RGS-IBG Annual Conference

Here you can find information about DARG sponsored sessions, ordered by their listing on the conference programme.

Rural to where? Rural young people’s geographies in mobility, learning, trajectories and hopefulness

Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group
Developing Areas Research Group

Tracey Skelton (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Jessica Clendenning (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Rural young people, compared to their urban counterparts, are relatively understudied or misunderstood in academic discourse and policy debates (Panelli et al. 2007; Jeffrey 2008; Punch 2015). These trends may be shifting as major development organisations focus on ‘youth’, and some examine rural development, youth and gender dynamics more closely (e.g., CTA and IFAD 2014; UNESCO 2016; UN Women 2017; FAO 2018). This session builds upon both ‘troubled’ and ‘hopeful’ foci in policy and academic studies on rural youth transitions and mobility (e.g., Chant and Jones 2005; Crivello 2010; Woronov 2016; Chea and Huijsmans 2018) to understand rural young people’s educational pathways for navigating opportunities, challenges and precarity. The session examines details about how these pathways affect localized and informal learning (e.g., Katz 2004), and the choices and alternatives young people have in education, training, and making a living.

This session explores how rural youth use and access various forms of mobility, education or training (e.g. vocational, technical, formal) to improve their skills for work, self-employment, further migration, etc., and the outcomes or consequences of such investments. Questions for analysis may include:
◾What are rural young people’s pathways for education and training, and where do they lead?
◾What are the formal or informal skills rural young people acquire from these pathways; how are they used in their everyday lives to find work?
◾What are the effects of these investments in mobility, education and training on their families, natal villages, land uses and forests?
◾How does ‘home place’, along with other social factors such as gender, ethnicity and age, affect their in/ability to become mobile, access education or employment resources?
◾What are the spatialities of where schools/training centres are based, subject areas, and types of student populations (e.g., vocational or tertiary; rural or urban)? What is learned, gained and un/successful?
◾How do differing types of migration (distance, time, type of work) affect connections to families, villages, labour and knowledge in natal land?

“Secondary Cities” in the Global South

Urban Geography Research Group
Developing Areas Research Group

Nina Gribat (Technical University Darmstadt, Germany)
Christian Rosen (Technical University Darmstadt, Germany)

In recent years, “secondary cities” have (re-)emerged as a distinct urban category, which is connected to a range of hopes in the context of international development such as decentralisation, economic growth or poverty reduction (Roberts 2014). Based on analyses of urban systems and hierarchies as well as normative concerns for balanced economic and spatial development, secondary cities were (and are largely) constructed as strategic sites for policy intervention and development (Rondinelli 1983 a,b). Conversely, secondary cities are also considered as possible sites for alternative urban futures beyond world and global cities (DeBoeck et al. 2010). Diverse approaches to defining secondary cities have established: from considering absolute numbers of inhabitants, positions or functional relevance in urban systems to gauging them as ideal contexts for economic growth, health, education, politics and culture.  

This session seeks to contribute to the debate on global and comparative urbanisms (Robinson and Roy 2016), by: (i) critically examining the various formations and possible contestations of an urban category that is underpinned by different normative and universalising tendencies; and (ii) exploring the actual tensions between decentralisation policies and local autonomy and actual practices and policies in diverse urban contexts beyond metropolises.

The political ecology of being green: critiquing green energy

Developing Areas Research Group
Energy Geographies Research Group

Jessica Hope (University of Bristol, UK)
Ed Atkins (University of Bristol, UK)

Political ecology reveals the contested and muti-scalar politics of nature(s), spanning debates about how nature(s) are conceptualized and governed. Broadly, it enables us to foreground and analyse the interconnections between natures, cultures, knowledges, power, and history (see Escobar 2017) and politicize ecologies that are often rendered apolitical within popular and policy discourse (Robbins 2011: 7). In this panel, we invite papers that use political ecology to extend how we view and critique green energies – from hydropower to new biofuels. At a time when the urgency of climate change is increasingly apparent (IPCC 2018), we seek to better understand routes to environmental wellbeing – specifically, the complex realities of green energies that are hidden by CO2 metrics. Transitions to green energies speak to the conference theme of geographies of hope and trouble, offering an unsettled future where green energy carbon metrics offer hope that is troubled by continuities of exploitation, extraction, and dispossession. 

