CFP: Immunitary Geographies

Over the next week, we will be posting the calls for papers and other news on the SCGRG sponsored sessions for the 2012 RGS/IBG conference.  Thank you to everyone who submitted session ideas to us. We are delighted to be sponsoring a range of innovative slots for the summer.

Immunitary Geographies

Organisers: Gail Davies, Jamie Lorimer and Steve Hinchliffe

We invite papers and other provocations exploring immunitary geographies, how biological and social practices, community and immunity, territory and borders, self and non-self are de- and/or re-territorialised through understandings and performances of immunity.

Immunity is receiving increasing attention in social and political theory, biology and geography as well as outside academia. In one sense this suggests a need to interrogate shared metaphors. The correlations between biological framings of immunological responses and the ordering of social lives are well known (Waldby, Haraway, Martin, Napier, Esposito). Martial registers used in fighting disease and defending borders, for example, as well as seemingly more neutral senses of immune system and communicative process, tend to operate through culturally and politically sedimented notions of self and non-self (Napier, 2012). These high-level metaphors can function as premature closures on understanding the complex and embodied practices of immunity across a range of sites (Fischer, 2012). In another sense, there is also a possibility to make use of shared re-investments in the notion of immunity to reconfigure geographies of self and difference. Indeed, alternative ways of thinking about and practising immunology may challenge notions of identity, system and spatial register, and it is here that an immunitary geography could usefully contribute.

Immunitary thinking is active in a range of settings, (we sketch them below), but it is also important to note these scientific paradigms, empirical practices and social theoretical accounts do not always align. By bringing them together in this session we aim to interrogate their geographies and promote not so much a tracing of high-level metaphor, but rather a sense of opportunity for a re-vitalised geography of life.

• Research into immunologically complex phenomena, such as viruses, transplantation, tumour development, pregnancy and regenerative medicine, point to the wider range of immune repertoires and trouble any hard and fast division between self and other. The result may point to more affirmative forms of life politics.

•‘Probiotic’ conceptions of immunity are emerging from citizen science experiments, applying new ideas about health and hygiene to develop practices for tolerating, cultivating and even introducing parasites and symbionts. Likewise, dissatisfaction with anti-biotic modes of urbanism introduces complexity through practices such as shared space planning.

•Security practices, which rely on tropes of resilience, and Lockean preparedness, de- and re-territorialise spaces of home and nation. Here, spatial extension, anticipatory governance and risk management may involve a new kind of warfare, as immunities and exceptions arise from state and nonstate partnerships in emergencies, wars, and disaster management.

•Engagement with hypertrophic security and autoimmunity through the work of Derrida, Esposito and others highlights the paradoxical nature of self-protection.

•Work in geography and elsewhere on hospitality, on hosting and on the requirement to rethink classical political notions of friend and enemy (Dikec et al) starts to unsettle notions of immune response.

We seek to bring together with different ways of understanding immunitary geographies. Our aim is to encourage ongoing and inventive exchange across the different practices, sites, scientific and social theoretical perspectives currently at play in such immunitary geographies, preventing closures around a further series of high-level metaphors.
Some foci include, but are not limited to:

Immunology and security, resilience and risk; Biosecurity and insecurity; Emergencies, accidents, preparedness and immunity; Community and immunity; Political economies of inoculation, vaccine manufacture and administration Immunology; Immunology and the political ecologies of the human microbiome; Discourses and practices of immunology in urban planning; Dirt and mess in children’s geographies; Immunitary bio-economies and bio-resources; The nature of immunosuppression and the geographies of tissue matching; Aesthetic and architectural interventions into immunity; Spatial thinking and immunitary geography; Political immunity and power, and exception; Affirmative biopolitics and thanatopolitics; Studying and tracing immunity; Life as interval, inflexion and the memory of immunity.

Please send an abstract of 250 words to Gail Davies (, Jamie Lorimer ( and Steve Hinchliffe ( by Wed 6th Feb 2013.