Our sponsored sessions for the RGS Annual Conference 2018 in Cardiff

SCGRG sponsored sessions – RGS-IBG Cardiff 2018

For more information on session dates and times:


Postgraduate Snapshots in/of the landscape

Maddy Thompson, Newcastle University

Jen Owen, Cardiff University


Social and cultural landscapes – the traces and imprints of people and groups on the land – have long been of interest to geographers. Social and cultural geographers are adept at analysing, reading, and interrogating ‘landscapes’ from a variety of perspectives; accounting for processes of creation and maintenance, as well as lived experiences and practices. Even after forty years geographers are finding new ways and methods to conceptualise and understand landscape, considering how issues of power and dissent, identity and belonging, inequality and social justice, and memory and representation play out in the landscape. This session showcases the ways Postgraduate Social and Cultural Geographers are negotiating and critically engaging with the concept of ‘landscape’ within their research. Each presentation will be centred round a single ‘Snapshot’ (whether an image, artefact, quotation, soundbite, field diary entry, or mini-video clip) which will form a focal point. Presenters are encouraged to delve into the varying ways we can encounter, apprehend, inhabit, belong to, move through, and be haunted by landscapes.

Historical-Cultural Geographies of Exhibition and Display

James Robinson, Manchester Metropolitan University


Geographers have long expressed an interest in the practices and spaces of exhibition and display, from museum spaces and art installations (Geoghagen, 2010; Hawkins, 2008) to festivals, parades and a range of commemorative acts and landscapes (Cudney, 2014; Johnson, 1995; Marston, 2002). These engagements have taken place in conjunction with a diverse range of geographical themes: exploring the discipline’s colonial legacies (Driver, 2013), the construction of imperial landscapes (Driver and Gilbert, 1999), cultures of remembrance (Johnson, 2003), and socio-cultural representations of nature (Naylor, 2002), to name some examples. Moreover, these accounts have often reflected upon the role of display and exhibition in the construction and contestation of a myriad of identities – of nationality (Kong and Yeoh, 1997), gender (Whitehead, 2008), sexuality (Johnston, 2008) and the non-human (Anderson, 1995). This session seeks to provide a forum for ongoing discussions about the historical-cultural geographies of exhibition and display, with contributions that are historical and contemporary in nature. Themes covered in the session include:

• Material landscapes and cultures of display and exhibition

• Performative and enacted spaces of display

• Sensuous geographies of display and exhibition

• Parades and ritualised cultures of display

• Cultural and contested politics of exhibition

Sandscapes: geographies of flux and flow

Julian Brigstocke, Cardiff University

William Jamieson, Royal Holloway, University of London


Sand is the stuff of power. It is a vital material in modern construction. It transgresses borders and thresholds. It connects the elemental to the global. It is at home in land, sea, and air. Yet within human geography, little attention has been paid to the material life of this imaginatively potent material. This session addresses calls for a multiplication of materiality within the discipline (Anderson and Wylie 2009; Whatmore 2006), by delving into the multiplicity of sandscapes that pervade our lives in the context of a global shortage of sand (Peduzzi 2014). Sand, a seemingly mundane material, is an active substrate of the spaces of modernity, and constitutes a vantage point from which to read and write landscapes that are urban, coastal, nomadic; wet and dry; dispersed and fragmented; eroded and reclaimed; political and cultural. What aspects of the production of space slip through our fingers? How do we develop new ways of reading and writing everyday spaces that are intimately entangled with an inherently itinerant material?

This session invites papers that engage with the materiality of sandscapes, examining how sand

might reinvigorate debates around:

• new materialism in human geography;

• affective and more-than-human geographies;

• new ways of reading and writing landscape;

• the materiality of geopolitics;

• transnational and migratory geographies;

• landscapes of displacement;

• planetary urbanization

Sonic Spaces: music landscapes, soundscapes and identity

Eveleigh Buck-Matthews, Coventry University

Kris Vavasour, Ara New Zealand Broadcasting School

Dr Heather Jeffrey, Middlesex University Dubai


Sonic spaces feature in a broad spectrum of research, and proposals span areas of geography, cultural/media studies, and other social sciences that engage with musical spaces and places. This forum will discuss geographies of music and how these have developed, interconnecting with cultural practices, values and wider society, in keeping with the conference theme of landscapes. The social, legal, emotional, cultural, historical, political, environmental, and economic geographies of music and sonic spaces offer many angles through which we will explore the changing landscapes/soundscapes of the world.

