In June we undertook a preliminary walk to gain familiarity with the territory of On Tramp and its contemporary landscapes. Over the course of the day we were also able to gain greater understanding of the different perspectives and specialisms we each bring to this project, and how they can inform and strengthen each other.
I used this excursion as an opportunity to gather photographic documentation of the paths, roads and differing land uses that we encountered while walking to Hitchin. Collectively we were looking for traces: visible clues in the landscape of sites from Greenwood’s account, or signs of broader histories of vagrancy in the local landscape.
Gathering these images and insights from the preliminary walk gave me a new clarity on the scope of my publication. It’s initial function was to document September’s walk, weaving something of Greenwood’s experience with today’s landscape. Yet through walking this route, and reading Greenwood’s text and Seaber’s research into incognito social investigation, this has developed into a broader interest into how the past is experienced in our own time.
Seaber’s research encourages us to acknowledge the paucity of voices discussing vagrancy or homelessness which come from these displaced groups themselves. Our society’s laws and our individual beliefs are therefore based on a one-sided picture, which remains unchallenged. Seaber gives insight into a specific lineage of how people have talked about ‘tramps’, ‘vagrants’ and ‘the homeless’, which have echoes and traces in our own time. My publication will explore the ways that histories of talking about ‘tramps’ can be seen to extend into the present, affecting the way that we perceive mobile populations and how this is articulated through law.
Through putting Greenwood in conversation with contemporary pedestrians and texts from the archive, I will begin to see what echoes can be heard of how mobile populations are discussed through time.
Greenwood, J. (1883) On Tramp
Seaber, L. (2017) Incognito Social Investigation in British Literature