Category Archives: Conferences

Regional Identity in Europe (or England!) at the RGS-IBG International Conference

A week ago, I chaired my first ever session at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference, which this year was held at the University of Exeter.

As a part-time Masters student, the initial response within the Faculty of me applying to run a session was a mixture of “You’re Brave/I would never have done that as a MA student!”, and whilst, yes it has had a few fraught moments over the past seven months or so, I can only firmly recommend it to Royal Holloway’s new intake of Masters students.

My own particular research area of Cornish Culture & Identity can often seem a bit like ploughing a lone furrow, as I am diverging greatly from a lot of the excellent research going on in our own immediate community – however, by looking at my immediate context and connecting it to present events around Europe – in particular Scotland, Catalonia and Veneto – I was able to attract a wide and diverse range of speakers for my session entitled ‘The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe’.

Unfortunately, as these things often turn out, as the day of the session drew closer, several of my overseas speakers contacted me to withdraw, which left the session without papers on the important situations regarding devolutionary or independence movements in the North of England and Veneto. Consequently, I drew on my links with the burgeoning Cornish academic community, and my session was transformed into an affirming range of papers which dealt with the contemporary sense of what Hechter (1999) termed as ‘Internal Colonialism’, which has gained greater impetus since April 2014 when Cornwall was designated with National Minority Status under the Council of Europe Framework Convention.

The other major consideration with the RGS-IBG International Conference is its sheer scale – it is a conference attended by over 1,400 delegates from all around the world, and around 25 sessions run at the same time, hence you are competing strongly for an audience – unlike on previous occasions when I had made presentations on my research elsewhere where there was only ever one auditorium! I was absolutely delighted that the session drew a large audience of students and academics from all four corners of the globe, and it was exciting to see that Cornish Culture & Identity, plus the inherent sense of ‘difference’ between Cornwall and England was receiving such high profile attention.

Aspiration for One and All? Andrew Climo from the University of Oxford spoke about Cornwall’s historic devolution demands; summarising the fact that up to the late 1990s, calls for Cornish devolution were inchoate, but in 2002, the Cornish Constitutional Convention published its prospectus called Devolution for One and All, which acted as a nexus for the various competing views on future governance. His paper discussed what such a document might look like and how public engagement might be developed.

Julie Tamblin of ‘Learn Cornish in Cornwall’ then presented a historical overview on the three linguistic forms which characterize Cornish culture – Kernowek, Cornu-English and English and made connections between voices from Cornwall and Cornish voices writing back from the diaspora, showing the global influence of Cornish culture.

Mike Tripp, who recently retired from the Institute of Cornish Studies at the University of Exeter presented a paper entitled ‘Where there were two Cornishmen, there was a “rastle”: Cornish Wrestling & Identity’. Dr. Tripp’s paper covered the development of the sport into a widespread ‘traditional’ activity, deeply rooted in the local culture and, prior to the birth of Rugby Union, was Cornwall’s most popular sport. When, in the second half of the nineteenth century the Cornish economy suffered a catastrophic collapse that precipitated large numbers of people to leave Cornwall to find work abroad, the Cornish stuck together in distinct ethnic communities sustaining a strong sense of identity which manifested in the Cornish dialect and wrestling in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand

Finally, and very timely given the recent publication of his outstanding new book, Will Coleman, a bard of the Gorsedh Kernow presented an exceptionally lively paper entitled ‘Plen an Gwari: places of Play, Inclusivity and Resistance’. In this work, Coleman examined how in many places and cultures throughout history, performance has been used to articulate and strengthen the aspirations of minorities and to represent narratives resistant to dominant cultures. Driven by the ‘powerhouse’ of Glasney College in Penryn, the Gwari Meur culture of medieval Cornwall flourished for several hundred years and reached profound levels of artistry in its drama and literature. Related forms also developed elsewhere across Europe but “Cornwall was to do it better, and more intensively, than anywhere else” (Kent, 2010). The Gwari Meur culture was “a vital part of that strategy of resistance [… to Anglicization]” (Spriggs, 2004). It was international in its outlook yet intensely parochial in celebrating its sense of place. It was rebellious, unorthodox, irreverent, profound and a lot of fun. As a cultural totem the plen an gwari is the perfect foundation for the territory of Cornwall as we rebuild our inclusive, forward-looking and celebratory sense of Cornish nationhood.

To some Cornwall may be a county which is quite nice to go to on holiday. Delegates from around the globe left this session with a new sense of the immense pride that the Cornish have in their land. Gaging from questions that were directed to myself and my presenters, renowned focus on this particular ‘peripheral’ appendage of South-West England is about to take place…

Ben Gilby, MA Cultural Geography (Research) Part-Time (2nd Year)

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‘Geography Flies’ Through Years of International History

By Benjamin Newman and Hannah Awcock

ICHG Name Tag and Programme

The International Conference of Historical Geographers took place from the 5th to the 10th of July at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in Kensington (Photo: Ben Newman).

As the International Conference of Historical Geographers drew to a close, amidst bids from St Petersburg and Warsaw to host the next meeting of the conference, Innes Keighren took to twitter to write that it was:

This, of course, was true in every respect. Over the previous six days, historical geographers from around the globe had come together in a frenzy of papers, plenaries, field-trips, lunches, dinners and a general hum of enthusiasm for historical geography. There was more to celebrate than just a successful conference with ICHG observing its 40th anniversary, and it was on that subject that Alan Baker (University of Cambridge) was invited to give the first plenary talk of the conference on the opening Sunday inside The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s Ondaatje Theatre. His plenary would serve both as a celebration of the evolution of the meeting of British and Canadian Historical Geographers in Kingston, Ontario 40 years previous, and also as a reminder of the barriers to participation in historical geography, both at the conference and in the Journal of Historical Geography. His talk and invited contributions from international scholars left much to muse over at the welcome drinks reception that followed.

