A Goldsmiths, University of London researcher will explore the secretive world of the seriously rich, through a 25-mile tour of plutocratic London’s most exclusive neighbourhoods.
Professor Caroline Knowles has been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship to conduct a three-year investigation into the city’s Serious Money and the people who make and spend it.
What impact do London’s bankers, hedge fund managers, property speculators, CEOs, Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese and Middle Eastern oligarchs, aristocrats, footballers and assorted celebrities really make on the communities around them?
"Exactly how Serious Money lives always attracts press speculation but little methodical investigation," Professor Knowles explains.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that the super rich raise the cost of housing; shunt the long-entitled into unfamiliar neighbourhoods; relocate the poor; close public amenities to make more room for luxury developments; cordon off streets with barriers and reroute dog walkers, cyclists and drivers.
“The headlines tell us they turn pubs and grocery stores into estate agents and antique shops; dig out basements, install spas, annoy their neighbours; and darken neighbourhoods when living in one of their other houses,” she adds.
“But we need to take a closer, analytical, look at this story, and the social consequences of extreme wealth in the lives and city shaped by it.
“London provides an eco-system in which global plutocratic capital and the legal and taxation expertise it requires, flourishes. How do these local vectors of global connection actually work on the ground?”
Professor Knowles will build detailed portraits of the lives and landscapes of London’s plutocrats, developing the earlier ESRC-funded research project ‘Life in Alpha Territories’ conducted by researchers from Goldsmiths, King’s College London, LSE and Sheffield.
Through research papers, a book, exhibition and other outputs, Professor Knowles intends to create detailed portraits of plutocratic lives and global–local connections, arguing that such research is imperative in advancing debates about the benefits and drawbacks of plutocratic capital in shaping cities.
From the closed-off streets surrounding Wentworth Golf Club through Richmond, Kew, Chelsea and Knightsbridge and onto South Kensington, Mayfair and London’s financial district, through the Serious Money walk Professor Knowles will photograph, map and record the impact of the elite on the worlds they inhabit.
Work on ‘Serious Money: a tour through plutocratic London’ begins in 2017.
Professor Caroline Knowles is co-director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, based in the Department of Sociology. She is the author of 'Flip-Flop: A Journey through Globalisation’s Backroads' (2014) among other titles. Recent research projects include a study of Chinese migrants in London and British migrants in Beijing.