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City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77

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City, Culture and Society

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The translocal street: Shop signs and local multi-culture along

the Walworth Road, south London
Suzanne Hall ⇑, Ayona Datta
Cities Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Keywords: In this paper, we look at the different ways that visual signscapes along an inner London street produces
Translocal particular types of translocal connections to different spaces and places that are physically distanciated
Mobility yet symbolically proximate. We are particularly interested in examining these signscapes for the ways
Situated that they evoke particular connections between migrant entrepreneurs and a diverse clientele, between
the colonial pasts and postcolonial presents, between the ordinary and the global city, and between
Visual Signage
everyday livelihoods and economic exchanges. We suggest that these signscapes are translocal since they
evoke material and embodied links between the street and its neighbourhoods, while at the same time
connecting the street to a wider spatial network of routes/roots which the migrant entrepreneurs have
taken to establish their livelihoods on the street. Thus the Walworth Road, a place where a multiplicity
of connections are made between different places through these signs, becomes the node or location of
particular types of mobility and migration undertaken by migrants and their clients. It becomes a trans-
local street as it situates mobile actors and identities within the physical and social forms of economic
exchange, shop front displays and signage. The local ‘multi-culture’ on this street is made and remade
through these particular connections which are material, embodied, everyday and ordinary.
Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction are the questions of how the impacts of urban change are
experienced and in what ways cultural and ethnic diversity
Numeric descriptions of London’s population growth and is manifested in the spaces of the city. However acute these
diversification since 2000 underscore the recent growth of numeric descriptions are, they do little to render a complex
the city as one predominantly populated by individuals or fine-grained explanation of the everyday practices of
who were born outside of the UK. National census data re- mobility as situated within local places.
veal that in 2001, 53% of all ethnic minority groups living This paper examines the ‘translocal geographies’ (Brick-
in the UK resided in London (Hamnett 2003), indicating that ell & Datta 2010) of migrant entrepreneurs in an inner Lon-
demographic heterogeneity in the UK is primarily an urban don shopping street through their shop front displays.
phenomenon, moreover, one concentrated in London (Office Specifically we explore how visual signscapes, or the cho-
of National Statistics 2001 reographed arrangements of urban surfaces and spaces by
Recent population survey estimates highlight the effects of proprietors along a south London street, provide a medium
migrations into London between 1998 and 2008: inner Lon- for individuals to negotiate differences. The Walworth Road
don’s population has grown faster than outer London’s pop- in the London Borough of Southwark is a linear, cheek-by-
ulation; migration occurs primarily from international jowl collection of workplaces and social spaces that are part
flows; since 2004 there has been a surge in short-term mi- of local life. The street runs adjacent to a series of large
grants from the eight EU accession states in Eastern Europe; scale social housing estates, including the Heygate and
and, essentially, the high ethnic diversity levels in London Aylesbury Estates, and draws on a population of approxi-
are increasing (Greater London Authority 2008). What the mately 12,000 residents and 3,000 employees within com-
official format of these statistical measures cannot address fortable walking distance of the street (CABE 2007). The
close association of work and local life on the street
⇑ Corresponding author. emerges through the activities of people walking, shopping,
E-mail address: (S. Hall). going to school, collecting a social benefits cheque, or wait-

1877-9166/$ - see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
70 S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77