Our starting point is that energy is a particularly important site of study for political ecology, one that is not interchangeable with other ‘natural resources’ as energy provides the material basis of politics more broadly (Huber 2011). In this panel, papers examine the contested politics and unexpected outcomes of transitions to green energy.

Development geography’s ‘creative turn’: reconfiguring power and partnership?

Developing Areas Research Group

Deirdre McKay (Keele University, UK)
Amanda Rogers (Swansea University, UK)

Cultural production is difficult to disentangle from its political context. Culture has long been instrumentalised to build nations, whether through colonialist representations of the ‘other’ or security-driven creative agendas. Creative methods and cultural production increasingly appear at the forefront of new modes of action, not only in marketing, opinion-shaping, but in collaborative research and development outreach. Geographers working in collaboration with colleagues in the global South need to think carefully about the role creativity – broadly understood – plays in their research collaborations. 

Extending on Hawkins’ critical perspectives on the creative turn (2018), this panel explores the implications of creativity driven by interests in the global North in the experience of the global South. Panellists reflect on their experiences of what it means, in practice, to co-create research focussed on creative processes and outcomes designed to deliver social impact.

Furthering the Decolonising Debate in Geography: International perspectives

Developing Areas Research Group

Sarah Radcliffe (University of Cambridge, UK)

The panel aims to provide an open and inclusive space in which to discuss decolonising geography – in all its multiple facets, arenas, agendas and actors — as an international endeavour. Decolonizing debates have taken on varying emphases, vocabularies, interpretive frameworks, and pedagogic priorities across the world. For instance the debates in Brazilian geography (do Carmo Cruz & Araujo 2017) draw on distinct disciplinary concepts and histories of practice to those found in the UK. 
Decolonising is often understood as a process, rather than a singular endpoint of achieving decolonial knowledge and relations. Decolonizing can hence be understood as a framework that starts from a critical analysis and praxis in our present world characterised by its colonial-modern configurations of power, labour, intersectional inter-subjective relations, racialization, knowledge production and relations with nature. In this sense, decolonizing geography is an ongoing contested and uneven process, that has to tackle engrained explanations of the world as much as the institutions and disciplinary structures we work in (at times working against). 
Given the rapidly-shifting and richly proliferating debates around decolonizing geography, the panel invites engagement with a broad range of issues and questions: 
• What does decolonizing geography in the classroom mean in different parts of the world? Does the curriculum have to be white? What strategies exist to nurture solidarity pedagogies and multiepistemic literacy? 
• To what extent do decolonizing geography debates reflect Anglophone and North Atlantic debates and blindness? How have marginal, subaltern and decentring ‘southern’ geographies emerged and challenged metropolitan disciplinary conventions? 
• Decolonizing is often described as happening inside and outside the university. To what extent is that happening around the world and with what impacts?
• What political and intellectual strategies are needed to counter coloniality? Are these strategies ‘translatable’ between different parts of the world? 
• Is the decolonising debate shifting how and why research is done? Does this vary across sub-disciplines? What tools, writings and praxis have been inspirational? 
• How can we conceptualise and understand the politics of circulating ‘regionally specific’ outcomes of decolonising debates in forums such as this panel? For whom do we exchange these ideas – how can we place it within a solidarity network rather than fall into the trap of academic extractivism? 
• What might be the next steps – reading lists on google docs (which language? by sub-disciplines?), international exchanges; purpose and destination of field classes?

