DARG Sponsored Sessions at the 2019 RGS Annual Conference

Please find below our DARG sponsored sessions for the RGS (with IBG) Annual Conference. Contact details and information about how to submit an abstract for the sessions are included below.

1. Amazonian geographies of the past and the future

Session Convenors Nina Laurie, Anna Macphie and Katherine Roucoux, School of Geography and Sustainable Development, University of St Andrews, Scotland.

Session Sponsors: Developing Areas Research Group

Supported by Latin American Geographies in the UK (LAG-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 argueably mislabelled?) ‘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. 

Please send abstracts (or queries) to Anna Macphie (ajm50@st-andrews.ac.uk)

And/or Nina Laurie (Nina.Laurie@st-andrews.ac.uk), Katherine Roucoux (khr@st-andrews.ac.uk)

Deadline 4th Feb. Please include:

  • A title for your presentation;
  • An abstract of max 150 words;
  • Your preference of either a paper presentation or a snapshot presentation;
  • Your name, affiliation and contact details (email address).

2. RGS/IBG CFP Development geography’s ‘creative turn’: reconfiguring power and partnership?

We’re seeking abstracts for a proposed panel session at the 2019 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference, sponsored by the Developing Areas Research Group (DARG). 

Convenors: Dr Deirdre McKay (Keele University, UK) and Dr Amanda Rogers (Swansea University, UK)

Sponsor: DARG

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 panels explores the implications of creativity driven by interests in the global North in the experience of the global South. We ask:

What does it mean, in practice, to co-create research?  

When academics, governments, and colleagues in the third and creative sector find themselves increasingly asked to engage        research design focussed on creative processes and outcomes intended to deliver social impact, does this creativity work to decolonise research relationships? Or does the creative turn have a dark side (Cropley et al, 2010) generating new risks, expectations, obligations, and forms of bureaucracy to undermine equitable partnerships? 

Could creative approaches to art, dance, theatre, film, sculpture, music and digital production be used to fuel inequality or justify authoritarian regimes? Who can harness ‘creative power’? 

Do the processes and products of creativity drive some people apart and pull others together? 

How are creative methods being called upon to interpret contested issues and antagonistic politics? 

We invite panellists to reflect on the ways creative methods structure relationships and narratives in research and  governance. This reflection could encompass co-created projects using innovative approaches to:

  • film
  • theatre
  • art
  • digital media 
  • dance
  • photography 
  • exhibitions
  • other creative formats 

We especially encourage perspectives from scholars who have experience as research partners in institutions and charities from the Global South.

Cropley, David et al. (2010) The dark side of creativity. Cambridge.

Hawkins, Harriet (2018) Geography’s creative (re)turn: Toward a critical framework. Progress in Human Geography (early view) https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132518804341

Abstracts of up to 250 words – mailto:d.c.mckay@keele.ac.uk by 13th February 2019.

3. Europe and marginality: Decolonising policy on refugees and peripheries

Session convenors: Cyril Blondel and Lucas Oesch, University of 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? 

This session welcomes theoretical, epistemological and/or empirically based studies on topics ranging from, but not limited to:

  • Critical assessment of (research on) refugee policy in Europe (such as the Common European Asylum System–CEAS, national policies, etc.) and/or on their implementation;
  • Comparative or transversal research on refugee policies across Europe and the Global South, and especially on refugee reception;
  • Critical assessment of (research on) the European Neighborhood and Enlargement Policy and/or on its implementation in concerned states;
  • Critical discussion of (research on) the EU Cohesion Policy and of other European national policies towards “less developed” or peripheral regions and/or on their implementation.

Titles, abstracts of no more than 200 words, affiliations and emails of each author, should be sent to both Cyril Blondel (cyril.blondel@uni.lu) and Lucas Oesch (lucas.oesch@uni.lu) by 21 January 2019. We will notify the authors of selected papers by 28 January 2019.

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

Panel convenors: Charlotte Lemanski (University of Cambridge) and Jon Phillips (University of Cambridge) 

Research Group sponsorship: UGRG, DARG, PGRG

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. 

