RGS Annual Conference 2020 DevGRG Sponsored Sessions

Please see below for information about the sessions we have sponsored at this year’s Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference:

Trafficking (and) Borders

Session Convenor: Ayushman Bhagat (Durham University, UK)

On October 23, 2019, dead bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found inside a refrigerated lorry in Essex, UK. These people were considered to have been trafficked by several media personnel, politicians, and NGO workers. Paradoxically, the narrative of trafficking would have placed the burden of victimhood on them, if they would have found alive in the UK. Further, the same narrative would have transformed them into subjects of detention, deportation, and prosecution, if the UK border police would have intercepted the lorry before its entry inside the territory. These are some of the repercussions of the dominant narrative of Human Trafficking which demands strict border controls, restrictive immigration practices, greater migrant policing and surveillance as preventive measures to avoid such incidences.

Whilst celebrities, politicians, activists, consultants, responsible corporate staffs and some academics endorse this ever-burgeoning narrative of Trafficking (Kempadoo, 2015), critical scholars from several disciplines repeatedly highlight the ambiguity of the term ‘Human Trafficking’ which is often invoked by different actors to render their respective political agendas (O’Connell Davidson, 2010). Critical scholarship unfailingly problematizes the politically contested definition (Anderson, 2007; Chuang, 2014), shoddy researches (Tyldum, 2010), exaggerated numbers of victims (Feignold, 2010; McGrath and Mieres, 2014), unethical representations (Andrijasevic, 2007), global politics of rescue (McGrath and Watson, 2018) and counterproductive interventions (Kempadoo, Sanghera and Pattanaik, 2012), which render rightlessness, oppression, and exploitation among the very people the narrative anti-trafficking promises to protect (O’Connell Davidson, 2015). This is what is known as the ‘collateral damage’ of anti-trafficking interventions (GAATW, 2007).

In Geography, these concerns are reflected in the debate over how labour regimes (Strauss and McGrath, 2017), citizenship regimes (Richardson et al., 2016) and immigration regimes (Aradau, 2008) are conceptualized. However, the consequence of this politically charged multi-disciplinary arena of ‘Human Trafficking’ on the wider conceptualization of borders remains relatively unexplored (see: Laurie et al. (2015)). Hence following a call to study “Geographies of Trafficking” (Laurie, Richardson, Poudel and Townsend, 2015; Smith, 2018), this session aims to bring together scholars from different sub-disciplines – border, migration, citizenship, security, labour, gender – to problematize (anti-)trafficking through borders and, at the same time, conceptualize borders through (anti-)trafficking. Through this, we aim to explore:

1. To what extent can we understand and position Human Trafficking as border producing narrative?
2. How do the interventions following the discourse of Trafficking structure and multiply borders for the people on the move?
3. How could we utilize insights from critical border/migration/security studies to analyze the collateral damages of anti-trafficking interventions?
4. How can we conceptualize rescaling, respatialisation, and reconfiguration of borders through trafficking discourse?
5. What are the Northern and Southern perspectives of understanding (anti-)trafficking through borders or understanding borders through (anti-)trafficking?
6. How do people on the move, or in the labour relation respond to these borders of (anti-)trafficking?
7. How can we study borders and trafficking together to avoid ‘methodological nationalism’ and ‘methodological individualism’ in the research?

Incorporating borders as an analytic to examine (anti-)trafficking could offer new insights on (re)production of contingent forms, sites, agents and practices of exploitation. The aim here is to advance the call of studying “Geographies of Trafficking” through the analytic of the border.

Instructions for Authors
We invite contributions for a paper session and a roundtable discussion to advance geographical perspectives on Human Trafficking and identify new conceptual and methodological arena within this multi-disciplinary field of study. Please send your title, abstract (of approx. 250 words), affiliation, and expressions of interest to ayushman.bhagat@durham.ac.uk . We will notify presenters by 12 February.