ing for the bus on the one hand and the adjacent activities tional, translocal, and diasporic identities are expressed
of making and selling on the other. Walworth Road there- and explored.
fore provides a fertile analytic territory to explore experi- The images in this paper suggest a production of ‘Trans-
ences of emplaced mobilities, the complex overlaps local geographies’ (Brickell & Datta 2010) – the notion that
between transnational and translocal identities, and the transnational mobility does not in any way reduce the
reworking of social differences. We focus explicitly on the importance of locales but rather produces particular artic-
everyday life of the street through the arrangement of shop ulations of ‘situatedness’ which are not limited, as Oakes
front displays to suggest how transnational mobilities of and Schein (2006) acknowledge, to one specific context or
diverse proprietors produce London as an ‘ordinary city’ one place identity. Within the street locale, references are
(Robinson 2006). made to varieties of sites, locations, and spatialities within
The empirical context of this paper is part of a larger eth- and beyond the nation-state, while remaining grounded
nographic research on the production and negotiation of within everyday power structures and the agencies of ac-
livelihoods on Walworth Road, conducted between 2006 tors in transforming the conditions of their own mobility.
and 2008 (Hall 2009). In this paper we focus on a photo- Following Brickell and Datta (2010) we argue that the
graphic analysis of the shop front signs of over 200 shops translocal geographies of the Walworth Road include a
along the street, while drawing upon a wider face-to-face range of mobilities across interconnected spatial scales –
survey conducted with 128 of the independent proprietors. homes, neighbourhoods, cities, and regions – between
We explore the forms of expressions that emerge out of a and across different scales of locality.
combination of cultural affinities and entrepreneurial acu- In this paper we take the scale of the neighbourhood as
men on the part of the proprietors. Through observing the our empirical context, but we are not limited by its spatial
imaginative displays of language and objects in the inde- boundedness. A key quality of an inner-London street is
pendent shops, we focus on how connections are made be- that it is central to the everyday livelihoods of an urban
tween the spaces and places along transnational migrant neighbourhood, but it also extends past the area, linking
routes to Walworth Road. In closing we ask, what are the it to other places and spaces. An urban high street situates
spatial implications in examining situated mobilities and connects, both focusing and expanding the possibilities
through the everyday practices of visually communication for contact between different people. A local resident aptly
enacted by proprietors of shops along Walworth Road? described the Walworth Road as ‘basically a road between
other places’. This key quality of being between provides a
crucial direction for this exploration, capturing a spatial
Translocal geographies of the Walworth Road
location neither at the centre nor the margins of contempo-
rary London. In addition being ‘in-between’ refers to a cul-
In order to understand the shopfront displays of the
tural location neither captured by a static view of the
Walworth Road, we situate this within a notion of ‘em-
remnants of Walworth’s working-class residents based on
placed mobilities’ (Smith, 2001) of those who occupy these
location or community, nor a segregated view of its ethnic
shops – an intersection of both established residents, and
minorities based on origin or race. The in-between invokes
immigrants who come from particular colonial and post-
the experience, time and place of urban cultures engaged in
colonial spaces of the former British Empire. We suggest
the context of deep change. Connections to other spaces
that these images refer to translocal connections between
and places are central to the understanding of difference
different spaces across the globe which are evoked within
on this street, and although the Walworth Road is a place
and beyond transnational connections. In recent years, a
of local particularities, its local world is integrally con-
proliferation of debates has emerged around the formation
nected to the forces of significant urban and global mobil-
of transnational or diasporic identities among those who
ity. The street is positioned between central London and
migrate across national territories. While it is accepted that
Camberwell, between the modernist urban ambitions and
such identities are inherently fluid and incorporate multi-
post-war regeneration of the twentieth century, between
ple sites of affiliation, the nation-state often remains the
global and post-colonial worlds, and between white work-
primary point of reference through which they are exam-
ing-class traditions and diverse, transnational cultures in
ined. Further, scholars such as Appadurai (1996, 2005)
close physical proximity.
and Hannerz (1996) suggest that heightened movement
Walworth Road is translocal in yet another way: while
and mobility produces a notion of deterritorialisation and
the Walworth Road is a high street, it is also a route be-
disembeddedness from places. While pre-existing notions
tween local urban neighbourhoods. It is supported by resi-
of transnationalism retain the nation and national territo-
dents living within a convenient walking distance of the
ries as its predominant focus, they appear to suggest a
street and a broader group of people who reach the street
sense of dislocation from place.
by way of other journeys. Some of these journeys are part
On the other hand, critiques from scholars such as Mi-
of the daily or weekly routines of commute common to
chael Peter Smith (2001) suggest that despite migrants’
Londoners. Other journeys to the Walworth Road involve
transnational loyalties, there is a heightened sense of com-
a distinctive break with the regularity and comfort of a
mitment within their immediate local contexts. Through
familiar world; these are the migratory journeys from one
the images presented in this paper, we concur with Smith
country to another, and require traversing great distances.
to suggest that situatedness in migrants’ lives continues
To travel these actual and perceptual distances, is to cross
to be of crucial significance despite increased global mobil-
the boundaries between the familiar and unfamiliar, and
ity. We are not arguing for an anthropological sense of
demands particular social and cultural skills. The capacity
place as a bounded locale (as critiqued by Appadurai), but
to engage in difference and change requires an ability to
a rethinking of local places as dynamic sites where transna-
S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77 71

