Eva McGrath


This thesis uses the concept of the riverborderscape to provide new understandings of watery geographies, borders and landscape. This is a spatial and conceptual term used to explore the space of the river through a holistic approach, focusing upon the materialities, experiences and narratives that shape, emerge within and construct this space. These ideas are applied in relation to three rivers that form an everyday border between places at different scales in the South West of England: the River Tamar (regional), River Torridge (district) and Helford River (parish). Research is situated on and across the river, through the routes of estuarine passenger ferries, as they transport passengers from one side of the river to the other. In so doing, attention is given to the riverborder itself, and the spaces on either side. The thesis is based upon a mixed methodology, primarily ethnographic fieldwork, reflection cards with a mixed qualitative and quantitative survey, encouraging passengers to draw and write what they saw and experienced on the river, interviews and participant observation informed poetry. Research findings detail the importance of analysing rivers as three-dimensional, through height and depth, as well as spatial area and in relation to tides, navigational routes, and other watery materialities. The riverborder is framed through tension: both an exciting and potentially dangerous space, and the river crossing emerges as a third space, between land, where passengers express creative imagination and transitional thoughts, whilst, in the temporary time between lands, adhere to strict parameters and regulations on-board. The river as border emerges through narratives, jokes and stories, distinguishing one side of the river from the other. The ferry is analysed through the politics of mobility and its structural ‘link’ is shown to be multi-layered. Altogether, the riverborderscape approach considers the spatial area on and across rivers and puts forward a framework to analyse everyday border spaces through attention to materialities, experiences and narratives.

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