Europe and marginality: Decolonising policy on refugees and peripheries

Developing Areas Research Group

Cyril Blondel (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
Lucas Oesch (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)

Decolonial perspectives “rethink modernity and its darker side –coloniality– on a global scale” (Tlostanova and Mignolo, 2009). This approach has been developed by Global South scholars questioning Northern/Western positionality in relation to the South/East of the world. Less often does this approach reflect on the North/West conception of its own internal otherness. This is precisely the object of this session, which aims to analyse the positioning of Europe towards both its spatial and social internal marginalisation using decolonial perspectives. More precisely, this session targets two symbolic figures of marginality: 1) refugees coming to Europe and; 2) the peripheries of Europe. We will focus on the policies directed at them (such as for instance the Common European Asylum System, the Enlargement and Neighbourhood policy, national policies, etc). The goal of the session is not to evaluate these policies per se, but to discuss how cultural producers –researchers, journalists, political leaders (Wacquant, 2007)– analyse these issues. How is policy conceived, set in words, put in practice, discussed and researched? To what extent do European policies, and the ways these policies are framed and analysed, participate in the reproduction of the stereotypes on the marginalised people and territories? In particular, which figures of modernity (Tlostanova and Mignolo, 2012) are invoked in order to justify, validitate and legitimise European interventions? How do marginalised populations (refugees) and territories (peripheries) either accept, endure or contest these policies? Finally, are there any alternative voices emerging from the borderlands or marginalised people questioning these policies?

Latin American Geographies in the UK: where next? A roundtable discussion


Developing Areas Research Group

Sam Halvorsen (Queen Mary University of London, UK)

In early 2018 a group of UK-based scholars created LAG-UK in order to create a forum for both supporting and debating our relationship with Latin American geographies. Since then it has grown rapidly, demonstrating a clear enthusiasm for the initiative. Initial activities have focused on supporting a series of public talks and debates in both the UK and in Latin American (notably a day-long workshop in Buenos Aires in November 2018). LAG-UK has also facilitated new and ongoing dialogues between colleagues working in Latin American and the UK and has begun to explore possible avenues for funding and publication. In this context the aim of the roundtable is to bring together diverse experiences and perspectives on Latin American Geographies in the UK in order to provoke discussion and debate where the network should prioritise its activities. In so doing, we thus seek to open up a space for reflection on the ethics and politics and working across the UK and Latin America and to map out the uneven geographies of our ongoing collaborations and activities. Possible questions to consider may include, but are not limited to:

– How do you work across the production of geographical knowledges in the UK and Latin America and what opportunities and challenges do you come across?
– What historical experiences or examples elsewhere of similar endeavours could LAG-UK learn from?
– What are some of the ethical and political dilemmas that need to be addressed in how LAG-UK moves forward
– How could different parts of the region be better represented in the UK?

Infrastructure and Citizenship: (de)constructing state-society relations

Energy Geographies Research Group
Developing Areas Research Group
Political Geography Research Group
Urban Geography Research Group

Charlotte Lemanski (University of Cambridge, UK)
Jon Phillips (University of Cambridge, UK)

Within urban geography, infrastructure has become a core lens for understanding the city, whereby infrastructure is conceptualised as a technical or physical representation of socio-political processes (e.g. Graham and Marvin 2001; Amin 2014, Coutard & Rutherford 2015). Similarly, citizenship is promoted within political and development geography as vital for understanding socio-political life, emphasising the role played by citizen action rather than legal rules per se (e.g. Painter and Philo 1995; Isin and Nielson 2008; Staeheli 2010; Cornwall et al 2011; Staeheli et al 2012). Recent scholarship has begun to interrogate how infrastructure can mediate and manifest state-society relations (Lemanski 2019); Or, how citizens’ access and use of infrastructure affects, and is affected by, their citizenship identity and practice. Yet, despite the growth in critical studies of urban infrastructure, the multiple ways that citizenship and infrastructure relate in diverse urban settings has received limited critical attention.

