Wednesday, 4 June 2014

New paper: 'The geographies of the conference'

Protesting the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Ruth Craggs and I have a new paper out in Geography Compass which reviews existing work on the political and cultural geographies of conferences in politics and science.

The collaboration emerged from the discovery of a shared interest in conferences as sites of knowledge production and political action, where the micro-geographies of social interaction collide with broader geopolitical or cultural forces in the pursuit of agreement, consensus or dissent. Conferences play an important part in the rhythms of both science and politics, and we thought it would be interesting to put these spheres next to each other in order to tease out some commonalities. Of course, conferences often do this work of conjunction themselves, with conferences on issues like climate change frequently bringing together individuals from the very different social worlds of science and politics into the same room, with fascinating consequences.

The paper builds on some of Ruth's work on the history of Commonwealth conferences and my own work on the politics of climate change. We're hoping to continue this line of thinking through the theme with which we end the paper - the role of international conferences as foci for particular forms, strategies and geographies of political protest. More on that in future. The abstract for the paper is below, and the article can be accessed here.

Conferences are an ubiquitous and important part of political and academic life, acting as key sites of knowledge creation, public performance, legitimation and protest. Reviewing the current literature and drawing on our own work, this paper suggests that geographers are well-placed to provide insight into conferences through the concepts of visibility, performance and space. We explore the politics of academic, climate and geopolitical conferences, focusing on their production of epistemic communities and their role as sites for the performance of ideological positions and identities. We then explore international summits as protest spaces. We draw attention to a number of scales in our analysis, suggesting the need to attend to the global, national, local and micro-scale of conferences to ask what space and location contribute to conference outcomes and how conferences in turn act back on the landscapes in which they are embedded. We conclude with four reasons why we believe that conferences provide a fruitful – and important – focus for research in geography.

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