Patchwork Pub Chat

Local government reorganisation is a great British hobby

Patchwork posts are stalling as I consider turning this investigation into something more purposefully substantial and long-form.

The PhD itch might need scratching soon…

Questions for future posts keep piling up as I dive deeper into the subjective fracturing inherent to the Gothic novel and read up on non-humanities takes on geopolitics.

Last night, with all this in mind, I met someone who works in city planning between Newcastle and Manchester and who is as enamoured by Yorkshire’s fractured infrastructure as I am.

He spoke about, for instance, how Leeds is the biggest city in the EU without a metro system and advocated higher connectivity between the county’s various cities. In his professional view, it was this lack of effective transport infrastructure alone that has held the county back from reaching its otherwise obvious potential to be a nation in its own right.

It was interesting to hear this call for better internal connectivity between Yorkshire’s cities when the government’s solution remains to forge “high speed” rail links to London to increase prosperity…

He said that One Yorkshire was the only way to go.

As he kept talking about connectivity, I decided to pitch patchwork to him as a model of “low integration, high connectivity.” I wasn’t very successful getting through to him — “I’m not a lefty but that sounds far too corporate for my liking”. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to hear someone actively working in this area, fascinated by local authority boundary changes, highlighting various regional secessionary trends but still holding on to that dream of blanket unification, even when it seemed to be antithetical to what he himself saw as the best way forward.

Ed Berger recently sent over a study on this sort of entanglement of unificatory and secessionary trends in a paper titled “Contested Sovereignty: Mapping Referendums on Sovereignty over Time and Space“, mentioned in an article on the history of “sovereignty referendums” in the Washington Post.

The spiral of conflicting sovereignties is fascinating. I can’t help but be reminded, reading the WP article, of how Nigel Farage declared the day the Brexit vote was announced as “our Independence Day”.

Farage was rightly ridiculed, considering so many Independence Days around the world celebrate the end of British rule, but does this not highlight just how entangled our various political and economic unions are in the minds of so many?

The British empire has dissolved (at least as a symbol of power) and the Soviet Union fell only 25 years ago. Now other unions exist in their places. They’re not strictly comparable, of course, but as these unions layer up on top of each other’s former or contested boundaries, the fracturing of identities is hardly a surprising result.

It seems obvious to me now, nationally and internationally, that there is a conflict over which future will win out — unified or patchwork. Desires for both seem internalised by many.

If you’re still wondering what the production of subjectivity has to do with patchwork, surely these trends reveal how it is in fact the eye of the storm. The conflict is as internally subjective as it is externally geopolitical.

Whichever one wins out globally will have a currently unimaginable impact on who we think we are.


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