We invite papers that explore relationships between infrastructure and citizenship, as socio-technical and legal-political ways through which urban space, institutions, processes and people are governed. We encourage papers that embrace the everyday perspectives of the urban dwellers and state representatives who inhabit the material (infrastructural) and political (citizenship) spaces of the city. And we welcome critical engagement with concepts of both citizenship and infrastructure. The session is planned in a standard paper format, inviting papers that may be primarily theoretical and/or empirical, and could be based on comparative or singular case studies from around the world.

Wandering Souls — a story of Cambodian resilience and healing

Developing Areas Research Group

Rachel Hughes (The University of Melbourne, Australia)

In October 2017, a new stage production premiered at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in Melbourne, Australia. Bangsokol: a Requiem for Cambodia is a unique fusion of music, voice, movement and projected images in remembrance of the two million Cambodians who died under the Khmer Rouge regime. Bangsokol also celebrates the renaissance of an artistic life that had all but disappeared. The Requiem has been commissioned by Cambodian Living Arts, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to reviving the arts and bringing international attention to a world still in conflict. 

The Requiem’s libretto is based on a traditional bangsokol, the Khmer Buddhist ritual for the dead, but combines Khmer instruments and vocalists with a Western chamber orchestra and chorus. A triptych of images by Rithy Panh is simultaneously projected during the performance. Containing material from Panh’s earlier films, archival footage and new footage, the film represents Cambodia’s recent past and illuminates various aspects of the musical work.

Filmed over a year of artistic development of the Requiem, this documentary charts its staging and includes powerful accounts of the survival experiences of those involved. The Requiem’s principal creators, both child survivors, are world-renowned filmmaker Rithy Panh, and Cambodia’s premier composer, Him Sophy. The film follows the joy and tension of creative collaboration through pre-production periods and rehearsals leading up to the Melbourne premiere performance.

The film screening will close with discussion chaired by a Cambodia researcher and consultant on the film.

Author meets readers: David Simon’s Holocaust Escapees and Global Development: Hidden Histories

Developing Areas Research Group
History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Race, Culture and Equality Working Group

Miles Kenney-Lazar (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Felix Mallin (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
James Sidaway (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

This panel session will bring together readers of David Simon’s (2019) Holocaust Escapees and Global Development: Hidden Histories (University of Chicago Press and Pluto Press). The author will respond to their comments.

Amazonian geographies of the past and the future

Developing Areas Research Group

Nina Laurie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Katherine Roucoux (University of St Andrews, UK)
Anna Macphie (University of St Andrews, UK)

Amazonia is once again emerging as an important focus for geographical research – science debates over climate change and new economic geographies of resource extraction are increasingly engaging with the rights of nature, indigenous ontologies and notions of ‘living well’. Often labelled, (and arguably mislabeled?) ‘post-neoliberal’, these agendas are shaping understandings of potential shared futures for our planet. Along with this forward-looking perspective, there has also been a renewed interest in historical geographies of frontiers, tropicality and past and present forms of exploration, as well as attention to archaeologies of pre-conquest populations – their mobilities and livelihoods. Together all these research themes amount to a growing, general interest in ways of living and being in Amazonia. This work is forging interdisciplinary trajectories, seeking to engage diverse audiences both within human and physical geography as well as with Geography’s allied disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and arts. These initiatives are spawning new types of funding, research collaborations and ‘communities of practice’. New methodological conversations are taking place at the interface of these agendas and an interest in the possibilities generated by advances in drone technology and remote sensing sit along-side a renewed appreciation for ethnographic endeavour and archive work. Participatory methods are now part of the suite of skills seen as core in approaches that range from ethnobotany and ecosystems mapping to oral histories, paleoecology and new forms of engaging communities in digital media and visual anthropology. This session seeks to attract papers from across the full spectrum of geographical research currently being conducted in and on Amazonia in order to explore what a renewed critical area studies has to offer understanding of Geographies of Trouble / Geographies of Hope in this multiply-produced and complexly layered region.

Co-sponsored by Latin American Geographies in the UK (LAG-UK)