live with more than one sense of a local or familiar place – a mobility and social change in the neighbourhood. Under-
‘here’ as well as a ‘there’, and a ‘then’ as well as a ‘now’ – standing these signscapes as translocal means that we take
and the ability to live amongst different people. The tran- into account the fields of meanings that they refer to – sug-
slocality of Walworth Road then is also produced through gesting that these signages are not necessarily ‘rational
mundane everyday exchanges across spaces and places choice’ but ways of transcending the divisions between
that do not easily fit within the transnational analytic structure and agency and proposing a ‘theory of practice
frame. These everyday exchanges are at the scale of the in which actions are both constrained by but at the same
neighbourhood and incorporate more corporeal and time constitutive of a deeper structure’ (Kelly & Lusis
embodied exchanges of physical movement similar to but 2006: 832).
not the same as mobilities across real and imagined trans- The distribution and valuation of capital through visual
national spaces. signscapes on the Walworth Road, and its possibilities of
We therefore situate the shop fronts of these different exchange is not objective, but actors on the street are able
entrepreneurs within/across particular ‘locales’ reflecting to quickly learn the ‘rules of the game’ (Bourdieu 2002) that
the combination of multiple territories and cultural refer- are implicitly agreed upon. As visual forms of cultural cap-
ence points that the shop signs refer to. We are interested ital, they can be translated into social capital through the
in how ‘situated yet mobile identities’ (Smith 2005) are development of a social network base of valued customers
articulated through the everyday organisation of shop and therefore exchanged for economic capital through their
fronts that draw on connections across regional, national, patronage. A key feature of these signages is that they are
or global spaces. These images problematise the construc- contingent upon the particular context of the Walworth
tion of the migrant as ‘in here but still there’, suggesting in- Road where they are read, interpreted and translated
stead that migrants have varied loyalties to different places through a particular combination of social, cultural and
and these loyalties are constructed through complex nego- economic capital vested in both entrepreneurs and clients.
tiations with these places. The everyday practice of arrang- These signscapes are neither deterministic in fixing identi-
ing these shop fronts to display goods and to communicate ties and spaces, nor inhibited individual choice in their ref-
with a variegated clientele suggests the interconnectedness erences – but a carefully crafted negotiation between the
between the material and metaphorical contexts of differ- structure and agency of everyday livelihoods on an ordin-
ent spaces on the migrant routes and suggest a fluidity ary retail street in south London.
and variability of scales of reference that problematises na- The focus in this paper then is on these combinations of
tional identities. They suggest a far more complex inter- social, cultural and economic capital, which produce differ-
mingling of a multitude of local worlds on the Walworth ent kinds of visual expression along a multicultural street.
Road: a shared terrain in which diverse references to hu-
mour, cultural symbols, aspirational objects and basic
Unpacking the multi-lingual signscape of Walworth
needs are collaged.
The connections between the Walworth Road and the
adjacent neighbourhoods suggest another possibility for
Our first visual representation of the Walworth Road to
viewing and understanding the visual signscapes. The Wal-
the reader is by way of a plan of the Walworth Road paral-
worth Road is both an aggregation of small, independent
leled with a map of the world (Fig. 1). Connections between
shops as well as a collection of individual imaginations,
the small spaces along the street to cities across the world
agilities and acumen that play a role in how the small
are traced by linking the origins of the proprietors to their
spaces of the city are shaped and transformed. It is there-
respective independent shops along the Walworth Road. By
fore translocal through the basic economic ways that mi-
walking the Walworth Road over a two-week period in
grant entrepreneurs are attempting to improve their lives
2006, each independent shop unit along the street was re-
and livelihoods in the city. It forms a site of accumulation
corded by both a photograph of the shop façade, as well as
and negotiation of varieties of social, economic and cultural
a brief face-to-face survey conducted within the shop. From
capital (Bourdieu 2002). The visual signscapes can be seen
this initial survey, it was apparent that there were
as part of this negotiation, where their very visible aspect of
227 units along the mile length of the street, with 133 inde-
economic capital can be exchanged for other forms of social
pendent shops amongst these. From survey interviews with
and cultural capital at a later time. In order to operate as
105 independent proprietors, it emerged that there were
effective entrepreneurs, shop proprietors have to learn
over twenty different countries of origin amongst these
how to exchange between these different forms of capital.
proprietors, with no single place of origin predominating.
They operate therefore within what Bourdieu would argue
The street is therefore composed of a diverse array of indi-
as a ‘field of meaning’ through which their position and
viduals and places, where for example, a barbershop
capital can be strengthened. The visual signscapes there-
attracting largely clientele with links to West Africa, sits
fore are also forms of visual capital, which can be ex-
alongside a Caff run by the second generation of immi-
changed for particular economic capital if they are able to
grants from Turkish Cyprus, which sits alongside a shop
attract the right clientele into these shops.
proclaiming to serve both Eritrean and Italian food. Of ana-
These visual signscapes make multiple connections to
lytic value then, are the ways in which both singular and
the different social spaces of their clientele and give value
multiple claims to identity and culture are made in the vi-
and meanings to the products sold in these particular
sual arrangement of the shop fronts, which must do the
shops. They situate these connections between particular
work of attracting a base of customers.
nodes of economic exchanges and produce particular ways
What this Walworth Road-World drawing suggests
of understanding and translating these in the context of
about the translocality of an urban high street in the con-
72 S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77