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Professor Catherine Hall gave an excellent plenary about British slave-owners (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

Monday would see the conference officially begin with eleven parallel sessions offering a feast of historical geography for delegates to enjoy. It would be difficult to summarise the diversity of the contributions, from urban historical geography, feminist historical geography, and GIS, to historical geography of extreme weather, war, knowledge, instruments, books, architecture, photography and many more. As the full first day of the conference drew to a close delegates excitedly gathered in the Ondaatje Theatre to listen to the first of three evening plenary sessions. UCL-based Professor Catherine Hall spoke to the title: Rethinking Slavery and Freedom. Professor Hall took a novel approach to slavery, focusing on the slave-owners rather than the slaves themselves. Thinking about how slave-owners constructed their world and justified their ownership of human beings allows us to put slavery back into British history.

Tuesday would be another busy day of all things historical geography, with Landscape Surgery’s first speaker, David Rooney. He got the Surgeons off to a good start with a paper on ‘Technologies of Segregation on the Streets of East London.’ He would be the first of a large number of Surgeons who participated in the conference, with Liz Haines, Noeme Santana, Hannah Awcock, Bergit Arends, Bethan Bide, Janet Owen, Innes M. Keighren, and Veronica della Dora, all involved in either convening, speaking, or both. And of course our own Felix Driver was Chair of the local organizing committee! Tuesday’s plenary was a landmark session with Felix chairing the inaugural British Academy Lecture in Geography, welcoming Bill Cronon (University of Wisconsin-Madison) to talk under the provocative title: Who reads Geography or History Anymore? The Challenges of Audience in a Digital Age. His talk discussed the death of the book length monograph, reading practices in the digital age and challenged the academy to consider the potential of various non-traditional outputs.

The RGS-IBG provided a perfect backdrop for lunch in the sunshine (Photo: Sophie Brockmann).

The RGS-IBG provided a perfect backdrop for lunch in the sunshine (Photo: Sophie Brockmann).

Conference delegates may have embraced Bill Cronon’s calls for academics to engage with social media a little too enthusiastically with the appearance of the @Geographyfly twitter account. The tweets were supposedly by a fly who liked to participate in proceedings by crawling around on the projector in the Ondaatje Theatre during plenary sessions. There was a certain amount of ‘buzz’ about who the genuine culprit was.

On Wednesday there was a break from formal sessions for a series of field trips. A series of 17 trips, ranging from the historical geography of hop picking in Kent to a musical tour of Soho, proved that historical geographers do far more than just sitting in the archive. Surgeon Innes Keighren was one of the organisers of a trip to Maritime Greenwich. We both thoroughly enjoyed our field trips, and the general consensus was they were all well organised and informative.

The field trip to the site of the 1862 Great Exhibition also included a tour of the Albert memorial in Hyde Park (Photo: Ruth Mason).

The field trip to the site of the 1862 Great Exhibition also included a tour of the Albert memorial in Hyde Park (Photo: Ruth Mason).

Thursday’s tube strike—minus some sore feet from walks across London—did little to dampen the atmosphere as parallel sessions kicked off again after Wednesday’s hiatus. That evening the final plenary of the conference was given by Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge), on the topic of ‘Astronomy at the Imperial Meridian: The Colonial Production of Hybrid Spaces.’ It is of note that none of the plenary speakers (apart from Alan Baker) identify as historical geographers, which reflects the truly interdisciplinary nature of the subject. In the opening plenary on Sunday evening Professor Mona Domosh (Dartmouth College) had suggested that maybe it doesn’t matter so much whether scholars call themselves historical geographers. Rather, what matters more is that people are doing historical geography in new and interesting ways, and after attending the ICHG it would be very hard to argue that it is anything less than a vibrant and dynamic discipline.

Historical geographers work hard, and they play hard! (Photo: James Kneale).

Historical geographers work hard, and they play hard! (Photo: James Kneale).

On Friday morning the finish line of this six-day marathon was in sight, but sessions continued unabated. The conference drew to a close with delegates choosing the hosts of the next ICHG. We would personally like to thank the Local Organising Committee and the RGS-IBG for doing such an excellent job of organizing and running the conference, and then all that remains is to say see you in Warsaw in 2018!

by Benjamin Newman and Hannah Awcock.

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RHUL Geographers at the ICHG


From 5 to 10 July, London will be host to the 16th International Conference of Historical Geographers. A number of Royal Holloway geographers have been involved in the organisation of the conference, not least Felix Driver, Chair of the Local Organising Committee.  Veronica della Dora and Innes M. Keighren have, additionally, served on the Conference Advisory Group.

Ten geographers from the department—a combination of doctoral students, staff, and Honorary Research Associates—will present papers across a range of different sessions (and take a lead in two of the mid-conference study visits).

