Social and Cultural Geography sponsored sessions at the RGS-IBG AC2020

The following sessions will be sponsored and co-sponsored by the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group for the RGS-IBG annual conference 2020, 1st – 4th September.

Should you wish to submit an abstract for any of the sessions below, please contact the organisers directly.

Non-representational geographies: approaches, methods and practices

Amy C. Barron, The University of Manchester

Andrew S. Maclaren, The University of Aberdeen


This session offers a space for discussion of existing and emerging research exploring non-representational geographies. Non-representational theories provide a springboard for exploring the affective geographies of a multitude of phenomena from ageing, to nationalism and geopolitics, to name but a few.  Various approaches, methods and theoretical lineages reflect and infuse the diversity of non-representational geographies, bringing together a concern for how places, subjectivities and identities are enacted, felt and mediated.  The session presents an opportunity to traverse and reconsider the ‘borders’ within social and cultural geography with respect to non-representational theories.  It provides a space to take stock of the development of the non-representational and associated thinking within and between subdisciplines. As well as research drawing on the established corpus of non-representational research, we are particularly interested in recent and innovative engagements with non-representational theories.

Topics in this session might include, but are not limited to:

–     How might those engaged with non-representational theories learn from other innovative frontiers within social and cultural geography and vice versa?

–     What non-representational geographies are emerging within the subdisciplines of geography, the arts and wider social sciences?

–     How has social and cultural geography sought to understand the ways in which places, subjectivities and identities are enacted, felt and mediated? How can this be furthered?

–     How are different bodies part of the nature of affective places/non-representational geographies?

–     How are/might scholars engage methodologically with non-representational theories?

We are interested in engaging with perspectives from academics at all career stages.  

Navigating, disrupting and re-working the borders of multiple citizenships

Kahina Meziant ( and John Clayton (

In turbulent and precarious times, the promise of national citizenship is desirable yet often elusive (Bhrabat, 2019). This is particularly true for ‘non-citizens’, such as those seeking asylum (Könönen, 2018) where limits on citizenship have violent consequences. However, formal citizenship is also unstable, seen through enduring exclusions for those who are nominally, but differentially, ‘included’ (Erel, Reynolds, & Kaptani, 2018) and through the uneven space-times of citizenship ( Brexit, the Hostile Environment and Windrush) (Wardle & Obermuller, 2019). Beyond formal citizenship, there exists an array of ‘acts’ of citizenship that by-pass or contest legal membership (Isin, 2008). Work on post-national identities (Soysal, 2002), translocal activism (Nagel & Staeheli, 2008), everyday multiculturalism (Clayton, 2009), emotional citizenry (Askins, 2016) and sonic citizenship (McMahon, 2017) all highlight everyday relational practices that re-constitute borders of belonging. However, questions remain regarding the continued salience of the promise of formal citizenship and the ways in which contestations might continue to be ‘managed’ (Darling, 2017). Here, we look to address the tensions and ambivalences (Ikizoglu Erensu, 2016) between partial, uneven and (non-)citizenship and acts of citizenship that are practiced in relation to, in spite of and against the prevailing ‘institutional order’ (Aradau et al., 2010).

We welcome papers that address a wide range of experiences including migration and asylum, but also other practices of belonging for those whom formal national membership is tentative, uneven and precarious.  We hope to attract work from a diverse range of theoretical and methodological perspectives that relate (but not limited) to:

–           Emotional and affective geographies

–           Belonging and politics of belonging

–           Everyday multiculturalism 

–           Critical and radical theories of citizenship

–           Feminist narratives of the right to the city

–           Qualitative and participatory methods

–           Subaltern studies

–           ‘Race’, racism and racialisation

–           Borders and bordering

–           Migration and resistance 

Plastic Geographies

Alison Browne and Peter Kraftl and

Plastics are on the agenda. In different contexts, in different ways, plastics have rapidly emerged as central to environmental debates, politics and behaviours, as well as to academic and technical work across a range of disciplines. This session seeks to encourage expansive, critical and creative approaches to plastics and their geographies. It seeks to emphasise how an awareness of geographical processes – and geographical analyses – might enable us to grapple with the synthetic, sticky, slippery characteristics of plastics. Yet, since plastics constitute, challenge and percolate through more-than-human systems, at different spatial scales, the session will also engender debate about the kinds of inter- and trans-disciplinary scholarship required to address ‘plastic geographies’. Drawing on recent (particularly feminist, queer and critical race) theorisations of and responses to plastics, we are particularly interested in the ways in which we (as a species, but also with nonhuman others) are “(en)plasticized” or bound by a “plastic contract” that will threaten and differentiate life for many centuries to come (Ghosh, 2019: 277). Despite attempts, especially in the Minority Global North, to divest plastics and render them ‘elsewhere’, plastics are no longer ‘outside’: they constitute the ‘substrate of advanced capitalism’ (Davis, 2015: 348). From decolonising perspectives perhaps plastics have never been ‘outside’ – made up of ancient more-than-human-kin to be cared for, carefully (cf. Libroin and the CLEAR Laboratory). Looking specifically at humans, we already know that the pernicious effects of living or working with plastics, in particular times and places, are patterned by (young) age, gender, race and class (Huang, 2017). Thus, a greater attentiveness to the workings of plastics does not simply require new forms of collaboration across disciplines but also new forms of interdisciplinary critique and experimentation. Whilst not, ultimately, assuming that all plastics are ‘bad’ (Libroin, 2015), this session nevertheless seeks to draw together empirical, critical, experimental, applied (and more) research that can respond to the machinations of plastic geographies.