Call For Papers Deadline: 05-Feb-2020

Digitising Geographies of Indigenous Folklore in the Global South: Colonial and Decolonial Praxis

Session Convenors: Dumisani Moyo (University of Glasgow, UK)
Deborah Dixon (University of Glasgow, UK)

“The emphasis is on respect for tradition as well as nature in general. The respect for tradition goes along with the belief that everything, according to the elders’ vision of the world, trees, animals, rivers, stones, mountains, are endowed with life, hence the interaction of humans and non humans in the folktales. Mountains, trees or stones were believed to be the abode of the spirits. Because today respect for these has disappeared, we see the wanton cutting down of trees, the destruction of sacred places and the disinterest in oral traditions” Boston Soko, Professor of Oral Literature, University of Mzuzu.
(see https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/csr/ForTheNextGeneration/malawi/).
The study of Indigenous folklore has recently benefited from a heightened impetus. UNESCO in particular has signified the importance of this with two key documents: the (1982) Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore, and the (2003) Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Contemporary to this shift are 21st century efforts to develop and deploy a digital humanities; efforts that intersect with some lines of research in a creative geohumanities. In the Global South, the United Nations (through its agencies including UNDP and UNESCO) is partnering with national government agencies and philanthropocapitalism to research, document and digitize folklore, to conserve, protect and promote cultural heritages.
To borrow Betiang and Akpan’s (2018) phrasing, this convergence of media technologies, industry and markets, has, among other consequences, altered spaces of being and knowledge production for all persons involved, and the modes/technologies for the creation, production, distribution, and consumption of Indigenous knowledges. While the digitisation of Indigenous knowledges has received considerable attention in traditional humanities, arts, literature studies, linguistics, media studies, journalism, law, history and other fields of study (for example, Betiang and Akpan, 2018; Broadwell & Tangherlini, 2017; Chisiza, 2017; Hagedoorn & Sauer, 2018; Hunt and stevenson, 2017; Pomadaki, Dimoulas, Kalliris, & Paschalidis, 2019; Risam, 2018; Sauer, 2017; van Krieken, 2018), geographers have arguably, and rightly, remained cautious.
Folklore has been a space of ontological, teleological and epistemological escape/freedom from colonial/imperial negativities, and negativism more generally (see Mbembe, 2017: Ch. 5). Reading Mbembe in conversation with his interlocutors, including geographers, a decolonial reading of and approach to digitizing folklore would unsettle a ‘capturing’ or ‘preservation’ of Indigenous knowledges. What teleologies, ontologies and epistemologies come to bear in these interactions? How do these questions reflect in the digitization process itself, and in the results – viewed as pluriversal for the digitizer, the narrative and the storyteller, their environments and communities (see Blank, 2009; Thairu, 2007; Sauer, 2017)? Such a nuanced reading might help awaken new sensibilities that could reshape geographical methodology, as well as the ethical considerations of digitization. With this in mind, this session calls for papers that address themes and questions including but not confined to:
1. What happens when Indigenous knowledges are demarcated as a valuable ‘cultural heritage’? What kind of geopolitics, and ongoing colonialities, are at work in framing Indigenous knowledges?
2. How are organisations, individuals, technologies, and sites enrolled into digitisation efforts, such that a logistics of preservation is designed and enacted? And what epistemological frameworks does a digital humanities bring to bear in identifying, collecting, translating, preserving, storing, analysing and disseminating folklore?
3. How do Indigenous folklores on, for example, agriculture, land use and environmental management, resist, challenge, escape and/or lend themselves to digitization?
4. How might a substantive focus on the digitisation of Indigenous folklore facilitate decolonising epistemologies and practices more broadly?

Instructions for Authors
Please send your title, abstract (max. 250 words), and full contact details to Dumisani Moyo (d.moyo.1@research.gla.ac.uk) and Deborah Dixon (deborah.dixon@glasgow.ac.uk) by 10th of February 2020. We will respond to you about the selection of papers by February 14th.

