Research Stream


Jade Riddle
The University of Adelaide

Katie Barclay
The University of Adelaide


Emotions in Place: The Creation of the Suburban "Other" in Early Modern London

This project aims to uncover the role of emotions in the way space was represented in early modern London. To tackle this large topic, the work focuses on how spaces were represented visually and through literary works of the time.

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Following Henri Lefebvre’s suggestion that space is socially constructed and constituted, cities have been reclassified from static ‘maps’ for human activities to performed spaces that draw together human behaviour, meaning, discourse and material conditions in their production. Cities are not simply a background for movement, but a function of cultural and emotional practice. Responding specifically to Lefebvre’s call for a ‘history of the representations of space,’ this project interrogates the role emotion played in visual and literary representations of early modern London. Tracing the impact that these representations had on social and cultural power structures in the city, this project argues they could be used as ‘emotional tools’ to designate the ‘other’ within the city, both spatially and socially.

Historically based (1580–1750), the project applies contemporary cultural and spatial theory to emotions research on the city. The project follows ideas and ideologies through the early modern period, tracking the changing conceptions and constructions of spatialised otherness within the city. The project questions how spatial boundaries are produced through and with emotion and how emotional communities form and define themselves in relation to urban space. Importantly, it interrogates how the emotionally charged imaginings of urban environments impacted on their histories, identities and communities.

The project sits at the intersection between cultural studies and the history of emotions and is informed by urban history. However, it is not another urban history of London; rather it aims to re-imagine the vast body of work on the city in the early modern period in order to understand how emotion is entangled with the city and its people. The work focuses primarily on the suburb of Cripplegate Without, an area just north of the London Wall, however, it also takes into account the wider cultural and social contexts of the city during the period. Building on Sara Ahmed’s concept of ‘emotional stickiness,’ a way of explaining how emotion could become ‘stuck’ to objects and subjects, the project posits a further question: why does emotion stick there? This project argues that the notion of otherness in early modern London was not a static concept. The boundaries of what was considered ‘other’ could, and did, shift over time, both spatially within the city and socially within London society. The negotiation of these boundaries was linked with the concepts of emotion and place within the city.

Image: The Agas Map c.1561, held by the City of London, London Metropolitan Archives. Wikimedia Commons.