Examples of topics to be covered within the session:

  • Circulations of plastic(s) through social, ecological, hydrological and technological systems
  • Children’s geographies and plastic childhoods
  • Household geographies and flows of plastic(s) through everyday practices
  • Everyday attachments to, aspirations about and/or nostalgia for, plastics
  • Material geographical analysis of stocks and flows of plastics through everyday lives, homes, communities, societies
  • The role of plastic in food waste and food safety
  • Connections to health and hygiene (eg., menstrual health, hospitals and healthcare, indoor ecologies)
  • Interdisciplinary work linking ‘polluting practices’ to water and sanitation systems
  • Analysis linking cars and mobilities to plastic in aquatic systems
  • Links to emerging research areas of ‘toxic geographies’
  • Indigenous and anticolonial perspectives on plastics
  • Feminist and intersectional perspectives on plastics
  • Political and economic geographies (e.g., firms, commodities/commodification)
  • Multi-, inter- and/or trans-disciplinary research invoking co-produced solutions
  • Examples of research/policy praxis to invoke meaningful change
  • Critical analyses of contemporary discourses about plastics, across geographical and social contexts
  • Any surprising, interesting, and evocative connecting themes we haven’t identified

This call for presentations is linked to the Leverhulme funded ‘Plastic Childhoods’ led by Prof Peter Kraftl (University of Birmingham) and the EPSRC funded RE3 (Rethinking Resources and Recycling) ‘Plastic Hygiene’ workpackage led by Dr Alison Browne (University of Manchester).

We particularly encourage Masters, PhD and ECR students and researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to participate in the sessions.


Davis, H., 2015. Life & death in the Anthropocene: A short history of plastic. Art in the anthropocene: Encounters among aesthetics, politics, environments and epistemologies, pp.347-358.

Ghosh, R., 2019. Plastic Literature. University of Toronto Quarterly, 88(2), pp.277-291.

Huang, M.N., 2017. Ecologies of entanglement in the great pacific garbage patch. Journal of Asian American Studies, 20(1), pp.95-117.

Libroin, M. 2015. Redefining pollution and action: The matter of plastics. Journal of Material Culture, 21(1), 87-110

From identity to identification: vernacularization of Asian borders

Dr. Po-Yi Hung, Associate Professor, National Taiwan University,

Dr. June Wang, Associate Professor, City University of Hong Kong,

Borders cannot be reduced to “a singular focus on political borders and their related social boundaries”, but a dynamic, “bounding processes involved in all types of categorization (Jones, 2009: 184), which “metaphorically and physically shape the ways we understand the world around us (Jones, 2010: 266).” The renewed approach for border studies pushed scholars to re-orient attentions to the non-state actors at the scale of people’s everyday lives (Jones and Johnson, 2014), or what Cooper et al (2004) call the “vernacularization of borders”.

The approach of “vernacularization of borders” is of particular value to our understand of Asian borders, where the everyday practices of bordering is shadowed by the geopolitical tensions among countries and regions, from North Korea and South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, to China  and India. This session aims to relocate Asian borders in everyday identification, investigating the process of articulating, negotiating, and re-defining territorial identities that move across categories of ethnicity, religion, citizenship, law, nationalism, gender, and indigeneity. How different human and nonhuman actants, from tourists, farmers, dealers, smugglers, makers, agricultural and medical materials, encounter to do the border work and in return be shaped by meanings and effects of borders and bordering of the world.

Tentative topics include:

  • Political, social, cultural, religious performance of borders
  • Transborder communities, regional identity and placemaking
  • Border governance and institutions
  • Identity politics, “United in Diversity” – internal bordering of societies
  • national and regional identity,


  • Cooper, A., Perkins, C. and Rumford, C. 2014. “The vernacularization of borders.” In Jones, R. and Johnson, C. editors. Placing the Border in Everyday Life. Border Regions Series. Ashgate: Burlington. Pp. 15-32.
  • Jones R. and Johnson, C. 2016. “Border militarization and the re-articulation of sovereignty.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 41(2): 187-200.
  • Jones, R. 2009.“Categories, borders, and boundaries.” Progress in Human Geography. 33(2): 174-189.
  • Schaffter, M., Fall, J. and Debarbieux, B. 2009. “Unbounded boundary studies and collapsed categories: rethinking spatial objects. Progress in Human Geography. 34(2): 254-262.