The Development Geographies Research Group run a paper prize for early career scholars, awarded with IDPR Journal. Early career contributors to this session thus qualify to submit for the prize; seeing it is a DevGRG sponsored session. Early career is defined as researchers not on a permanent academic contract within 10 years of their PhD or within 5 years of completion with a permanent contract (plus any relevant extensions to this period for parental leave or other necessary career break).

Call For Papers Deadline: 10-Feb-2020

Intergenerational boundaries and migratory borders

Convenors: Dr Tanja Bastia and Matthew Walsham (University of Manchester)

Migration can reshape relations between generations, with profound consequences for families that span national borders or internal boundaries.  The challenge of caring for children in these contexts has often overshadowed the issues that older people face – whether it is they or other family members who move.  Migration may also transform how younger generations perceive ageing and plan for their own old age.  Research on intergenerational relations in transnational families is often disconnected from debates on similar dynamics within national borders.  

This panel welcomes contributions which explore changing intergenerational relations in the context of migration including:

·         The processes of intergenerational change in contexts of international and/or internal migration, including comparative perspectives

·         The strengths and weaknesses of different conceptual framings for understanding relations between generations e.g. transnational care, multi-local households, translocal families, global householding, etc.

·         The challenges faced by older people in mobilising care and other forms of support in translocal settings and policy responses

Although we are open to papers that focus on both the Global North and the Global South, we are particularly interested in those focusing on the latter.

Instructions for authors

Please email paper proposals (title, author affiliation and 250 word abstract) toTanja.Bastia@manchester.ac.uk and Matthew.Walsham@Manchester.ac.uk

The deadline for proposals is 31st January 2020.

Rethinking barriers to sustainable rural energy access

Natalie Boyd Williams (University of Stirling – n.a.boydwilliams@stir.ac.uk)

Hannah Mottram (University of Sheffield – hfmottram1@sheffield.ac.uk)

Globally, over 10% of the world population does not have access to electricity, and 40% do not have access to clean fuels for cooking – and levels of access are much lower in rural areas. At the same time that political pressure to improve access globally is increasing, however, the rapid onset of climate change imposes structures on the type and intensity of energy access globally. 

Despite technologies continually developing and achieving economies of scale, global energy access targets continue to be unmet. Projects are too often engineered through the lens of technological and economic aspirations rather than attending to the specific needs and aspirations of individual communities. 

In this session we would like to address questions that explore this idea further as well as investigating the critical importance (and limitations) of the social scale of energy access, with a view to extending practical social methodologies. We would also like to explore reasons for the slow progress towards universal energy access and interrogate how energy access is defined or understood, as well as questioning the premise of the existing energy access goals. 

This session will include 4-5 presentations with time for discussion between speakers and session participants. We encourage speakers to consider the following questions, and how these relate to your research or projects. 

  • How can we identify and cross the borders we have in our understanding of user experiences and realities to enable more sustainable access? 
  • What are the limits of current research approaches?
  • How can research be done differently?
  • What are the effects of not fully understanding the energy capabilities, understandings and aspirations of communities?
  • How do issues of energy justice materialise for communities?
  • How are energy access policies and projects evaluated, and is success measured appropriately?
  • What issues arise from conflicting approaches and understandings of different stakeholders, including the role of actors in the ‘Global North’?
  • Are current understandings of and ways of measuring energy access  appropriate?

We hope to be able to support distance/virtual participation in this session. If you would not be able to travel to London for the conference, please indicate this in your abstract submission. We also encourage participation from groups and individuals outside of universities and academia. 

Please send your paper title, abstract (up to 150 words) and full contact details to both session convenors by 30th January 2020. We will confirm participation in early February.

