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Lives in Brick: Bodies, Justice, Power

  • Senate House, University of London (Woburn Room) Malet Street London, England, WC1E 7HU United Kingdom (map)
 Brick line of a home in Cambodia destroyed via forced eviction (Photo: Ben Woods)

Brick line of a home in Cambodia destroyed via forced eviction (Photo: Ben Woods)

In this workshop, we are looking to bring together a wide range of interested groups (scholars, design practitioners, artists, policymakers, planners, and construction professionals etc.), to dwell on brick; described in Brick: A World History as ‘the simplest and the most versatile of materials, the most ubiquitous and the least regarded, all too familiar yet strangely neglected’. While this and the limited existence of other similar books are dedicated to the historical tracing and visual capturing of the spectacular and most beautiful – from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, to the Great Wall of China – the planned workshop focuses on more everyday and mundane engagements with this popular building material.

Our starting contention is that although bricks could be considered ordinary, they tell complex stories about bodies, (in)justice, and power. Bricks matter; their making and consumption having political, material and affective force as a vibrant form of infrastructure which mediates and organises life.

Our call for participation seeks both academic and non-academic work which originates from anywhere in the world. The type of brick being engaged with is also flexible (e.g. Lego). Participation could take several forms – a 20-minute talk or a participant-led activity which engages other delegates.

The workshop is organised by the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London and specifically team members working on the 18-month research project (2017-2019) ‘Blood Bricks: Examining the Climate Change-Modern Slavery Nexus in the Cambodian Construction Industry’. The event is supported by our project funders, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID).

The workshop has been timed and located to coincide with the exhibition – ‘Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and Climate Change from Cambodia’ – and will include a short tour of it at the Building Centre near by and discussion as part of the workshop day.

We are also delighted that Professor Ian Cook, co-author of the forthcoming paper 'Inviting construction: Primark, Rana Plaza and Political LEGO' (in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers) will be joining us. He is bringing is LEGOLab, to encourage creative experimentations with bricks, mini figures, and accessories to imagine and re-create scenes from any place, any time, real, rumoured or otherwise.

Please submit your expressions of interest to Nithya Natarajan ( by the deadline of 29 June 2018. If you are suggesting a talk, please provide a title and short abstract; for a participant-led activity, please also supply a title, short description, and suggested time length required.

There is no registration fee and lunch will be provided. We have two artist bursaries (£200 each) to cover transport and accommodation. Please indicate if you would like to be considered for one of these.