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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 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.

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.


9 – 9.15: Registration

9.15 – 9.30: Welcome remarks

9.30 – 11: Panel one, The Social Lives of Bricks

Tim Edensor, ‘Melbourne's Bricks: The Aftermath of a Suburban Industry’

Maria Panta, ‘Bricks of Resilience’ bi-communal project in Southern and Northern Cyprus’

David Kennett, ‘The Cry of the Children of the Brickyards is Unheard from the Indus to Beyond the Yangtze’

11 – 12noon: ‘Blood Bricks’ Exhibition visit

12 – 12.45pm: Lunch

12.45 – 2.30pm: LEGO workshop with Ian Cook

2.30 – 3.30pm: Panel two, Building with Bricks

Mel Nowicki, Ella Harris and Katherine Brickell, ‘Destigmatising ‘housing for the homeless’: Affective infrastructures of brick-clad modular housing in Dublin.’ 

Felicity Cannell, ‘Bricks, a Matter of Fact: exploring the dependence on the clay brick for new residential housing in England’

3.30 – 3.45pm: Tea, coffee and biscuits

3.45 – 4.45pm: Panel three, The Materiality of Bricks

Márton Berki, ‘The ‘social’ within our walls: Stamped bricks as socio-material entanglements’

Frano Violich, ‘BRICK: THICK/THIN’

4.45 – 5pm: Closing remarks

5pm – evening: The College Arms (18 Store Street, WC1E 7DH)