Fig. 1. The juxtaposition of the global and local. A map of the Walworth Road is aligned with a map of the world, and shows the origins and journeys of the independent shop
owners. (Hall 2009, p. 83)

text of migration is that the local is neither static nor singu- a palimpsest of immigration histories. Of crucial analytic
lar: Walworth Road is shaped by passages and journeys of a regard then is not simply the agency of the individual pro-
variety of individuals, who travel, literally and figuratively, prietors as they migrate between places. As an aggregation
between more than one knowledge base of local place. Fur- of migration patterns, the map also suggests how these
ther, the drawing captures the nature of an intense conver- migrations are mediated by power relations, and there is
gence of diverse individuals from within the UK and across a distinct pattern of already-established designations: an
the globe, each bringing established cultural expressions ‘emplacement’ of certain groups of people as they migrate
and social etiquettes to Walworth Road. However, what between and occupy certain spaces of the city. Firstly, a
this drawing omits is the sense of time in the accumulation map of the former British Empire is evident in the points
of these journeys. The interview material revealed that on the World Map, reflected in the high proportion of the
where some would have travelled to the Walworth Road proprietor’s countries of origin being former colonies of
in the last 5 years, others made their journey in the Britain and reveals a post-colonial ’situatedness’. Secondly,
1950s as part of post-war immigration into London, whilst the alignment of the street and world map connects the
others still inherited their units on the street from grand- ‘third world’ or ‘developing world’ to the Walworth Road,
parents who had set up shop in the mid nineteenth cen- by linking places in Africa, the Middle East and the East
tury. In addition, historic surveys such as the Post Office to microcosms on this London street describing both an
London Directory street surveys (1881–1950) provide a de- economic and developmental situatedness during mobility.
tailed record of respective shop activities and individual While South America would have featured prominently on
proprietors, and reveal that a mixture of entrepreneurial this drawing were the proprietors at the Elephant and Cas-
migrants both from inside and outside of the UK have occu- tle incorporated in this survey, North America and Western
pied and shaped the small shop spaces along the Walworth Europe are largely absent from the origins marked on this
Road, since the period of late industrialisation and world map. Closer scrutiny of the drawing therefore reveals
urbanisation. distinctive geographic patterns of mobility, agency and
A fairly commonplace city street in London like the Wal- power, raising questions of who travels to which places
worth Road, is representative of an agglomeration of en- during migration, and why certain individuals find them-
trenched, established and emerging migrant cultures, and selves in particular locales in the city.
S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77 73

