AC2012: Social and Cultural Geographies in a Time of Crisis

Social and Cultural Geographies in a Time of Crisis

A discussion panel convened by Ben Anderson and the SCGRG

How should social and cultural geography respond to a world that is either in crisis or where various events and situations are now framed in terms of crisis? How do social and cultural geographers understand the material and imaginative geographies of crises? And how does responding to crisis demand or invite social and cultural geographers to change their habits of thinking, research and action?

The panel asks what social and cultural geography might be and become at a time when the multiple events and situations are currently being understood as crises; the credit crunch, climate change, resource scarcity, universities, terrorism and political violence, over-consumption, urban unrest and inequalities, social reproduction, climate change and environmental damage … to name but a few events in what has become an open-ended list. Of course, the contemporary condition is not the first where the vocabulary of crisis has come to dominate the political imaginary and to be worked into the fabric of the everyday: we could think of the oil crisis of the 70s, the Cuban missile crisis, or longstanding claims to a crisis of masculinity, for example. Now used to denote a temporary situation that threatens harm and requires some form of decisive action, even if the precise nature of the action is not known, the proliferation of crises and crisis talk poses challenges to social and cultural geography. Put simply: what could and should our relation to the phenomena of crisis be? Should we trace the relations of (dis)continuity that make up particular crises? Should we invoke and attempt to understand the ‘context’ for the manifestation of any particular crisis – whether we want to frame that context in terms such as neoliberalism or finance capitalism? Should we bear witness to the distribution of harms and damages that surround specific crises or the geographies of insecurity that become part of crises? Perhaps, instead, we should follow the performative effects of naming certain events as crises, or maybe follow the specific techniques and technologies through which events which have been named as crises are governed. Perhaps we could turn to the roots of the term crisis in the Greek krinõ – meaning to cut, to select, to decide – and find in crises the possibility for other and better ways of living?

The panel will explore these and other options in a bid to think through what social and cultural geography might do in a time of crisis and how its existing practices of thinking and modes of research can engage with the contemporary condition. Confirmed panellists so far include Alex Vasudaven and Rachel Pain, with more names to be confirmed in the new year. If you are interested in taking part in this panel, please get in touch with Ben Anderson or Gail Davies.