Katy Beinart


Salted Earth

Stall in Market Stall in Market

Salted Earth: how the practices and poetics of salt connect memory, migration, and regeneration in contested urban sites and their diasporas

Practice-based PhD, The Bartlett, University College London

Supervisors: Jane Rendell and Ben Campkin

Through the Origination project and residency, I became interested in the idea of 'salted earth', a term used to refer to District 6, an area of Cape Town, South Africa demolished by the Apartheid Government. Subsequent protests made it impossible to sell the land. 'Salted earth' is a reference to emotion carried in the land, places that become loaded with memory, often contested by different communities with different versions of history. Salt as a material overlaps cultures and histories, and has strong links to migration and ritual in different cultures. My research explores how these practices and poetics of salt link migration and regeneration in particular sites.


This practice-based PhD argues that practices and poetics of salt can be linked to processes of migration and regeneration. I use salt practices to understand how it is indexical to memory, migration, and diaspora and as such could be a rich vehicle in alternative readings of the impact of regeneration, particularly in contested sites with a strong migrant presence. I interrogate how narratives of migration could be and have been told through salt and the role they have in negotiating the language of regeneration of these sites.

Drawing on the work of Martiniquan poet Edouard Glissant, and his
poetics of relation (1997) the thesis explores how salt features in relationships of migration and change in urban sites, in particular the context of Brixton, a suburb of London with a strong migrant identity. Through practices that perfomatively engage with salt, I build on work by artists including Robert Smithson that investigate the materiality of salt and others such as Sigalit Landau who use salt in the preservation of objects.

Through re-enacting salt rituals found in everyday and religious practices from across different diasporas, including auto-ethnographic research into my own family history and Jewish cultural customs around of salt, as well as engaging with others stories, I explore salts use in offering protection, preservation and reawakening, and its link to place through migration, as a moving outward and homing as its reverse. Following Glissants notion of detour and retour, this thesis moves between geographical locations through a series of four journeys outwards to South Africa, Eastern Europe, Portugal, and Haiti, each of which return to Brixton as a home site. Each chapter is arranged as a detour and retour, developing a practice and poetics of salt that is linked to Brixtons recent cultural history and current regeneration.

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Link to Bartlett profile

Salted Earth blog

Stall in Market

Katy is part of the Mapping Spectral Traces network, a trans-disciplinary, international group of scholars, practitioners, community leaders and artists who work with and in traumatized communities, contested lands and diverse environments.