Role Session Paper
Arends Bergit Chair Field experiments: collaborative practices in art and environment (2)
Arends Bergit Convenor Field experiments: collaborative practices in art and environment (2)
Arends Bergit Chair Field experiments: collaborative practices in art and environment (1)
Arends Bergit Convenor Field experiments: collaborative practices in art and environment (1)
Awcock Hannah Author Contesting the capital: Historical geographies of protest in London London calling: The Capital as a focus of protest and dissent
Awcock Hannah Convenor Contesting the capital: Historical geographies of protest in London
Bide Bethan Author Materiality and historical geography (1) Unravelling the Fabric of the City: Using Worn Clothing to Narrate London Lives
della Dora Veronica Author Topographies of piety: maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage (2) Topographies of Piety and Optics of Truth: Vasilij Grigorovich Barskij’s Pilgrimages to Mt Athos (1725-1745)
della Dora Veronica Chair Topographies of piety: Maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage (1)
della Dora Veronica Chair Geographies of religion
della Dora Veronica Convenor Topographies of piety: Maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage (1)
della Dora Veronica Convenor Topographies of piety: maps, texts, icons and pilgrimage (2)
Driver Felix Chair The material image: the photographic archive in circulation
Driver Felix Chair Welcome and introduction to the ICHG
Driver Felix Convenor The material image: the photographic archive in circulation
Driver Felix Convenor British Academy geography lecture: Who reads geography or history anymore? The challenge of audience in a digital age
Driver Felix Convenor Welcome and introduction to the ICHG
Driver Felix Chair Making and mobilising collections
Driver Felix Chair Geography and enlightenment
Driver Felix Convenor Business meeting and close of conference
Haines Liz Author Institutional geographies of the photograph: Aesthetics, circulation and affect (2) Pseudo-photogrammetry and the touristic imagination
Haines Liz Author Materiality and historical geography (2) When form becomes content: drawing historical narrative from the paper of paper records
Haines Liz Convenor Institutional geographies of the photograph: Aesthetics, circulation and affect (2)
Haines Liz Convenor Institutional geographies of the photograph: Aesthetics, circulation and affect (1)
Keighren Innes Author Mobility and empire (1) William Macintosh’s Travels: colonial mobility and the circulation of knowledge
Keighren Innes Chair Geographical knowledge and ignorance
Owen Janet Author Making and mobilising collections Fuegian Face-paints and Papuan Wood-carvings: Moments of collecting by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace
Rooney David Author Architectures of hurry: Mobilities and modernity in urban environments (1) Technologies of Segregation on the Streets of East London
Santana Noeme Author Institutional geographies of the photograph: Aesthetics, circulation and affect (1) The S. Pearson & Son Malta Albums: institutional and corporate image(s)
Santana Noeme Author The material image: the photographic archive in circulation Materiality, corporate structure and global business: understanding and contextualising the Pearson photographic archive
Santana Noeme Convenor The material image: the photographic archive in circulation



University of Exeter. Venue of the 2015 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference.

University of Exeter. Venue for the 2015 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference.

The Department of Geography will be well represented at this year’s RGS-IBG Annual International Conference in September. All told, 19 Royal Holloway geographers—MA students, PhD candidates, postdoctoral researchers, and members of staff—will be in attendance, presenting more than 20 papers in a diverse range of sessions (detailed below).




Adey Peter Reimagining the mobility transition Thinking through the mobility transition
Adey Peter Reimagining the mobility transition
Adey Peter Surveilling Global Space
Arends Bergit Suspending the Anthropocene (1) Impasse, Lost Futures, Déjà vu Déjà-vu: the Anthropocene in the registers of contemporary artists
Boxall Katie Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (1)
Boxall Katie Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (1)
Boxall Katie Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (2)
Cook Simon Current and emerging research in transport (1): Active travel and commuting Towards active travel beyond walking and cycling: the potential of run-commuting for transport geography
Cook Simon Geographies of Sport (1): Everyday sport Towards a geography of everyday sport: blurring boundaries, finding opportunities
Cook Simon Geographies of Sport (2): Everyday sport
Cook Simon Geographies of Sport (2): Everyday sport
Cook Simon Geographies of Sport (1): Everyday sport
Eades Gwilym Determinism, environment and geopolitics: an interdisciplinary conversation Roundtable Open Discussion
Eken Evren Knowledge, governmentality and power Governmentality, Geopolitics and Procedural Rhetoric in Video Games: A Practice Based Methodological Toolkit
Gilbert David The field formerly known as Urban Studies? (2) Rethinking the urban through its new manifestations Without the City? Suburbia’s central place in rethinking the urban
Gilbert David Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (2) Making suburban faith: creativity and material culture in faith communities in West London
Gilby Ben The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (2): Regional Culture: Distinctiveness, Performance & Tradition
Gilby Ben The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (1): Trends In Devolution & Independence
Gilby Ben The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (1): Trends In Devolution & Independence
Harris Ella Producing Urban Life: Fragility and Socio-Cultural Infrastructures (3) Radical Infrastructures The Artworks: Maintaining Uncertain Urbanisms
Harris Ella Future Fossils? Specimens from the 5th millennium “Return to Earth” expedition (2): From slum fragments to shattered hard drives Container Architectures: Human Settlement Transformations in the Anthropocene
Harris Ella Urban Precarities (1): Precarity and urban imaginaries in declining, derelict and unregulated spaces
Harris Ella Urban Precarities (2): Precarity in Urban Places of Work and Residence: Experiences and Resistances
Hunt Mia Urban Precarities (2): Precarity in Urban Places of Work and Residence: Experiences and Resistances Politics and practice in the corner shop: The compound precarity of ad hoc retailing
Hunt Mia Attentive Geographies: materials, processes, creations (1) Knowing and Feeling: Practicing visual and material cultures in the corner shop
Hyacinth Natalie Geographies of Amateur Creativities: Spaces, Practices and Experiences (2) Making suburban faith: creativity and material culture in faith communities in West London
Kleine Dorothea Development’s pasts and futures: A critical dialogue between (Latin American) Area Studies and Geography, Panel Session Panel Discussion
Nikolaeva Anna Reimagining the mobility transition A “Quirky project” or an “Industry”? Challenges of imagining a mobility transition
Nikolaeva Anna Reimagining the mobility transition
Nowicki Mel Urban Precarities (1): Precarity and urban imaginaries in declining, derelict and unregulated spaces
Nowicki Mel Urban Precarities (2): Precarity in Urban Places of Work and Residence: Experiences and Resistances
Nowicki Mel Urban Precarities (2): Precarity in Urban Places of Work and Residence: Experiences and Resistances
Sheargold Robert The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (2): Regional Culture: Distinctiveness, Performance & Tradition
Sheargold Robert The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (2): Regional Culture: Distinctiveness, Performance & Tradition
Sheargold Robert The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe (1): Trends In Devolution & Independence
Squire Rachael Wet Geographies III (2): Water-worlds – Wet Geographies Panel Discussion Wet Geographies III: Water-worlds – Wet Geographies Panel Discussion
Squire Rachael Wet Geographies I: Under the Sea: Geographies of the Deep
Squire Rachael Wet Geographies I: Under the Sea: Geographies of the Deep
Thornton Pip Algorithmic Practices: Emergent interoperability in the everyday (2) Language in the Age of Algorithmic Reproduction
Ward Miranda Geographies of Sport (1): Everyday sport Towards a geography of everyday sport: blurring boundaries, finding opportunities
Ward Miranda Geographies of Sport (2): Everyday sport
Ward Miranda Geographies of Sport (1): Everyday sport
Ward Miranda Geographies of Sport (1): Everyday sport
White Rosanna Wet Geographies I: Under the Sea: Geographies of the Deep Ceremonies of Possession: Performing sovereignty in the Canadian Arctic
Wood Astrid Reimagining the mobility transition Moving forward by looking backward: Reimagining the mobility transition in the UK
Wood Astrid Reimagining the mobility transition