Crisis in Latin America: symptoms and consequences for urban Children and Youth

Session convenors: Maria Jesus Alfaro Muñoz (University of Birmingham) and Natan Waintrub Santibáñez (University College London)
Sponsorship: Geographies of Children Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG) & Development Geographies Research Group (DevGRG)

Latin America is experiencing a profound process of social change. In different forms and with different intensities, the social unrest has challenged models of development which, despite achieving relative progress in recent decades, are still reproducing historical divisions and injustices. The social discontent is (re)shaping relationships of power, the public sphere, and the everyday experiences of children and young people in the urban realm. This sequence of events asks for us to rethink the place of children and young people within local and global processes (Aitken, 2013). Moreover, it makes us rethink the role of children and the youth as part of this social process, either as passive agents who cope with injustices and obstacles in urban public spaces, or as active protagonists of public citizenship demonstrations, claiming for their right to better societies.

Wells (2017) suggested that the political and economic structures surrounding children and young people’s  everyday lives is increasingly constraining their agency. In this sense the session invites papers that aim to critically question how children and young people experience urban constrains, navigate local landscapes and engage with social movements within their own agency in Latin America.

We seek to explore the practical and theoretical implications of the changing Latin American landscape for children and the youth. We aim to discuss urban childhoods in convoluted times examining the interconnectedness of their lives (Holloway and Valentine, 2000) and the way their everyday lives are structured and shape by local processes.

Papers may include but are not limited to:

  • The role(s) of children and young people in the process of social change
  • Children and young people’s urban everyday experiences within a local landscape of social unrest.
  • Living in social unrest and the coping strategies in which children navigate the urban space
  • Civic and social participation of children/youth in public space
  • Children everyday use and appropriation of the public space.
  • Spatial discourses of children and young people everyday subjective and emotional experiences.
  • Dreams and expectations for children and young people’s future societies.
  • Children and young people’s perspectives and vision for the urban realm.

Keywords: Latin America, Social Unrest, Children, Youth, Everyday Experiences, Urban Childhoods

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Maria Jesus Alfaro Muñoz <MXA964@student.bham.ac.uk> or Natan Waintrub Santibáñez <ucesnwa@ucl.ac.uk> by February 5th 2020. This should include title, author affiliation and email address.

We want to encourage the wider community of children’s geographers within UK and overseas tackling Latin American contexts to participate. In that sense, do keep in mind that whilst attendance to the session is ideal, we are also considering video-conferencing for up to a defined 20% of the authors if needed.

Urban Inequalities and the Social Contract in The Global South

“Social contract theory dates back to writings of Rousseau, Locke, and Hobbes and, in a newer definition (Loewe et al 2019), refers to “the entirety of explicit or implicit agreements between all relevant societal groups and the sovereign (i.e. government or any other actor in power), defining their rights and obligations towards each other”. With the dismantling of the welfare state, recent political narratives focus on reframing and realigning the relationship between government and governmental institutions and, thus, the respective contract between citizens and the state. Claims to renegotiate the social contract also seem to be causative regarding recent mass protests in Latin America, Northern Africa and Asia. We argue that massive urban transformations play a significant role in this. Therefore, using an urban lens one can argue that the local social contract in many cities in the Global South is under threat by:

• Retreat of the state from social housing and the production of an affordable centrally located housing stock
• Gentrification and mega housing projects
• Displacement
• Segregation and marginalization

We seek papers dealing with urban transformations in the Global South through the perspective of the social contract and the impact of these on state-society relations on a local scale. Papers may address – but are not limited to – the following aspects:

-How the concept of the social contract can be used to explain urban inequalities in the Global South
-Provision of social services (or the lack thereof) during processes of urban transformation (i.e. social housing, municipal/legal services, health care, education).
-Withdrawal of state protection (i.e. property rights, use of police force, landlord harassment, forced evictions)
-Recognition of the state’s legitimacy (trust in the state and its institution)
-What can be done to increase social cohesion or strengthen the social contract for cities under scrutiny

If you would like to propose a paper presentation, please send abstracts of up to 250 words to Aysegul Can (aysegul.can87@gmail.com) and Yannick Sudermann (y.sudermann@gmx.de) by Friday, February 7th, 2020