Please submit a 250-word abstract (plus title, author, affiliation and email address) to Jon (jlp71@cam.ac.uk) and Charlotte (cll52@cam.ac.uk) by 1st February 2019. 

References cited 

  • Amin, A., 2014. Lively Infrastructure. Theory, Culture and Society, v. 31, p.137-161
  • Cornwall, A., Robins, S., and von Lieres, B., 2011, ‘States of Citizenship: Contexts and Cultures 
  • of Public Engagement and Citizen Action’, IDS working paper 363, pp1-32.
  • Coutard O & Rutherford J (eds). 2015. Beyond the Networked City: Infrastructure Reconfigurations and 
  • Urban Change in the North and South. London: Routledge.
  • Graham, S. and Marvin, S., 2001, Splintering Urbanism: Networked infrastructures and the Urban 
  • Condition: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilites and the Urban Condition, Routledge, London Isin, E.F. and Nielsen, G.M. (Eds.), 2008, Acts of Citizenship, Zed Books, London. 
  • Lemanski, C. (Ed.), 2019, Infrastructures of citizenship: practices and identities of urban citizens and the state, Routledge: Abingdon. 
  • Painter, J. and Philo, C., 1995, ‘Spaces of citizenship: and introduction’, Political Geography 14(2), pp107-120 
  • Staeheli, L., 2010, ‘Political geography: where’s citizenship?’, Progress in Human Geography, 35(3), pp393 – 400 
  • Staeheli, L.A., Ehrkamp, P., Leitner, H. and Nagel, C.R., 2012, “Dreaming of the Ordinary: Citizenship and the Complex Geographies of Daily Life.” Progress in Human Geography, 36: 627- 643. 

5. CFP: “Secondary Cities” in the Global South

Sponsored by:  Developing Areas Research Group (DARG)

Convenors:  Nina Gribat and Christian Rosen (TU Darmstadt)

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. 

Contributions are welcome but not limited to the following topics:

  • archaeologies and other critical analyses of the secondary city concept: In which contexts has it emerged, how did it change over time, which actors use it and how?
  • comparative methodologies of examining secondary cities in the Global South: How to deal with the challenges of lacking data, instable governance arrangements and varying geographical and political conditions in different states? Do urban contexts beyond the usual focus on metropolises pose new methodological challenges?
  • case studies that examine tensions between decentralisation and autonomy
  • analyses of the conflicts of state-spatial decentralisation processes, which address issues of political stability and resources in secondary cities 
  • examinations of civil society and social movements beyond metropolises or megacities in the Global South
  • economic development: Which economic growth paths are considered as successful? How do these reflect specific local conditions?
  • explorations of locally-specific approaches to reduce poverty and inequality, deliver public infrastructure and improve planning processes: 

How do secondary cities address such issues? What are the similarities and differences between different cities’ approaches?

Please submit an abstract of 250 words to Nina Gribat (gribat@eus.tu-darmstadt.de) and Christian Rosen (rosen@eus.tu-darmstadt.de) by 10th February 2019. If you have any questions do get in touch!


  • De Boeck, Filip, Cassiman, Ann and Van Wolputte, Steven. (2010). Recentering the City: An Anthropology of Secondary Cities in Africa. In: Karel A (ed.) Afrizcan Perspectives 2009. The African City: (Re)sourced, University of Pretoria. Department of Architecture; Pretoria (South Africa): 33-1
  • Roberts, Brian H. (2014) Managing Systems of Secondary Cities: Policy Responses in International Development, Cities Alliance/UNOPS, Brussels. 
  • Rondinelli, Dennis A. (1983a) Secondary cities in developing countries: policies for diffusing urbanization, Beverly Hills, Sage Publications.
  • Rondinelli, Dennis A. (1983b) Dynamics of Growth of Secondary Cities in Developing Countries, Geographical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1: 42-57.
  • Robinson, Jennifer and Roy, Ananya (2016) Debate on Global Urbanisms and the Nature of Urban Theory, IJURR, Vol. 40, No. 1: 181-186.