RHUL geographers in Chicago


The preliminary programme for the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers has recently been published. The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London will be strongly represented by both staff and doctoral researchers (detailed below).

Hannah Awcock


The Battle of Cable Street: Space, Place and Protest in London


Geographies of Activism and Protest I — Presenter

Andrea Burris


Discourses of Creativity and the Global Division of Digital Labour


From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs (session 2): Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries — Presenter

Mike Duggan


Smartphones, places, bodies: location-based services and everyday assemblages of place


Geographies of Media II: Big Data/Technology/Security — Presenter

David Gilbert


Cultures of Consumption and the Financialisation of Urban Space: from ‘Swinging London’ to ‘Carnaby Village’.


The Financialization of City-making: Articulating critical perspectives (2) — Presenter

Ella Harris


IDocs as a Contemporary Imagination of, and a way to Imagine, “The Present”


‘The Present’: Session 1 — Presenter
Precarious Geographies (I) Precarious Places: Urban Decline, Welfare and Employment— Organizer
Precarious Geographies (II) Precariously Placed: Migrants, Gender and Sexuality — Chair, Discussant, Organizer
Precarious Geographies (III) Sites of Resistance, Resilience and Response — Organizer

Harriet Hawkins


‘The Interface Envelope’ by James Ash: Author Meets Critics — Panelist
Author meets critics: Derek McCormack’s ‘Refrains for Moving Bodies’ — Discussant
Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation — Chair, Organizer
Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation (2) — Organizer
Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation (3) — Organizer
Is hope radical? Creative methods, experimental politics and diverse adventures in living through environmental change — Chair, Organizer
Presidential Plenary Session: Radical Intra-Disciplinarity — Speaker

Innes M. Keighren


“Consistent neither with candour nor truth”: negotiating authorship and authority in William Macintosh’s “Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa” (1782)


Authorship and Authority: Piracy, Plagiarism, and Truth in Geographical Writing — Organizer, Presenter

Dorothea Kleine


Digital inclusion, female entrepreneurship and the production of neoliberal subjects – views from Chile and Zambia


Digital Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality at the World’s Economic Peripheries — Presenter

Marton Kocsev


From Hub to Hubris – the Liquid Demograpies of the Silicon Savannah


From Online Sweat Shops to Silicon Savannahs (session 2): Geographies of Production in Digital Economies of Low-Income Countries — Presenter

Chen Liu


Making the ideal home with culinary cultures in urban Guangzhou, China


Chinese Urbanism: everyday critical geographies — Presenter

Oli Mould


Function, minority and the event: Towards an urban politics of subversive creativity


The Urban Political at a Time of Late Neoliberalism I: Theorizing the Urban Political — Presenter

Mel Nowicki


‘I see myself as more of an occupier’: Squatting as protest in post-criminalisation London


Geographies of Citizenship and Dissent — Presenter
Precarious Geographies (I) Precarious Places: Urban Decline, Welfare and Employment— Chair, Organizer
Precarious Geographies (II) Precariously Placed: Migrants, Gender and Sexuality — Organizer
Precarious Geographies (III) Sites of Resistance, Resilience and Response — Chair, Discussant, Organizer

Alasdair Pinkerton


Remnants of No Man’s Land


Remnants of No Man’s Land: History, theory and excess — Presenter

David Simon


Bearing the Brunt of Environmental Change: gender and other social differentiators within adaptation and transformation challenges in urban Africa


Climate Change Adaptation and Gender — Presenter
Development Geographies: Looking Forward — Panelist
Geographies of Resilience 4: Cultural Perspectives on Everyday Resilience: Contributions from Geography — Discussant

Rachael Squire


“Man in the Sea”: The Geopolitics of UnderseaTerrain


Terrain 2 — Presenter

Pip Thornton


The Meaning of Light: Seeing and Being on the Battlefield


Terrain 2 — Presenter

Miranda Ward


Bodies of Water


Exercise and environment: new geographies of the exercise experience 2 — Presenter

Precarious Geographies workshop, 10th February, 11 Bedford Square, sponsored by the Royal Holloway Social & Cultural Geography Group (organised and convened by Ella Harris and Mel Nowicki)

Featured image

Keynote Speakers Hannah Lewis, Louise Waite and James Rhodes 


On Tuesday 10th February at 11 Bedford Square, Ella Harris and Mel Nowicki ran a workshop, kindly sponsored by the Social & Cultural Geography Group here at Royal Holloway, exploring the theme of ‘Precarious Geographies’. The day was divided into two parts. The first consisted of two keynote talks: Hannah Lewis and Louise Waite from the University of Leeds discussing their ‘Precarious Lives project, and James Rhodes from the Sociology department at the University of Manchester exploring urban decline in Youngstown, Ohio.  The second part of the day consisted of seven short (5 minute) presentations, in which presenters outlined their work, followed by in-depth discussion of the topics raised.

