Subterranean spacesPublicity, privacy, and the social underground

Type Paper
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 05 Jul 2012
Event2012 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual Meeting - Edinburgh, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 03 Jul 201205 Jul 2012


Conference2012 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual Meeting
Abbreviated title2012 RGS-IBG
CountryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Period03 Jul 201205 Jul 2012
Permanent link
View graph of relations
Citation formats


This paper explores the interplays between absence and presence are manifested in subterranean spaces: a condition where superficial absence is juxtaposed by presence ‘behind closed doors’. Drawing, firstly, on works of Rosalind Williams (2008) and others, I outline how discussion of the subterranean as an actual space can be extended to understand it as a figurative space. I then proceed to discuss these in the empirical context of the everyday spaces occupied by Muslims in rural West Wales. I illustrate how visible absences from the landscape – such as a reliance on makeshift and contingent sacred spaces – reinforce notions of absence regarding Muslims in the region, despite these spaces functioning as important counterpublic arena for local Muslims. The significance of these spaces, however, is undermined by their dissimulating nature, raising challenges for local faith-based organisations. While these spaces may signify a tactical withdrawal or even support the notion that Muslims in the UK lead parallel lives, I argue instead that subterranean spaces – in this case – are the marks of a ‘pioneer’ community, making-do with limited resources and political capital. I conclude by reflecting on the significance of the subterranean for understanding both issues regarding to publicity and privacy, and to the dynamics of absence and presence.