It was a privilege to speak at the Royal Geographical Society’s annual conference last week. Held on site in south Kensington, it was an appropriate opportunity and venue to speak about my current research into ‘Unequal Lives’ in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
My talk centred on the ongoing prominence of the Grenfell disaster in the local area. In linking the monthly silent marches held by Justice4Grenfell with the messages of solidarity written onto streets, walls and memorials and the symbolic use of the colour green in urban space, I surveyed the politics of grief that continues to mark the borough.
Grief is a complex feeling: one that is both intensely private and publicly shared, and that commemorates the past whilst also looking forwards to a new future. Grief can be articulated in and through a range of other proxies – of anger, sadness, despair, acceptance, and so on. My presentation illustrated the important role of geography in these performances, practices and atmospheres of grief – arguing that grief is ultimately not natural or inevitable, but an exercise in and of politics. Shot through with inequalities, both in who grieves, where we grieve and who we grieve for, it provides a crucial insight into the broader existence of unequal lives in Kensington and Chelsea.