Two short questions asked of the respective proprietors nent expression of the space. These spaces tended to reflect
of the independent shops along the Walworth Road were: highly a standardised organisation of space by item-to-
‘How long have you been in this shop on the Walworth shelf sequence, and the familiarity of a brand-oriented shop
Road?’ and ‘What is the country you were born in?’. In identity is promoted. Arguably, the particularity and vari-
some cases the answers coincided with historic patterns ety of visual and spatial arrangements in the independent
of migration. Proprietors who were originally from Greek shops offer a contrasting, more variegated view of globali-
and Turkish Cyprus, from Trinidad and Jamaica, and from sation: one in which the flows of people, objects, ideas and
Pakistan for example, proclaimed lengthy periods of occu- affinities combine, alter and rearrange to create less pre-
pation on the Street, often of 35 years or more. In a detailed dictable cultural experiences. Visual displays that describe
ethnographic study of one proprietor who came to London the flows of economies and individuals across the globe
from Turkish Cyrus with his family in the 1950s, it was might therefore operate in two distinctive ways: those that
apparent that while he visited Cyprus annually, and still depend on the application of sameness across place; and
had family ties there, London would remain his primary those that emerge out of the local particularities in which
place of residence. Other patterns of emplacement reflect one or more places are combined.
a lack of mobility or migration amongst those of English In many of the independent shops along Walworth Road
origin, and including proprietors who had long-standing the displays were shaped by a combination of cultural and
links and affinities with south London working-class cul- personal affinities of both proprietors and customers. In
ture. Those who had occupied shops on the Walworth Road one Halal convenience shop, for example, the space was di-
for less than 2 years, came from a variety of places includ- vided into two areas. The first, closest to the street, had a
ing Iran, Vietnam, China, Sudan, Malaysia, Nigeria, India, range of food products, including the meat counter, while
Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Ghana. The significance the second space, further from the street, stocked food
of this variety points to the extraordinary range of cultural goods more oriented to North African and Muslim custom-
origins and references that become situated along one ers. In this second space there were pictures of Mecca and a
street, without any single nation, ethnicity or culture pre- small prayer area. The proprietor, who had recently arrived
dominating. There is also a distinctive socio-economic les- from Sudan, promoted his primary public display or his
son to be drawn in the study of migration and urban street frontage through signage in both Arabic and English,
livelihoods, in this case how the practice of street-oriented using a selection of words aimed at including a wide cus-
retail provides a common foothold for diverse individuals tomer base: ‘Absar Food Store. Camberwell Halal Butchers
in the city. and Grocery. Afro Caribbean and Mediterranean Fresh Fruit
and Veg’.
Other shop signage along the Walworth Road also repre-
Visual signscape as a form of translocality
sented a desire to reach a diverse customer base, some-
times with humour such as, ‘Mixed Blessings Bakery,
The entrepreneurship of migrants in ordinary spaces
West Indian and English Bread’, Cultural and spatial refer-
along the Walworth Road provides analytic territory to ex-
encing was not the only mode of multiplicity represented,
plore everyday socio-economic practices through which
and signage such as ‘Roze and Lawanson Nigerian Market,
migrants situate their mobility. But in a context of multiple
Money Transfer, Wedding Garments’ and ‘Afroworld Food
and variegated mobilities such as the Walworth Road how
Store. Cosmetics, wigs and fruit and veg’ allude to the curi-
do the proprietors of the independent shops communicate
ous combinations of merchandise and services offered
with a broad base of customers? Through their selection of
within these independent shops (Fig. 2). The kind of
products and services, how do they market or display their
place-making that emerges out of how mobile subjects sit-
shop identities? In the following images of shopfront dis-
uate themselves in their own retail spaces is an act of com-
plays along the Walworth Road, we argue that the shopfont
munication and interpretation. It is the simultaneous
acts as the first platform of communication, and in
translocal practice of translating not only ‘who I am’ but
attempting to capture diverse customers, visual signscapes
also ‘where I am’, and of understanding not only ‘who I
provide an important mode of legibility in both a mobile
am’, but also ‘who else is here’.
and multicultural context.
In exploring the visual signscapes along the street, it is
The visual sequence of display is a primary mode of
both analytically useful to focus in on small signs, particu-
communication used by proprietors on the Walworth Road
lar objects, or interior divisions within a particular shop, as
to combine entrepreneurial and cultural expressions,
well as to zoom out to explore the visual and experiential
where a combination of imagination and acumen is em-
effects of the amalgamation of these shops along the street.
ployed to attract a variegated customer base. The ways in
This relates not only to the selective process in the field-
which individual, ethnic and cultural differences are cho-
work exercise of which elements to capture, but also to
reographed within these visual and spatial displays distin-
the discretion in the writing exercise of how to combine
guish not only the shop products, but also the identity of
images to represent the street. The process of combining
the proprietor and how he or she anticipates the needs
and arranging photographs of the street brought about
and preferences of prospective customers. As will be seen,
the challenge of how to group the visual shop displays
the particularity of each shop is defined by an arrangement
without necessarily reverting to classification by origin of
based on cultural identity rather than product based iden-
proprietor. The survey and fieldwork data that emerged
tity. In contrast, in many of the franchise or chain stores on
showed that it was difficult to conclusively relate particular
the Walworth Road, which have a pre-established product
merchandise or services with particular ethnic groups or
and brand such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mac Donald’s or
places of origin. What was apparent was the predominance
Boots, the merchandise and brand established the promi-
74 S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77

Fig. 2. shop signs on the Walworth Road which refer to a range of spaces, places and connections (Hall 2009, p. 89)

of food related shops both of the retail and restaurant type, ground floor, and with a visual and spatial identity revealed
where the display of food and the arrangement of spaces in the items and sequence of display. Significantly, this spa-
for eating food, appeared as a primary medium for cultural tial pattern could be understood as a basic urban frame-
and social exchange (Fig. 3). Displays of fruit and vegeta- work for subjectivity, or a collective pattern in which
bles evoked a rich cultural collage, where West African individual proprietors along this street made use of the
yams, Plantain bananas and Turkish Olives were suggestive opportunity for expression and engagement in the street
of the range of individuals shopping on the street. At the society in which they are active citizens.
same time, cheap or bargain merchandise, most evidently Above all, these visual displays serve to communicate
clothing, followed by assortments of inexpensive house- the multiple connections that individuals accumulate and
hold goods including those in charity shops, provided addi- maintain as they move within and across cities. These par-
tional visual displays, which tended to be directed at ticular shopfront images are expressive of a combination of
shoppers who were on fairly tight budgets. There were also regional, national and everyday references. As a primary
a number of jewellery and pawnshops, as well as betting cultural cue, specific national affinities are named; ‘Eritre-
establishments and places to cash cheques and access an’, ‘Nigerian’, ‘Chinese’, ‘English’ but are often placed
quick loans (Fig. 4). These commonplace goods and services side-by-side: ‘West Indian and English’; ‘Eritrean and Ital-
shown in Figs. 3 and 4 point precisely to the notion of the ian’. But the prosaic dimensions of the shop signs also pro-
ordinary city, where the overlap of diverse individuals vide very basic references to economic affinities; ‘money
and spaces produces an everyday rather than exotic transfers’; ‘cosmetics’, ‘food and groceries’. In this interest-
urbanity. ing overlap of national belongings and everyday needs, a
What remained as a consistent dimension of this diverse translocal language emerges that connects a variety of
but everyday entrepreneurship is the spatial pattern of a spaces and places and puts them in close physical or imag-
retail street lined with small-scale increments of retail inative proximity, without necessarily producing a hierar-
space, generally of narrow frontage, always limited to the chy in the nature of identity or difference.
S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77 75

Fig. 3. Retail groupings of the independent shops on the Walworth Road. (Hall 2009, p. 92)

Translocality in the ordinary city where something as prosaic as a shop front display pro-
vides a surface to project, explore, read and interpret
This paper has highlighted the expression of situated mobilities and connections across spaces and places that
mobility through a visual medium of communication are physically distanciated. In spite of the fluidity of econ-
76 S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77

Fig. 4. Shop activities on the Walworth Road. (Hall 2009, p. 93)

omy, people and objects in a global world, much of the con- sual medium of communication along an inner London
tact between individuals and groups occurs through regu- retail street. In seeking to understand the ways in which
lar, face-to-face and in place forms of communication. In mobile actors situate themselves in their imagined and
focusing on the visual signscapes of everyday livelihoods physical journeys across neighbourhoods, cities and na-
along the Walworth Road, we have attempted to move to- tions, we argue for an understanding of these spaces and
wards an understanding of translocality as a significant vi- places along the Walworth Road as translocal – that is to
S. Hall, A. Datta / City, Culture and Society 1 (2010) 69–77 77

see these as not simply territorial or bounded as physical the social and economic importance of a visual, and argu-
forms, rather as sites where mobile identities are materia- ably more legible, medium of communication in a context
lised and embodied. This ‘situatedness’ is rooted in an where culture is complexly negotiated and reworked; it
understanding of how culture emerges out of the contact also suggests that visual signscapes can be read through
that most readily occurs within the spontaneity of every- displays, range from individual aspirations, to cultural
day life. In pursuing a visual analysis of everyday entrepre- affinities, to the economic locale in which individuals live.
neurship that is increasingly conditioned by movement and Therefore the collection of mundane objects in the ‘one
flux, the translocal lens argues for an understanding of how pound’ store are just as important to the analysis of every-
individual mobilities are mediated: how nationality, eth- day practices, as are the vivid collage of exotic ‘fruit and
nicity, race, class and gender position individuals with re- veg’ in the convenience store. In learning to recognise the
spect to certain localities and connections. Therefore, ordinary and everyday adaptations of urban multi-cultures
while exploring social and economic exchange and com- in the context of migration and mobility, these visual sign-
munication through individual bodies, signs and spaces scapes emerge as the sites of translocal linkages between
on the Walworth Road, we have also attempted to situate spaces and places that are distanced yet make London’s
these within an uneven and rapidly changing world. incredibly diverse neighbourhoods.
This paper therefore argues for a production of a translo-
cal visuality that is grounded in an understanding of the References
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