Changing purposes and practices of the library as border

Dr Rianne van Melik, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Libraries are not merely information infrastructures facilitating the exchange and formation of public opinion, but also social infrastructures providing access to social networks and capital (Aabø & Audunson, 2012). Therefore, Klinenberg (2018) defines them as ‘palaces for the people’, which have not become obsolete or irrelevant in the current digitalised society. Instead, they are often neglected, starved for resources and overburdened by visitors and activities. In response decreasing subsidies and membership, the library landscape is constantly changing. Providing access to books and information becomes seemingly less important, while the offer of  ‘non-book-based services’ is growing including creative and movement-based activities like yoga and fitness. Consequently, a number of changing purposes and practices of the library can be observed. For example, large public libraries in the Netherlands become new urban ‘hotspots’, often part of multifunctional flagship projects. In contrast, smaller towns struggle with keeping their libraries open. Solutions are sought in turning libraries into social and care spaces. These examples show how libraries are literally opened up; from single-purpose, ‘closed’ systems characterised by books and silence to open spaces where social and physical boundaries are not ordinarily expected. This session examines libraries as inclusive spaces, characterised as borders rather than by boundaries (Sennett, 2017). However, the encounter between different users of library spaces can ignite both unexpected conversations and conflict.

We invite contributors to submit abstracts on relevant themes, including, but not limited to:

  • Boundaries of libraries; libraries as borders
  • Libraries as care and community spaces
  • Libraries as catalyst of urban regeneration
  • Libraries as liminal spaces
  • Changing librarianship and library practices
  • Libraries as sites of inclusion and exclusion

If you would like to participate, please send an abstract of between 200-250 words to dr. Rianne van Melik, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands ( by 31st January 2020.


Aabø, S. & R. Audunson (2012), Use of library space and the library as space. Library and Information Science Research, 34(2), 138-149.

Klinenberg, E. (2018), Palaces for the People: How to Built a More Equal and United Society. London: The Bodley Head.

Sennett, R. (2017), The Public Realm. Chapter 32 in: Hall, S. & R. Burdett (Eds.), The Sage Handbook for the 21st Century. London: Sage.

Legacies of austerity: What, who, and when does it leave behind?

Sander van Lanen, University of Groningen,
Sarah Marie Hall, University of Manchester,

Over a decade has passed since the 2008 financial crisis, but the socio-spatial consequences of austerity still haunt contemporary spaces of everyday life. The narrative of austerity shifted from austerity as crisis ‘measure’ to governing ‘ideology’. What does this transformation mean for social, cultural and economic geographies? How does this shift affect austerity’s spatial outcomes, reception and resistance? Does austerity still hold as an explanatory factor or are we facing poverty by other means? In two sessions, we examine how austerity’s legacies settle in everyday life and shape everyday geographies.

In the first session, creative output made by, with, and for groups living with austerity explore its legacies. Accompanied by 5-minute talks, these forms of co-production explore how austerity has taken root in everyday lives and experiences.

During the second session, 15-minute conference papers address the legacies of austerity, including ‘austerity events’ and ‘austerity ideologies’. How did austerity reassemble everyday life and transform social relations? This session invites projects that assess austerity’s embedded legacies, now and into the future.

Together, these sessions explore how the legacies of austerity become embedded in the ‘new normal, and how the future is imagined in response to, or in spite of, these legacies.

“I’m a Geographer”: Stories of academic identity

Emma Waight,

Becky Alexis-Martin,

Gail Skelly,

We know that a plethora of cross-cutting identities exist within our discipline, and that these may present an opportunity to produce a more inclusive and representative Geography, but they also present tensions at the individual and collective levels.

Porous disciplinary borders facilitate intellectual mobilities across, within, through and beyond geography. This gains greater social and cultural significance when we consider who stays within geography, and who leaves. Geography welcomes doctoral students from diverse academic backgrounds, and simultaneously trains geographers who go on to reside in alternative academic fields. Whilst this can lead to the kind of inter/multi-disciplinarily working required to tackle complex global challenges, it may inevitably affect individual academic identities. In addition, sub-disciplinary branding is increasing within geography. As issue-related branding becomes more commonplace (nuclear geographer, climate change geographer), how is this creating fresh silos or hybridising our academic identities?

What does it mean to be a geographer? How do we relate to each other as geographers?

This session aims to explore individual experiences of negotiating geography’s internal and external borders as an academic through autoethnographic accounts. In doing so we particularly aim to illuminate the stories of hidden, dispersed or unruly geographers within the neoliberal academy.