White (British) Emigration from London

A BBC article from a month ago has been sitting on my tab for almost a month now, time to discuss! First, let me caveat by saying that the perspective I’m taking here, white British departing London is dictated by the article, not the data. Were I to do a more thorough look I would also like to know who is moving into these areas. So keep in mind this is only half the story. Overall I like this article and slick use of graphics, but I find its message a bit propagandistic – its not a story of “white flight”, “its a story of aspiration. A story of success.” Give me a break. I agree that we might not be dealing with “white flight” in the textbook definitional sense. According to dictionary.com, white flight (coined sometime between 1965 and 1970) referred to the movement of whites, especially middle-class whites, from neighborhoods undergoing racial integration. A more general definition is the movement of whites from areas where non-whites are settling. The second definition has the added quality that we can use it outside the context of a civil rights movement, since “racial integration” is obvious allusion to that. However, the article itself doesn’t really discuss the concurrent settlement of non-whites in those boroughs of London from where whites are departing so I think its difficult to call this not white flight by only providing half the data.

At any rate, there are additional points the article mentions that are worth repeating. First, and this isn’t really discussed much in the article, is the finding that while the British white population group is mostly declining in the “poorer” suburbs surrounding the central city, the proportion of whites is increasing in Inner London (coded blue in the map). This should sound familiar to my American readers, commonly called “gentrification”, the increase in urban whites has been noted since the late 1990s I would suppose. In Washington D.C., “immigrants” (who arrived in the city decades ago) are the ones moving to the suburbs as economics and family life permits. Taking their place in the city are richer, younger, white families. I would imagine that a similar process is ongoing in British cities. The article hints at this with a qualitative study of one surburban London neighborhood (Barking and Dagenham) noting that whites have left and replaced by black African migrants.

Another point worth highlighting is the depth of understanding the Barking and Dagenham borough. The article provides a political, economic, and social history of the neighborhood, which provides a sense of where and when it came from. This is a great example of the Kantian view of geography and history being intricately linked. Of course, the article does take the analytic leap with this history. It points out that the borough had a natural economic engine and lifeline, a Ford Motor Company plant, that subsequently closed. Now that whites are leaving and the main economic engine gone… well, what do you think will happen? More people will have commutes and for larger immigrant families with children finding care will become difficult among single families homes, though many may have relatives also living at home. There’s also the little variable of the poor economic environment, as a city well-integrated into the global economy (if not the most integrated city) its population is most susceptible during the global recession. Of course, not all population groups are created equal and the poorest classes in London are the ones most at-risk of un- or under-employment. Sadly, the article doesn’t take any of this into consideration.

The article gives the impression that these white Britishers moving away are primarily older families. Most bought their “council estates” (in the United Kingdom and Ireland this is a form of “public housing”) as they were entitled to do at 30% of its market value. They’re now flipping (to borrow the American term) these three-bedroom houses (selling at market value, presumably) and using the proceeds to buy much larger estates in the countryside. Again, what is left unclear is if these council estates are still, in fact, public housing and thus being sold to the new “owners” who pay 30% of the market rate while the government picks up the rest of the tab. Or if they are now private houses (the article suggests the latter) being sold to immigrant families. If its the latter that’s a pretty bad break for the immigrants who now enjoy the “privilege” of paying substantially larger mortgages without government assistance, and earning the ire of lower class British whites for “taking jobs” and living off “government money.”

A final point isn’t unique for the European context but interesting for the U.S. This white flight in the United Kingdom isn’t really a “white flight” its a British white flight, while the example used was a borough witnessing black African migration, a large part of the overall story are “other white” immigrants, mostly from Eastern Europe. In a sense this is a repeat of the early/mid-1800s Irish and German migration to the United States. While these immigrants were “white”, and even acknowledged as such, they weren’t exactly welcomed. The picture below, a great candidate for a geopolitical cartoon post (but alas!), drives this point home perfectly for the American context. It compares the experiences of blacks enslaved in the American South (labels above the scale) with Irish immigrants in the American North. Of course, I can’t read the caption on the bottom so I don’t know what the cartoon is really saying is equivalent. Irish immigrants could own property, were free to move about, seek different employment, and earn wages. They even fought in the Civil War. American Blacks, not so much.

Social equivalence? American Blacks and Irish immigrants, ca. 1850s (via darienps.org)

So I wonder about this BBC article, the message is too rosy for reality. Sometimes its worth remembering what’s not said in an article and disregarding what’s said. Yes, this is partially a story of economic advancement and the attainment of the Anglo-American dream, but the article did not convince me that wasn’t also white British flight.

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Geopolitical Cartoons: Depictions of the Spanish-American War (1898)

This weeks geopolitical cartoons is brought to you by William Randolph Hearst! Well not quite, I’m pretty sure Hearst would balk at my political tendencies. However, the cartoons do stem from the conflict that he assisted in creating, the Spanish-American War. In this post we’ll explore some of the not-very-subtle propaganda messages in various geopolitical cartoons. Know your sources!