Precarious Geographies is an ongoing project of ours, and follows on from the Landscape Surgery session we led on the same theme last November. This workshop was the first of a series of sessions relating to Precarious Geographies that we are running throughout 2015. On 23rd April we will be convening three sessions at the AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago, and in September will be convening a UGRG-sponsored session at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference on ‘Urban Precarities’.

The Precarious Geographies project was born out of a discussion around our own PhD research, and the realisation that precarity of place was a concurrent theme in both of our work.

Mel’s research broadly assesses the impact of Coalition housing policy on inner London residents, with a particular focus on the under-occupation penalty, or ‘bedroom tax’, and the criminalisation of squatting as key case studies. Precarity runs throughout Mel’s research in relation to how housing policy targets the precaritization of the homespaces of particular societal figures, namely social tenants and squatters. Mel is particularly interested in the ways in which this precaritization becomes normalised through housing policy being framed as morally just, feeding into an ongoing ‘deserving vs. undeserving poor’ rhetoric in the UK.

Ella’s work looks at geographies of pop-up places in London.  She is specifically interested in the spatiotemporal logics of pop-up culture and their instrumentality within the city. For Ella, precarity comes into this in multifaceted ways. Pop-up can be seen as a phenomenon framed by precarity, given that it has been promoted as a way to tackle post-recession urban decline; valued as a solution to vacancy rates on high streets and a way to utilise interim sites awaiting development. But pop-up culture can arguably exacerbate precarity too by turning urban turbulence into an opportunity for commercial enterprise or normalising temporariness and uncertainty.

Whilst there has been an important and growing body of work in geography that considers precarity in relation to the labour market, spearheaded by academics such as Louise Waite (2009), we feel that precarity as a concept would be a really useful tool in other areas of geography as well, and that there is much to be gained from a focused interrogation of the ways in which precarity is spatialized. This and future sessions seek to extend the existing conversations around precarity, and in particular to further tease out the many and varied relationships between precarity and place.

Below we briefly outline the presentations given, both by our keynote speakers and our short-paper presenters.

Drs Hannah Lewis and Louise Waite, (Critical Geography Research Fellow & Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds): ‘Precarious Lives’ project

Hannah Lewis and Louise Waite got the day off to a fascinating start in their keynote talk on their ongoing ESRC funded ‘Precarious Lives’ project. Alongside their colleagues Peter Dwyer and Stuart Hodkinson, Hannah and Louise have been exploring the experiences of forced labour among asylum seekers and refugees in England. Recent outputs of the project include a book entitled Precarious lives: Forced labour, exploitation and asylum, and a journal article in Progress in Human Geography, ‘Hyper-precarious lives: Migrants, work and forced labour in the Global North’.

In their keynote talk, Hannah and Louise discussed forced migration and precarity of labour as a normalised outcome of neoliberalism, globalisation and austerity, and cautioned against understanding precarity as an exceptional state. They highlighted the multi-dimensional insecurities experienced by refugees and asylum seekers in forced labour. This condition, termed ‘hyper-precarity’, sees a continuum of exploitation that is defined not only through labour conditions, but is compounded through various aspects of the migrant’s journey into forced labour, from dangerous homelands to border trafficking, to the hostility experienced when arriving in the UK.

Hannah and Louise emphasized the difficulties faced in mobilising those experiencing hyper-precarity due to their fear of deportation and their fragmentation and isolation as a group. They did however suggest that a useful way of using precarity as a potential tool for resistance and change may be through linking migrant exploitation to broader instances of exploitation occurring throughout the labour markets of the Global North, for example zero-hour contracts.

James Rhodes (Lecturer in Sociology, University of Manchester): Shrinking cities, urban marginality and socio-spatial inequalities

The second keynote talk was given by James Rhodes, a Sociologist from the University of Manchester. Although not a Geographer by trade, James’ presentation offered a captivating insight into the spatialities of precarity in Youngstown, Ohio which has lost over 60% of its population since 1950, seen drastic declines in employment levels, and experienced falls in house prices so severe that residents sometimes simply cut their losses and walk away. As James described, Youngstown has lost urban density to the point where many areas of the city are food deserts (where no fresh food is sold within a mile) and streets which used to be lined with houses are now only sparsely populated. James considered the production of precarity in Youngtown as relating to a convergence of concentrated disadvantage, high vacancy and demolition rates and the development of insecurity as a structure of feeling. However, his presentation also questioned whether precarity is a forceful enough term to describe the situation in Youngstown. If precarity implies being in-between or on the edge then how can it account for the unremitting deprivation of such a place? Having raised this provocation, James considered precarity as relational and subjective and opened up fascinating questions about the role which imagined geographies play in structuring experiences of precarity, suggesting that desired or remembered places function as bench marks against which present realities are measured.