Landscapes of “Detectorists”

Innes M. Keighren, Royal Holloway, University of London

Joanne Norcup, University of Glasgow


The BAFTA-winning situation comedy-drama “Detectorists” has, across three series and a Christmas special (2014–17), garnered critical praise for its affectionate portrayal of metal detecting and amateur archaeology in rural England. In its attention to the embodied practice of detecting and to the social worlds of detectorists, the programme has been described by critics variously as “about hardly anything and almost everything” (Lloyd 2015) and “the most accurate portrait of men being men that you’ll find in current popular culture” (Fewery 2015). For one Twitter user (Sumsion 2014), the show is simply “a warm, beguiling, slow-burn meditation on male friendship and prosaic details of Englishness, plus some metal”. Explaining his motivation for creating “Detectorists”, Mackenzie Crook, writer and director of the programme, has said “I wanted to do an exploration of men and their obsessions, and I wanted to do a celebration of people and their hobbies, and a celebration of the English countryside” (Crook 2015). While the comedy in “Detectorists” centres largely on the friendship of Andy Stone (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance Stater (Toby Jones) as they pursue their niche hobby in the diverse company of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club (DMDC), the dramatic foil is provided by the relationships Andy and Lance have with their significant others—Andy’s geography-graduate, school-teacher wife, Becky (Rachael Stirling) and Lance’s exploitative ex-wife, Maggie (Lucy Benjamin)—and their antagonists, ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ (Simon Farnaby and Paul Casar), members of the DMDC’s arch rivals, the Antiquisearchers/Dirt Sharks. Nuanced characterisation and relatable situations have endeared “Detectorists” to viewers in the United Kingdom and beyond. Fans of the programme praise its “humanity and the honest observations of the real world” (Meaden 2015).

Where “Detectorists” is distinct from most situation comedies is that much of the action takes place outdoors, in the fields and meadows where the programme’s protagonists pursue their hobby. Both aesthetically and thematically, landscape dominates “Detectorists”. Filmed on location in Framlingham, Suffolk—standing in for Essex, and the fictional town of Danebury— the visual palate of the programme enfolds a non-human supporting cast of insects, birds, plants, and trees, and variously echoes the landscape paintings of Thomas Gainsborough and George Shaw, and the cinematic vision of Peter Hall’s Akenfield (1974). Landscape is, also, the focus of the protagonists’ preoccupations; it is variously walked, surveyed, sensed, gazed upon, read, and dug. Landscape is where the programme’s characters seek solitude, find companionship, and navigate the sometimes-dramatic intrusions from ‘the rude world’. Landscape reveals the past while concealing the prospect of future discovery.

Uncomfortable Geographies

Jen Owen, Cardiff University

Amy Walker, Cardiff University

Anthony Ince, Cardiff University


Are you sitting (un)comfortably? Then we will begin…

Geographers have in recent years taken a growing interest in the affects, sensations and emotions that shape and structure everyday life. Within this there has been a modest and growing interest in the notion of ‘comfort’ as one of these atmospheres. Studies engaging with comfort range from materialities (Price et al. 2018 forthcoming), public spaces (Boyer 2012), mobilities (Bissell 2008) and hospitality (Craggs 2015). However, in Cruel Optimism, Berlant (2011) reminds us that those things that make us feel comforted can have a darker side: aspirations to the ‘good life’ and middle-class dreams of suburban comfort consistently fail. This session therefore views comfort and our desire for it in a tense relationship with its antitheses: discomfort and the uncomfortable.

To be uncomfortable is to feel discomfort, unease or awkwardness, or fear of the unknown. These presentations will explore what pushes us outside of our comfort zone, considering empirical and theoretical engagements with the liminality of the uncomfortable, be it of physical or emotional pain, social awkwardness, uncomfortable truths, or taboo subjects. Hinton (2010) notes that comfort can be understood as an aspiration and/or achievement; thus, it is not surprising how the coupled notion of discomfort (e.g. that of poverty) has been linked to personal ‘failings’ in the discourses of neoliberal austerity. Nevertheless, the uncomfortable may also have generative or productive effects, and may be a potential driver of social change or ‘progress’, such as geopolitical negotiation, political struggle, and living in diverse communities.

