their historical narratives. Reliving and documenting the ritual of plunging water in now stagnant waters, connections are transcribed across time and questions arise as to the power of water as a source of inspiration and revelation.
New York City’s feminist and queer communities have often sprung up in underused spaces in the city and cyclically confront charges of gentrification, whereby popular narratives offer up marginalised communities as simultaneously complicit in the process and victims of its effects. An examination of the late-twentieth-century urban history of New York’s cycles of subcultural occupation operates at this intersection. Looking at dUMBA, the queer performance arts collective that existed in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighbourhood between 1996 and 2007, I present a chronology of the inception, use, and ultimate demise of the collective and its physical mark on the neighbourhood to show how queers both counter and are victim to the devastating effects of gentrification, zoning laws, and other threats to urban dwelling. In their physical absenting, how are the legacies of these sites of radical creativity and relationships preserved? In attempting to weave together a social history of dUMBA from sparse archival material and oral accounts, I juxtapose with this history lens-based projects, including Ira Sachs’s short film Last Address (2009) and photographic work by Every Ocean Hughes and Zoe Leonard from the late 1990s through the 2000s that, I argue, reclaim and reimagine the material city via artistic enactments of queer spatial occupation.