Mara Ferreri (Research Assistant, Queen Mary’s, University of London): Temporary, Precarious

The first short presentation was from Mara Ferreri, a research assistant at Queen Mary’s University. Mara’s presentation considered the complex precarities of temporary occupations of space including pop-up shops and property guardianship schemes. Describing the rise of policy around temporary use and its instrumentality in delivering social regeneration, Mara positioned pop-up as paradigmatic of neoliberal urbanism and as increasingly entrenched in the ways we imagine future cities. She suggested that temporary urbanisms can be sites of resilience for creative practitioners despite their neoliberal affiliations, and explored tensions between imaginaries of neo-bohemianism and flexibility and the underlying precarities which typify temporary use. Mara ended by questioning what alternatives and forms of resistances to precarity might be emerging, and where we might locate alternative urban futures.

Alexander Proudfoot (Undergraduate Geographer, Oxford University): Solidarity in Precarity

Alexander Proudfoot presented research he has conducted into precarious employment in London as an area where multiple forms of precarious labour exist in close proximity and precarity is growing in the aftermath of financial crisis. He research involved interviewing untenured academics, retail workers and business-service interns and looked to question whether solidarity existed amongst precarious labourers, testing the applicability of Guy Standing’s assertions that such workers are forming a new social class, ‘the precariat.’

Alex explored the different ways in which precarity is experienced across these diverse sectors of work and argued that precarity is often seen as a necessary stage in building towards future aspirations, in particular noting a narrative of “short term pain for long term gain” amongst interns. Alex concluded that although commonalities exist across precarious work, experiences are ultimately diverse and solidarity is rarely felt given the individualistic nature of work in post-fordist, neoliberal labour regimes. His presentation contested the utility of ‘the precariat’ given these realities of neoliberal work.

Ruth Solomons, (Practiced based PhD candidate, Birkbeck, University of London): 2008-2010: The ‘First Phase’ of Artists in Balfron Tower

Ruth Solomons described her experience as one of the “pioneer phase” of artists occupying the Balfron Tower in east London where in 2014 Turner Prize nominee Catherine Yass controversially proposed to drop a piano from the tower, prompting a series of media articles which questioned the ethics of making art in council estates. Ruth’s presentation explored tensions between the deployment of artists for the ‘art washing’ and gentrification of the tower and the precarity of the artists themselves as paying occupants of properties deemed unfit for habitation. She documented worsening conditions for artists across each ‘phase’ of artist occupancy, but also emphasised that her own experience was in many ways positive and that she lived harmoniously among the tower’s existing residents. She raised interesting issues around how the realities of artists’ lives and practices might be negated in narratives of art washing.

Andrew Wallace (Senior Lecturer, University of Lincoln): Regeneration of Salford

Returning to ideas around urban decline and renewal, Andrew Wallace explored the impacts of regeneration practices in Salford as a peripheral, deindustrialised UK city which has seen a barrage of renewal schemes in recent years, bolstered by the infamous relocation of parts of the BBC to the area. Andrew outlined Salford as a deprived area struck badly by austerity and explored how precarity is commonly experienced as an anxiety over the security of private property amidst high levels of crime.

Andrew’s paper drew out tensions between gentrification, abandonment and renewal. He positioned residents of Salford as enveloped within a ‘chaotic alliance’ of projects within which they are subject to multiple place re-brandings yet remain unsupported on the level of service and housing provision, illuminating how regeneration schemes can make residents feel in limbo yet do little to alleviate local problems.

Dr Andrew Burridge, (Associate Research Fellow, University of Exeter): “Where is your solicitor?” Unrepresented hearings and precarious geographies of legal aid in UK asylum appeals

Andrew’s presentation was based on ethnographic research conducted between July 2013 and July 2014, which included daily observations of first tier asylum appeals hearings at Immigration and Asylum Chambers Tribunal (IAC) hearing centres. A particularly concerning realisation emerging from his research has been the high frequency of unrepresented hearings in certain regions of the UK. In these hearings judges are expected to take on an ‘enabling’ role, yet with little clear guidance, while asylum seekers are left to defend themselves against the Home Office. At some hearing centres over a quarter of hearings have no legal representative present, a clearly spatialized precarity that has left some regions of the UK ‘legal deserts’, where the chances of a successful hearing are severely reduced by a lack of representation. Indeed, success rates for asylum seekers are typically below five per cent when unrepresented.

Andrew drew on Waite’s (2009) call for a critical geography of precarity, in which she identifies instability, lack of protection, insecurity, and social and economic vulnerability as central components, and considered whether precarity is helpful in understanding the position of asylum seekers against the broader impacts of cuts to effective legal representation, and uneven geographies of access to legal advice and support.

Dr Geoff Deverteuil, (Senior Lecturer, University of Cardiff): Precarity and violence

Geoff’s paper explored the relationship between precarity and violence, where violence is defined as “…individual, group, or institutional actions, or a consequence of the dominant social relations, that inhibits self-development and self-expression of individuals or communities’’. Geoff proposed three forms of violence – interpersonal, structural and mass intentional – and explained how precarious populations are both receptors and agents of precarity; they both experience violence but also have the potential to inflict it on each other.

Geoff also considered precarity as a medium through which violence becomes institutionalised; a slow-moving violence that is inherent in the everyday lives of particular populations. He emphasised that precarity and violence have a distinctly geographical relationship, and that space and place have both passive and active roles to play.