We present contributions that grapple with personal reflections beyond discussion of just ‘another emotion’ (Pile 2010). By focusing on how we might negotiate difference, unsettle bodies and position our own discomfort within the research process, this session aims to go beyond a superficial acknowledgment of uncomfortable geographies.

Everyday Landscapes of Memory

Amy Walker, Cardiff University

Kieran O’Mahony, Cardiff University

Kate Boyer, Cardiff University


Since Pierre Nora’s assertion that narratives of memory are fixed in place, or lieux de mémoire, geographers have increasingly engaged with the temporal-spatialities of memory and heritage (Nora 1989). Of particular interest to this session are the unofficial and everyday spatial practices that exist alongside formalised sites of heritage and commemoration. Many geographers have explored the ways in which such spaces and their practices are imbued with memories comprising of affective (Jones 2011), material (DeSilvey 2012), emotional (Horton and Kraftl 2012), spectral (Edensor 2005) and embodied capacities, forming ‘ecologies’ of memory across our everyday lives (Hoskins 2016). These memories may entangle the human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate matter, and occur at differing temporal scales. This session aims to not only engage with the different ways in which memory can be understood, but also on the consequences of (doing/enacting) memory in the everyday. Being open to the ways they are invoked in contemporary contexts helps us consider the potential for these every day, illusive and multi-faceted memories to become politicised and intersect with broader collective narratives.

Over-Researched Places

Cat Button, Newcastle University

Gerald Taylor Aiken, University of Luxembourg


Certain places are magnets for researchers and sometimes we bump into other researchers or share interview appointments with them. The ‘Ghosts of Researchers Past’ linger at case study sites and traces are present in the work we produce. There has been recent interest in the problems of large numbers of researchers in places as diverse as Hackney (Neal et al, 2016), the Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp in Lebanon (Sukarieh & Tannock, 2013), and Transition Towns (Taylor Aiken, 2017). This body of literature is focused primarily on reasons that particular places are popular or on research fatigue of respondents. There is a need for reflexive interrogation of the issue of this researcher saturation and its consequences. The research itself, and theory building more widely, can be weaker where it is over-reliant on examples which may prove to be outliers or the applicability of generalisations over-claimed. Overresearch also produces a sample bias: familiar cases are easier to communicate to other researchers; possibly easier to publish; or conversely, researchers wring dry popular cases. This also raises questions on the nature of research itself: is it possible to over-research anything, or is seeming over-research just poor research? We could even ask if the research encounter is singular.

This session explores the consequences of theory being developed from research on places that are saturated with other researchers from multiple disciplines. Papers bring case studies of urban or rural landscapes across the world to address such issues as: Theoretical links and implications; Methods and Positionality; Research (and researcher) fatigue; Researching researchers; Encounters. Papers use reflexive approaches and consider the conceptual complications of researching in researcher-saturated landscapes.

New Geographies of Automation?

Sam Kingsley, University of Exeter


This session responds to the variously promoted or forewarned explosion of automation and the apparent transformations of culture, economy, labour and workplace we are told will ensue. Papers are sought from any and all branches of geography to investigate what contemporary geographies of automation may or should look like, how we are/could/should be doing them and to perhaps question the grandiose rhetoric of alarmism/boosterism of current debates. Automation has been the recent focus of hyperbolic commentary in print and online. We are warned by some of the ‘rise of the robots’ (Ford 2015) sweeping away whole sectors of employment or by others exhorted to strive towards ‘fully automated luxury communism’ (Srnicek & Williams 2015). Beyond the hyperbole it is possible to trace longer lineages of geographies of automation. Studies of the industrialisation of agriculture (Goodman & Watts 1997); Fordist/post-Fordist systems of production (Harvey 1989); shifts to globalisation (Dicken 1986) and (some) post-industrial societies (Clement & Myles 1994) stand testament to the range of work that has addressed the theme of automation in geography. Indeed, in the last decade geographers have begun to draw out specific geographical contributions to debates surrounding ‘digital’ automation. From a closer attention to labour and workplaces (Bissell & Del Casino 2017) to the interrogation of automation in governance and surveillance across a range of scales (Amoore 2013, Kitchin & Dodge 2011) – the processes and experiences of automation have (again) become a significant concern for geographical research.