The first image below comes from a satirical German newspaper first published in 1848 (according to wikipedia) and printed the day before hostilities ensued, or were declared, or when scholars agreed the war started (published April 24, started April 25). Coming from a German perspective, its primary focus is on the effects of the impending conflict on “poor Cuba.” The caption reads “this encounter does not seem, at present, exactly a happy one for poor Cuba.” Indeed, as the picture shows Cuba is being ground underfoot by Uncle Sam (the United States who is strolling over to the Caribbean island via Florida) and Don Quixote (Spain who is stretching across the Atlantic from Spain). Quite clearly, the Germans are making a call on who is going to win the conflict. Who would you bet on? A modern Uncle Sam walking over? Or an insane Spanish minor noble, armored and armed with lance in the late-1800s, with a penchant for charging windmills, accosting monks, and generally not following up on his deeds?

“Poor Cuba”, 24 April 1898 (via Ohio State University)

The Spanish, of course, saw things rather differently. The cartoon is apparently from a Catalan source and depicts a greedy Uncle Sam hungrily eyeing Cuba from the United States. His groping hands are hovering over the island. Though I have no idea what “fatlera” means, wikipedia tells me that the caption reads “Protect the island so won’t be lost.” Righteous nationalistic fury indeed! But I have to agree with a comment made in a Blue Sky GIS post, “Spain complaining about anybody else’s imperial ambitions is very much the pot calling the kettle black.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Greedy Uncle Sam, 1896 (via wikipedia)

The next two images are from the U.S. The first, from the Minneapolis Tribune, depicts President McKinley holding onto a savage-looking child, the Philippines. He is contemplating whether to “keep” the archipelago, “return” it to Spain, or setting it on his own path. The editors at the Minneapolis Tribune clearly believe that President McKinley should keep the islands. After all, handing them back to Spain is akin to throwing the child off of a cliff. Moreover, it is just a savage child after all, hardly ready for independence. As the world looks on, history is made. McKinley holds on to the Philippines. The aftermath is for another post.

McKinley and the Philippines, 1898 (via wikipilipinas)

The final poster is from the 1900 election campaign season, which McKinley/Roosevelt subsequently won for the Republicans. The poster compares the effects of four years of party rule in 1896 (after four years of Democratic rule under Grover Cleveland) and in 1900 (after four years under McKinley and the Republicans). Two things worth drawing attention to from the geopolitical standpoint. First, is how the United States justified (and continues to justify) its foreign intervention “the American flag has not been planted in foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity’s sake.” I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that Americans are uncomfortable with the sort of power they wield. As a society we take pains to justify our adventures abroad, yellow journalism and yellow cake. When the conflict is said and done, and righteous American power is in place, the shining city upon the hill bring the light of liberty, we have the the last two pictures in the campaign poster. Cuba is compared under Spanish rule and under America’s rule. I think these two messages are one of the most interesting omnipresent debates in American foreign policy. The isolationist trend, content to guard its power and prosperity while the world goes to shit, and the righteous, liberty-exporting revolutionary trend.

Liberty under McKinley, 1900 (via wikipedia)

Geopolitical Cartoons: Depictions of Imperial Germany (World War I)

This week’s geopolitical cartoons comes from World War I, or The Great War as its sometimes known. I stumbled on the first picture while looking for an explanation of Germany’s animal symbol from a few weeks back. I thought it was a vulture, and I ended up finding the image below, turns out the avian symbol of Prussia and Imperial Germany is an eagle.

France taunting Imperial Germany, World War I (via eBay)

The postcard above shows the personification of France, Marianne, preparing to stab the German eagle. Its most certainly from World War I because of the German pickelhaube lying in the foreground. Pictures of from the period (such as the one found on that wikipedia page) often show Otto von Bismarck or Kaiser Wilhelm II wearing the helmet, doubtless a symbol of German military might (and as it turns out, aggression). The pickelhaube itself was a symbol of the German empire during the war, as shown in the enlistment poster below. Another piece of evidence are the word “pro patria” located in the bottom right of the foreground. World War I is generally recognized as the first major conflict motivated by “nationalism”. While choosing individuals choose to participate in a conflict for a variety of reasons these days, World War I was characterized by widespread conscription and levée en masse, specifically in Europe. I deliberately used the last term because of its links to Napleonic France, that revolutionary place where nationalism was first introduced as a guiding principle in a state in the late 18th century. The inscription on the top reads: “Infamous and barbaric monster back! I curse you! Our dead will be avenged, your crimes will be punished!”

Imperial Germany to invade the U.S.?, World War I (via wikipedia)

The propaganda poster deserves some explanation as well. It depicts the German Empire (actually Kaiser Wilhelm II) as a slobbering, “crazy”, “brute”. Probably issued during the war (rather than before), the story line is that after the German Empire lays waste to Europe (as it has in the background), it will come to the United States, as its shown coming up from the water to the shores of “America”. The brutish gorilla is Kaiser Wilhelm II, as it bears that ruler’s characteristic mustache (see below reference material). Interestingly, the pickelhaube bears the inscription “militarism”. In other words, coming to the shores of the U.S. with “militarism” on his mind. He bears the club of “Kultur.” I ended up doing some digging on this (these posts really take on a life of their own) and found a digital copy of a book written in 1917 title “Conquest and kultur: aims of the Germans in their own words”. How awesome is that?

Kaiser Wilhelm II (looking not so brutish), 1902 (via wikipedia)

At any rate, if you check out that link go to page 17 (on the web, page 13 of the report) there’s a quote relevant to “Kultur” (German for culture): “The more it [German kultur] remains faithful to itself, the better will it be able to enlighten the understanding of foreign races absorbed or incorporated into the Empire, and to make them see that only from German kultur can they derive those treasures which they need for the fertilizing of their own particular life…” That quote comes from Otto von Geirke a “most distinguished professor law in Berlin” in 1914. In other words, some in Imperial Germany saw the war as bring “German culture” to the rest of Europe, something like a modified “white man’s burden,” where that phrase was used to justify colonial and imperial policies in Africa, Asia, and the “New World” where Europeans were bring “civilization” to an “uncivilized” landscape. I suppose this can be considered the logical conclusion of that logic, the German Empire formed as a coherent state five decades prior to World War I found itself one of the most populous, industrialized powers in Europe. Why not bring the successes of Germany to the rest of Europe, under German supervision of course.

The rest of Europe, of course, didn’t quite see it that way, as the French postcard, American enlistment poster, and French-Italian geopolitical cartoon below show. In this last cartoon, Kaiser Wilhelm II (Imperial Germany) is taking a bite out of the world but finding it a tough nut to crack. The inscription reads “L’ingordo” (“the Glutton”) “trop dur” (“too hard”). Apparently, it is French and Italian symbolizing half of the Entente powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, and Russia) with Italy entering the on the side of Great Britain, France, and Russia in 1915.

“The Glutton” finding the world “too hard” to eat, World War I (via wikipedia)

Z Geography Asks: Is this Geography?

Many Geographers, and suspect practitioners of most disciplines, spend some of their professional (perhaps even personal) thought processes engaged in “policing the boundary.” Like the states that some of us rail against, disciplines often delineate their boundaries – “this is part of the discipline”, “this is not part of the discipline”. Of course, the answer you receive (like political boundaries) is entirely dependent on whom you ask and, more specifically, where they’re located in the discipline. For those on the periphery, whether by design or by fate, the answer is almost wildly different from those in the “core”. While the core of a state is fairly easy to identify, or is it?, the core of a discipline is less so.

Take Geography, what is the core? What is the “bread and butter” of the discipline? In my first post I offered this definition: “Geography is the study of an area with particular emphasis on its people, its landscape, and the myriad ways in which several areas and their phenomena are related.” Holding myself to my own definition, let’s launch into the fodder for this post “Geographic art” as found by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The news source highlights the “Tapestries” exhibit by artist, Ann Diener, tagging it as a “perception of geography”. Of course, Z Geography asks… is this Geography? According to the article, the artist is “interested in the history of spaces” and quotes her directly “theme of all the pieces in the show relates to changes to land, how man uses and manipulates the spaces he inhabits.” The picture below, from the Chronicle’s website, offers a singular glimpse into the exhibit.

Tapestry 1, 2012 (via San Francisco Chronicle)

But yes, this is Geography. Given my definition above, it is a study (or at least a perception) of the way in which humans have interacted with and remade their environment. As a human geographer, I consider this to be the sub-discipline’s bread and butter. What Diener offers Geographers is a take, perhaps a critical one given the reproduction above, on urbanity. To me the scale and chaos (despite grid planning) of American cities is captured quite nicely. As always, critically examining every source, whether organization or person, is important. Based on the limited information provided in the San Francisco Chronicle it seems that the works are primarily focused on “Western” urban landscapes. Understanding the focus on urban areas, it would be most interesting to see the interplay between the “old” and “new” urban areas in long-established cities, such as Damascus or Jericho.

Art critical of “Western”, or even human, creation of places in spite of nature isn’t anything new. Thomas Cole painted a series of five works, entitled The Course of Empire, that is first, a stinging critique of human arrogance. Though directed primarily at imperialism, one can see the message applying to mankind’s rush to build ever larger structures within our cities. The painting below, Desolation, predicts the ultimate fate for humanity’s projects.

Desolation, 1836 (via wikipedia)