Dr Menah Raven-Ellison, (Queen Mary’s, University of London, & Senior Occupational Therapist): Negotiating homes beyond the detention centre: Experiences of asylum seeking women

Menah’s paper was based on qualitative research undertaken for her PhD on the experiences of women who have been detained and then released from UK Immigration Removal Centres. Her presentation highlighted that, even after women are released from spaces of detention, they continue to negotiate multiple and fluctuating boundaries in relation to subjective accounts of home and belonging post-detention. Menah argued that the experiences of ex-detained women are best understood within a discourse of precarity. She suggested that the ‘state of precarity’ implicit within narratives of detention can seep into and define the everyday geographies of home beyond release, with erosive impacts on the mental wellbeing and sense of belonging for ex-detained women. For these women, the discrimination they experienced in the detention centre followed them into other forms of homespace. For them, the borderlands of the home and the state were highly blurred in their everyday experiences, through continued surveillance and ongoing experiences of discrimination.

Menah suggested that precarity itself is strategically employed by the state through geopolitical interventions in the name of security and immigration enforcement which are played out in part within (in)secure spaces of home with implications for feelings of safety, belonging, and gendered identities.

Concluding remarks

All the presentations were well received and sparked a really interesting and lively afternoon of debate and discussion, with many provocative and insightful questions from attendees. Particular issues which came into focus were;

  • The utility of ‘the precariat’ as a concept
  • The temporalities of precarity – including the challenges of thinking through slow moving violence and crisis
  • ‘Deserts’ as a type of precarious geography, including food deserts and legal deserts
  • The subjectivity of precarity and the roles played by imaginative geographies of place in experiences of precarity
  • The recurrence of narratives around ‘short term pain for long term gain’
  • The ways in which precarity is made structural, with a particular focus on the relationships between structural precarity, ‘investor ready cities’ and ‘the temporary city’ as the model for the future

Overall we felt that the workshop as a great success and were really excited by the ideas and questions which emerged. There was a fantastic energy all afternoon and we are very grateful to all the speakers and attendees for their enthusiasm and their contributions to the debate.

In particular we would like to thank Phil Crang and the Social and Cultural Geography Group at Royal Holloway for enabling the event through their generous provision of funding, as well as all of our key note speakers and short paper presenters for their fascinating presentations.

Ella Harris and Mel Nowicki

Conference Presentation: Excited or Petrified?

Embarking on utilizing autoethnography to research sexuality for my undergraduate dissertation at Royal Holloway was a tough decision. Nevertheless, it seemed like an interesting and potentially transformative methodological avenue to adopt to research the construction and contestation of homosexual identities in rural Essex as I was endeavouring to accomplish. Indeed this case has proven true as 18 months since the completion of the original empirical research, I am preparing a paper composed from this empirical research. When my dissertation supervisor initially suggested I submit a paper for submission for a conference, I never thought it would be accepted. It seemed to me to be an experience I would only be successful in procuring in latter years of academic study, not as a Masters student as I currently am. Therefore receiving the email in the first week of the New Year that I had been accepted secured me a disconcerting ensemble of anxiety, excitement, worry and self-doubt. I must report in the four weeks hence, since the news has had more time to percolate, I still feel the same way.

On the 16th of May, I will be presenting my paper entitled “(Re)defining Rural Geographies of Sexualities through Autoethnography: Picturesque and Idyllic Fields and Farmlands as Masculine Sanctuaries within Landscape” at the Masculinities in the British Landscape conference held at Harlaxton College. Here is the abstract for the paper:

“This paper adopts autoethnography in order to explore the hidden, intricate and interwoven nature of the construction and contestation of male homosexual identities within the landscapes of public spaces in rural Essex. Specifically, it analyses the co-constitutive relationship between homosexual male identities and the rural landscapes, citing the importance of analysing emotional responses to the landscape in understanding the intricate webs of spatialities of male homosexual identity. Challenging normative notions of the hegemony of heterosexual identity within rural areas, analysis of thirty-four days of consecutive analytic autoethnography demonstrates how fields and farmland evoke a unique emotional experience. The nuances of this experience are discussed in relation to three themes: sanctuary, wilderness and nostalgia. Overarching these three themes is a broad recognition of how the mediation of homosexual male identities by rural landscapes is fundamentally therapeutic against a background of hegemonic heteronormativity embedded into rural society. In concluding, this paper emphasises the potential utility of formulating such emotional self-cartographies for comprehending the symbiotic relationship between sexual identity and landscapes, and more broadly underscores the need to consider emotion when researching rural geographies of sexualities.”

With sessions entitled ‘Bloodied Landscapes’, ‘Imagined Landscapes’ and ‘Emotional Landscapes’, it is shaping up to be a fascinating opportunity to see the interdisciplinary interaction and scholarship currently happening within landscape studies from different arenas around the academy. This is evident in the ‘Emotional Landscapes’ session that I will be presenting in, whereby my paper regarding the geographies of sexualities sits besides a discussion of romance, grief and masculinity in Moreland as well as a presentation on the literary portrayals of the Clerical Rambler. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to partake in such interdisciplinary discussion.

One nagging question however remains rather prominent for me, something dominating my thoughts of late whenever thinking of this particular opportunity. How do I feel about having to intimately portray my sexuality and its everyday spatial and temporal idiosyncrasies to the world? This concurrent concern I knew all along was going to be an inherent part of adopting an autoethnographically-oriented methodological attack, yet its evident significance and meaning is only just becoming realized to me 18 months down the line. However I reason that in invoking such self-display I will hopefully be following in the fascinating footsteps of some other socio-cultural geographers who I would argue have advanced geographies of sexualities scholarship considerably through invoking their own experiences, emotions, feelings, behaviours and cognitive sensations as their core empirical material. Through chatting with other members of this academic community, I have gathered that this concern is very much characteristic of the requisite nerves synonymous with your first conference presentation. My mind is therefore (momentarily) eased. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to grab this opportunity and see where it takes me.

Oliver Knight, MA Cultural Geography (Research).