Geohumanities, literary cultures, and new landscapes of cartography

Jon Anderson, Cardiff University

Kirsti Bohata, Swansea University

Kieron Smith, Cardiff University

Jeffrey Morgan, Cardiff University


The recent turns within cartography from the representational to the processual (see Kitchin, Gleeson, and Dodge, 2013) have not only created new ways of understanding what maps can be(come), but also coincided with the proliferation of social scientific, humanities, and digitised disciplines exploring the cartographic as a way to articulate the human condition. This session explores these arena with particular attention to the relations between literature, culture, and place. It explores the ways an array of literary cultures story the landscapes around us. It asks how stories create new worlds, and how they relate to the ’real’ worlds in which we live. How do pictures (e.g. in the graphic novel), words (e.g. through oral narrative and novels), and illustrative augmentation (be it digitised or otherwise) combine to contribute new additions to the cartographic repertoire? Inviting papers that range from conventional distant mapping in literary geographies, to locative literature, ambient literature, artistic illiterature, and deep mapping, the session seeks to creatively explore what mapping can become in an era of digital change, interdisciplinary convergence, and the processual turn. In short, it asks: what maps now exist to aid our navigation of the real and imaginary landscapes around us?

Utility After Abandonment? The New Ruin as Cultural Asset and Public Space

Hayden Lorimer, University of Glasgow, Hayden.Lorimer@glasgow.ac.uk

Ruth Olden, University of Glasgow, Ruth.Olden@glasgow.ac.uk

Ed Hollis, University of Edinburgh, E.Hollis@ed.ac.uk

Luke Bennett, Sheffield Hallam University, L.E.Bennett@shu.ac.uk


During recent years, across the arts and humanities, and associated cultural spheres of literature, cinema, architecture, heritage, urban exploration and curated art, interest has intensified in ruinenlust, ruins and ruination (Edensor 2005; DeSilvey and Edensor 2012; Lavery and Gough 2015; Bennett 2017). Ruminating on the ruin has come to be understood as a sensibility reflective of classical, romantic and picturesque tropes. However, other modes of social engagement are possible. Learning how to live with ruins is a twenty-first century challenge requiring cultural articulations that are forward-thinking and experimental, acknowledging new models of intervention, ownership and access, and welcoming contrasting – even conflicting – forms of aesthetic and emotional attachment (DeSilvey 2017; Hollis 2010; Lorimer and Murray 2015). Nationally and internationally, there are a multitude of valued heritage landscapes, currently in ruinous, vulnerable, degraded states, requiring differing forms of creative intervention for the purposes of rehabilitation, re-occupation and reinvention, so as to safeguard cultural legacies for the future. For this session we seek not only statements of intent, but also critical reports on activities already occurring in cities under austerity and non-urban landscapes, in the global north and global south, where ruins are being reimagined and repurposed as cultural assets and public spaces. Contributors will seek to address three connected questions:

Papers will be sought which variously address three connected questions:

 How do you activate modern ruins safely?

 How do you activate modern ruins creatively?

 How do you activate modern ruins collaboratively?

The cultural politics of lingering

Esther Hitchen, Durham University

Angeliki Balayannis, University of Melbourne


Lingering lengthens time and reconfigures space. In doing so it is a fundamentally geographical concept. Etymologically, to linger means to reside or dwell, but also, to delay going, to depart slowly, and unwillingly. Within cultural geography, lingering is a commonly used but taken-forgranted term. It is largely invoked as a descriptor or metaphor for crafting other thematically related concepts – in particular, haunting (Edensor, 2008), absent-presence (Wylie, 2009), trauma (Preser, 2017), residues (Krupar, 2013), traces (Hetherington, 2004), fragments (DeSilvey, 2006), ruin (DeSilvey and Edensor, 2013), and discards (Crewe, 2011; Stanes & Gibson, 2017). This session, however, aims to consider how lingering can be conceptualised in itself and be used to bring diverse literatures into conversation.

This session raises questions about what lingering is, does, where it may happen, and how it unfolds: What are the temporalities of lingering – how does it endure, persist, or stretch spacetimes? What are its spatialities, such as within particular landscapes, sites, and institutions? What kinds of relations are formed or reconfigured through the act of lingering? How can we think about lingering politically, for example, as a mode of action, as a disruption, as a refusal to disappear? In what ways is lingering used within different methodological approaches, including ethnographic work, participatory methods, and artistic practice? And how can lingering be thought of through both the representational and non-representational?