6. Political Ecologies of Green Energy: troubling the realities of being green 

Convenors: Dr Jessica Hope & Dr Ed Atkins, University of Bristol

Sponsored by DARG & ENGRG

The 2015 Paris Agreement binds world leaders to a commitment to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius this century. If this is not achieved, climate scientists predict significant disruptions to earth systems that will radically alter life as we know it (IPCC 2018). In this context, green energy offers hope. Firstly, as moving away from fossil fuels is crucial for reducing carbon emissions. Secondly, as green energy offers opportunities for a revised politics of energy and an alternative material basis for social, environmental and political life. However, the transformative potential offered by green energies is troubled by continuing patterns of exploitation, extraction, and dispossession. Hydropower mega-dams, for example, require large-scale infrastructure in the Amazon that cuts into and through indigenous territories and conservation areas (Atkins 2018). The tech-minerals required for energy storage from wind and solar power, as another example, are driving new frontiers of mining in Latin America.

Political ecology provides a productive lens for investigating these shifts and tensions. It reveals the contested and multi-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 a political ecology approach to interrogate and extend how we view so-called ‘green’ energies – from solar and wind to hydropower and new biofuels. At a time when the urgency of climate change is increasingly apparent (IPCC 2018), we seek to broaden our understandings of these emergent energy infrastructures to better understanding their relationship – be it positive or negative – with both social wellbeing and environmental health. With the complex realities of green energies often hidden by de-politicised CO2 metrics, we seek papers that open-up our understandings of what constitutes ‘green’ energy and the role of power and exclusion in such a definition. 

We invite papers that take this as their starting point 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). We invite authors to interrogate, examine and extend a political ecology of ‘green’ energy systems and technologies. Papers that look at the Global North or South are welcomed. Similarly, we are interested in hearing about a diversity of energy sources. 

Papers might ask:

  • How do green energy technologies restructure the spatiality / materiality of incumbent energy systems?
  • To what extent do green energies differ from dynamics of extractivism and the uneven development produced by incumbent energy systems?
  • How do new ‘resources’ come into being (to become commodities and extractable resources)? For example, through which knowledges, practices and discourses?
  • How do green energies rework or confront colonial histories, neocolonial practices and decolonial agendas?
  • How are alternative ontologies of nature and place encountered and treated by green energy initiatives? 

Please send a 300 word abstract and brief bio to Dr Jessica Hope (Jessica.hope@bristol.ac.uk) and Dr Ed Atkins (ed.atkins@bristol.ac.uk) by Feb 12th 2019

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

Session organisers: Assoc. Prof. Tracey Skelton [geost@nus.edu.sg], Jessica Clendenning [Jessica.clendenning@u.nus.edu] Geography, National University of Singapore

Co-sponsoring groups: 1) Geographies of Children, Youth & Families Research Group (CYFRG); 2) Developing Areas Research Group (DARG)

Globally, rural young people, compared to their urban counterparts, are relatively understudied and/or misunderstood in academic discourse and policy debates (Panelli et al. 2007; Jeffrey 2008; Punch 2015). These trends, however, may be shifting as some major development organisations focus on ‘youth’, and examine rural development 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; Punch and Sugden 2013; Cuervo and Wynn 2014; Farrugia 2016; 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 localised 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 (including those in small towns) 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?
  • What are the negative and positive effects of rural youthful mobilities? For example, problems of debt or acquisition of cultural capital. What might be the short-term or long-term impacts?
  • 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?
  • Why do young people return to rural areas?
  • What implications does this have for rural areas, rural development and rural young people’s futures?

The aim of this session is to address topics relating to young people’s current trajectories in rural areas. We anticipate diverse research and discussions that center on rural youth’s hopes and troubles, obstacles and opportunities, that they must navigate in a wide variety of contexts and countries. We look forward to discussing new methodologies and perspectives, and invite scholars from all academic (and non-academic) fields, including (but not limited to) human geography, political ecology, environmental sociology, anthropology, gender and women’s studies, youth studies, etc.

Interested participants should email: their names, affiliations, email addresses, paper titles and abstracts (250 words) to both Tracey Skelton (geost@nus.edu.sg) and Jessica Clendenning (Jessica.clendenning@u.nus.edu) by Tuesday, February 12th. We look forward to meeting you in London!