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16th International Conference of Historical Geographers

This is to announce the programme of the 16th International Conference of Historical Geographers which is being held in London this summer. The conference is held triennially and this year it is taking place at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) from 5 – 10 July. The conference website is at

The full conference programme is now available for browsing at

The programme includes 550+ papers, a series of high-profile plenary lectures and a remarkable programme of study visits, notably to London archives and museums, and field trips.

Plenary lectures will be presented by Catherine Hall, Simon Schaffer and Alan Baker. ICHG delegates are warmly invited to attend the newly-established British Academy Lecture in Geography, to be delivered byWilliam Cronon, Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies​ at Wisconsin​, at 6pm on Tuesday 7 July.

This is a truly international conference, with delegates coming to London from all over the world. The participation of early career scholars and postgraduates is particularly welcome. Registration is via the conference website – the deadline for early bird registration is 13 March 2015. See

Professor Felix Driver, Chair of the Local Organising Committee

Conferences – Exciting/Nerve Wracking/Huge Opportunity – Delete as appropriate!

Presenting at and convening conference sessions is a major part of the postgraduate experience – and so many of you have already had those experiences. This week, in a real flurry of news for me, I have been given the opportunity to do it for the first time – twice!

First came the news that my paper on Agreement for Sustainable Devolution for Cornwall has been accepted for the Association of Celtic Students Annual Conference at the Penryn Campus of the University of Exeter, and then, on Wednesday the ‘biggie’ – my proposal to convene two sessions at this year’s Royal Geographic Society Annual Conference on The Contemporary Growth of Regional Identity in Europe was accepted. Flippin’ ‘eck! Heady stuff for a Masters student!!

My initial reaction was that it was fantastic that my particular field of research was being validated by the wide academic community. We all plough our separate fields, engaged in our own areas of interest. At times, this can be a lonely existence, with the researcher often feeling: “This is of major interest to me – but does it have any wider currency?” At least, right now I can see that the answer is “Yes!” Then of course comes the associated “Oh My God, I’m going to have to share my particular range of research with a huge range of people whose levels of interest in what I am doing is considerably varied” and the consequences of this.

In my day job, as a primary school teacher, I have to get up and ‘present’ in front of 26 children 2.5 days a week, so you could be forgiven for thinking that it will all be a breeze, and there’s nothing to worry about – but somehow 8 year-olds are not such a nerve wracking audience for me!

It has been fantastic to see that so many of the Royal Holloway surgeons have also been successful with their applications to present or convene at this year’s RGS-IBG Conference. I guess I’ll see you all in Exeter!

Ben Gilby, MA Cultural Geography (Research)


Literary Second Cities

Jason Finch, from Åbo Akademi University, has sent along details of a fascinating-sounding conference to be held next August in Turku, Finland: “Literary Second Cities”. The CFP follows below.


Literary Second Cities

The Second International Conference of the Helsinki Literature and the City Network (HLCN)

Åbo Akademi University (Turku, Finland), 20-21 August 2015

 The conference ‘Literary Second Cities’ invites papers on new approaches to the study of literary cities, smaller cities, and cities or portions of cities judged secondary or subordinate in any historical period or part of the world. See attachment or link below for the conference abstract. The deadline for the call for papers is 15 March 2015. The language of the conference is English. Please send proposals (length approximately 300 words) to

The keynote speakers are Professor Marc Brosseau, University of Ottawa and Professor Bart Keunen, University of Ghent. Professor Brosseau has written extensively on literary geographies. He is the author of Des romans-géographes (Paris, 1996). His most recent publications in English include the entry on ‘Literature’ in the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (2009) and work on the literary geographies of Toronto, as well as on the operation of spatial traps in the fiction of Charles Bukowski. Professor Keunen is an internationally-renowned expert on literary urban studies and the head of the Ghent Urban Studies Team. Among his latest publications are journal articles and book chapters on landscape, narration and contemporary urban design in various settings, and the monograph Time and Narration: Chronotopes in Western Narrative Culture (Northwestern University Press, 2011).

Papers on subjects including, but not limited to, the following themes are welcome:


  • Literature defining the second city and which cities are to be understood as secondary
  • The literature of provincial cities and those which are distant from other urban centres or from today’s globalised megacities
  • The literature of cities and city districts that can be understood as shadow partners to major cities: the Left Bank of Paris; South London; Oakland to San Francisco; Salford to Manchester.
  • Scaling the city: comparisons between larger and smaller cities
  • Scaling the city: shifts between small-scale, localised views and overall perspectives
  • Scaling the city: topographic and synoptic views of cities in the light of work by Michel de Certeau, Andreas Huyssen and other theorists
  • Second cities in pre-modern literature
  • Second cities in African, Asian and Latin-American literatures
  • Literature defining the second city and which cities are to be understood as secondary
  • Regional urban literatures
  • Modes of definition of non-metropolitan or non-primary cities, for example Chicago or Birmingham as working city; Liverpool or Glasgow as primary port of the British Empire
  • Former capitals and declined or marginalized cities
  • Mobilities (spatial, identity-related) and secondary cities
  • Specialized cities (their function deriving from e.g. tourism, a harbour or airport, religion)


Particular sessions on urban literature and scale, Nordic second cities and modernism and literary second cities have already been proposed, and further sessions will be organized on the basis of the final applications.

During the conference, a round table discussion will be held to discuss the development of the network and the possibilities for further cooperation between international scholars in the field of urban literary studies. A peer-reviewed publication on the basis of selected conference papers is planned.

For more information contact:

Jason Finch, Åbo Akademi University (
Lieven Ameel, University of Helsinki (
Markku Salmela, University of Tampere (


Conference website:
Full conference abstract:
HLCN website: