If I were to say my interest in – some might say obsession with – landscape began from the moment I learned to walk I’d only be telling a very small white lie. This enthusiasm – assisted, it must be said, by a good deal of adolescent indolence – lead me to undergraduate study in geography and landscape and an early encounter with cultural geography via a dissertation on landscape and literature in post-Thomas Hardy Wessex (though at the time, of course, the quantitavists had their hands firmly on the rudder of geographical thought and cultural geography was but a twinkle in my supervisor’s eye).
Life crises (gender ‘reassignment’) wreaked havoc on any academic ambitions (to be honest, there were largely non-existent) but Latin America lured me back to college. The Institute of Latin American Studies nurtured me as a scholar and, to my intense surprised, transformed me into an academic; a late developer, at the tender age of 35. Fieldwork in El Salvador and Mexico took my studies in yet another direction – feminist and Latin American theologies of liberation until more life crises threw their spanners in the works.
What did Horace say? Naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret: you may drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she will always return. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, once a geographer, always a geographer. Whilst walking the Camino de Santiago during the summer of 2012 it occurred to me that I could have my cake and eat it; that I could combine my interests in hiking/pilgrimage, feminist/liberation theologies and good old geography.
Except it isn’t good old geography, it’s a whole new ball game. Cultural and autoethnographic geographies offer the sort of dynamic and radical possibilities for study I could only have dreamed of as a young ... er, person! And here at Exeter I seem to have found my niche. Even now I can hear the geographical deities clinking their glasses together as another recalcitrant student returns to the fold.
Broad research specialisms:
pyschogeography; cultural geography; landscape theory; feminist geography; pilgrimage studies; feminist, queer & Latin American liberation theology; queer theory; (post) phenomenology; non-representational theory; autoethnography; experimental geography.
BSc (Hons) Geography & Landscape Studies (Southampton) 1986
Diploma in ‘Third World Studies’ (Open University) 1996
MSc Latin American Politics (London) 2000
Project Title: There’s God in them there Hills: Encounters with the Spiritual Landscape
Funding Body: Self-funded
Project Description: The spiritual landscape is more than an intersection of the geographical and the theological, a relationship between space and sacred place. Attempting to define and explore it presents a range of challenges, both personal and academic. Geomorphology might describe the processes which shaped the landscape, settlement studies might tell us how it’s been peopled, cultural geography might even tell us how religion has left its mark but to understand the spiritual impact of the landscape requires a further shift: towards what might loosely be termed a ‘spiritual psychogeography’. This, in turn, for me requires an engagement with theology, literature, ethnography, queer theory and feminist and gender studies.
Having posited a theory as to how the spiritual landscape might be described (and I imagine this might be done in more than one way), the second and most important task is to devise a methodology for experiencing it; to get under its skin and try to discern what, spiritually-speaking, makes it ‘tick’ – maybe, at the risk of over indulging in metaphor, feeling its pulse. Walking seems the most relevant tool; not just the practice of hiking as pilgrimage but as a performative practice which is, in itself a ritual; a meditatory process that has much in common with, for example, the saying of the Rosary in Catholic ritual. At my (fervently) Catholic primary school we were taught that payer is a conduit to God, hiking, preferably alone, fulfils a similar function in turning the hike or pilgrimage into a more profound encounter with the divine
Cuerpo Libre o Muerte (Free Body or Death)
Diva magazine (May 2002)
Women and homosexuality in Mexico and Central America
The Hour is Coming, the Hour is Come: Church and Feminist Theology in Post-Revolutionary El Salvador
Journal of Feminist Theology (September 2002)
Women and Catholicism in contemporary post-civil war El Salvador (MSc dissertation)
The Tablet (December 2002)
Article on travel, tourism and religious festivals in Mexico and Central America
Our Lady of the Libido – Towards a Marian Theology of Sexual Liberation
Journal of Feminist Theology (September 2003)
Argues for a reappraisal of the traditional iconography of the Virgin Mary
The Society of Sin
Virgin Black Lace (2006 (UK)) (2007 (USA))
Shot from Both sides in trans/Formations: A Radical Theological Critique on Transgendered Questions
Chapter on Catholicism, gender and sexuality
You don't have to live like a refugee: a theology of itinerancy and deviation
Journal of Feminist Theology (October 2014)
What happens when Geography gets in bed with Feminist Theology