Slow Violence and the Representational Politics of Song


  • Rachel Pain Newcastle University
  • Brenda Heslop Songwriter
  • Geoff Heslop Music Arranger and Producer



Slow violence, housing, music


In Nixon’s analysis of slow violence (2011: 7) ‘attritional catastrophes...are marked above all by displacements’. Our research witnessed the sudden auction of social (public) housing in 2015-16 in a former coalmining community in North East England, after decades of managed decline by a voluntary sector Housing Association now operating by market principles. Earlier state violence prior to and during the 1980s coalmine closures not only did long term social damage, but anticipated the form and manner of subsequent assaults through welfare reform and increasingly inequitable national housing policies. Our enquiry examines the use of song to explore and represent this context of growing housing insecurity, a deteriorating physical environment and fragmenting community, and the many everyday ways in which residents are contesting these changes. Reflecting on our participatory action research project, we discuss the practice and political possibilities of song in representing place, making slow violence visible and supporting resistance. The paper is authored by two North East songwriter/performers who gathered stories in the village and offered them back, and the social geographer leading the wider project. It includes song lyrics and links to the collection of 10 Horden songs and videos, ‘Our Streets Are Numbered’.

Author Biography

Rachel Pain, Newcastle University

Professor of Human Geography


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How to Cite

Pain, R., Heslop, B., & Heslop, G. (2019). Slow Violence and the Representational Politics of Song. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(5), 1100–1111.



Special Issue - Slow Violence (Guest Eds. Caitlin Cahill & Rachel Pain)